Friday, November 18, 2011

Buyer's go to your Home Inspection

I realize that some peoples schedules' prevent them from attending the home inspection. But if you can be available, can carve out the 3 hours or so the inspection takes, then it will be worth your while to attend. First of all its the time to address anything you noticed about the house – sloping floors, cracks in the foundation, old electric outlets, drafty windows your home inspector can explain these and any other issues that arise. If your not knowledgable regarding the workings of the house, (and most people aren't) by the end of the inspection you'll at least have a passing acquaintance with the major systems of the house (10 or so – depending on the house) and how those systems support and protect the house and provide the house with its comfort and convenience. Make the home inspector earn his money and you'll be entering home ownership (a wonderful thing) better prepared than you were before the inspection.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bleed those Radiators

Here on Chicagos North Shore a winter chill has set in over the last couple of November days, with the temperature struggling to get to 40 degrees. For many of us that means our boilers have kicked on in earnest for the season. As a general rule, the higher up the radiators sit in the home, the more likely they need to bled. Start by feeling the temperature of your radiators on the 1st floor with your handthere should be a certain uniformity of warmth from each radiator. Any radiator that is not as warm as the others should be bled. Most likely you'll find the radiator(s) on the 3rd floor where you've stashed your two boys, cooler to the touch than the radiators downstairs. Bleeding the radiator is simple, get a radiator key from your local hardware store, a small pan, a rag for any spilling and insert the key in the valve at the top of the radiator and give it a turn. You'll hear a hiss, catch a whiff of some foul air trapped in the radiator and when the water hits the pan just turn the valve off and your done.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In November the Critters come Calling

When the cold winds of  November blow, our thoughts turn to hearth, and home, and hot chocolate. It’s time to settle in with a good book or a family meal. Nothing can upset the harmony of the home more than the spotting of a mouse. Married men must go on high alert devoting all available resources to the removal of the mice. Warm-blooded furry little (and not so little) critters will poke and prod our sanctuaries in their desire to escape the cold and enjoy civilized living powered by gas heat. Mice, squirrels, possums, skunks and raccoons are hoping you’ll extend your hospitality by letting them ride out the cold winds of Lake Michigan under your porches, in your soffits and attics and crawl spaces.
Critters are freeloaders and scavengers. They’ll gladly partake of your leftovers from an ill-fitting lid on a trash can and the more industrious critters will knock over or gnaw through trash can if the left-over goulash is particularly pungent. Critters will cruise your garage for bird and grass seed, a sack of grass seed can support a colony of mice for a couple of generations. Nothing is easier or more welcome to a critter than dining at Fido's favorite bowl on the back porch. If you have apple or other fruit trees the critters will camp out around your yard and when the cold comes they’ll look to your house for warmth and comfort. Remove food sources and most likely the critters will head down the block for their sustenance and winter lodging.
Critters will try to find a way into your home. Mice need a hole the diameter of a pencil to get in your basement, squirrels and raccoons will chew and claw open fascia boards to get in your attic, skunks and possums will dig under your deck lattice work to get good and comfy in a nest close to the warmth of your home. You’ve got to be vigilant, critters in and around the house pose health threats, can be very destructive, and generally creep you out while they are in residence. So take a good close look at your house, inspect it, make sure your house is closed off to the critters.
     Look closely for:
·    Any unfilled holes in the foundation or siding caused by utilities (cable, gas, HVAC, plumbing, electricity);
·    Inspect the eaves of the roof, particularly soffit and fascia boards for wood that has been chewed on to gain access;
·    Check for signs of digging around porches, decks, and the foundation;
·    Check for torn screens in the attic at the gable vents;
·    Don't leave dog food, bird or grass seed outside the house or in the garage;
·    Keep the tree limbs off your house;
·    Make sure there’s a critter guard on the top of the chimney.

Critters are going to eat and keep warm whether it’s at your property or your neighbor down the street. So keep them moving, let them enjoy the hospitality of others so that you can enjoy the warmth and comfort of your home with loved ones and invited guests.

Mark McCaffrey
McCaffrey’s Home Inspection
IL Lic. # 450.0003556

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How much does a home inspection cost around Chicago?

You would think that this is an easy question to answer, but for the home buyer, it is not.  Most home inspectors do not post there prices and are reluctant to give a price until speaking with the home buyer and determining the location, size and age of the home.  I know home inspectors that charge $1,500 dollars for larger homes and one inspector here on the North Shore of Chicago who charges a flat rate of $250 regardless of whether it is condominium or a lakefront mansion.  I try to keep my pricing in the middle of the pack, making it reasonable and reflective of the degree of difficulty.  For instance a condominium is generally a relatively easy inspection and I charge $300 for it and my prices increase as a I move through townhouses, bungalows, 2-story homes all the way to a 6 bedroom, 100 year old Winnetka home for which I charge $750.  Check out my pricing on the home page of my website.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Home Inspectors w/o ladders

I saw a guy pull up to a neighbors' house today on the North Shore of Chicago to do an inspection in a Nissan 4-door sedan. He didn't have any ladders. Was he hoping the seller would provide the ladder? How is he going to get a good view of the roof and the flashings at the chimney, dormers, vents and eaves? What happens if the only attic access is a hatch on a 9 foot ceiling? Does he just move on and report that attic is inexcessible? I don't get it. I just don't see how a good, thorough inspection can be done w/o ladders.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Home Sellers should not be at the Home Inspection

Over the past year I've probably seen a dozen sellers staying on the premises for the home inspection.  In a couple of instances the sellers were elderly or infirm and would have been greatly inconvenienced by leaving the house.  Otherwise its not a good practice, the home buyer for the 1st time has an opportunity to address any questions they have about the property and to get an unbiased evaluation of the condition of the home and its systems.  Home owners have an emotional attachment to the home and will often get defensive when a critical eye is cast on the property.  At the very least this can be uncomfortable and often inhibits the free exchange of questions and concerns that may arise concerning the properties condition.  Worst case the seller kind of hovers around and offers unsolicited opinions and denials to the point where it becomes a distraction.  So agents kindly request the home owner leave the premises for the entirety of the inspection.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trust your real estae agent

Over the last few years many alleged real estate experts have written articles, blogs, posted websites etc... to discourage home buyers from using home inspectors referred by real estate agents. The alleged theory being that the agent will refer a crappy or worse dishonest inspector so that the sale will go through easier w/o a thorough inspection.

People hire a real estate agent for two reasons: to gain insight into the local real estate market and to guide them through the complexities of the home buying process including securing a mortgage, getting an appraisal, securing title insurance, the attorney review of documents and scheduling a home inspection. Most home buyers probably don't have these people lined-up and they rely on the real estate agent to refer professional and competent attorneys or mortgage brokers or home inspectors. My experience as a home inspector is that the great majority of real estate agents want you to do a good job for their client and will refer you based on competence and honesty.