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Home inspectors offer protection from unknowns

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By Robert Villanueva

 

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By ROBERT VILLANUEVA rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — Sgt. 1st Class Dale R. Thompson and his wife, Kirsten, stood in the afternoon sun and watched 23-year-old Mitch Noble climb onto the roof of a two-story house in Serene Oaks subdivision. Noble walked across the roof, looking for problems such as exposed nail heads or missing or displaced shingles. After removing a cap that apparently was left on a sewer vent stack after a test of the house’s sewer system, Mitch descended the ladder. He informed the potential home buyers of the good news: the roof only had one minor issue with an exposed nail head. “My job is to make sure they’re getting a quality product,” he said. Mitch works with his father, Harry, who owns Associated Home Inspections, which has a Cecilia phone number but an Elizabethtown address. As a home inspector, Mitch does “visual, non-intrusive” inspections to provide potential home buyers with information about their prospective purchases. “The truth is I’m actually working for the buyers,” Mitch said. The Thompsons, who now live at Fort Knox, followed Mitch on his inspection Monday. In addition to being “strongly recommended” by his real estate agent, Kyong McCann of Century 21 Realty Group Associates, a home inspection is “always a good idea” when buying a house, Dale said. Despite the fact that the house was built in 2006, Kirsten agreed. “Even though it’s a new home, you never know what happens,” she said. Harry said the same thing. The retired Army Corps of Engineers colonel said doors not installed properly and reversed hot and cold faucet knobs were among the problems seen in new homes. “First of all, we’ll tell you: no house is perfect,” Harry said. Harry started his home inspection business shortly after he retired in 2004, having served a tour of Iraq. Though he is quick to note he is not a licensed engineer, Harry did get his credentials as a home inspector in June 2004. “I was the first person licensed as a home inspector in Hardin County,” he said. Until June 30, 2006, home inspectors did not have to be licensed. When choosing a home inspector, a home buyer should consider several things. A home buyer should look at the home inspector’s credentials, including how much experience they have, whether they are licensed and if they belong to any national organizations — such as the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors or the American Society of Home Inspectors — which uphold certain standards. Harry is a NACHI member. “Some people buying a house don’t get a home inspection. That’s a mistake,” he said. In his own practice, Harry defines three functions of a home inspector. They should identify defects and problems, make sure home buyers know the functions of the various workings in a house and make recommendations for improvements. “Another thing we do is give our clients a homeowner’s manual,” he said. A home inspector should examine everything from “roof to foundation,” Harry said. That includes the electrical system, heating and cooling system, roof, attic, foundation, basement or crawlspace, interior plumbing, visible insulation, walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors and visible structures of the home. Some of the more common problems include broken seals for multiple-pane windows, improper breaker box use, poor drainage, insufficient heating unit maintenance and leaky basements. “By the way, crawlspaces aren’t supposed to be wet,” Harry said. Crawlspaces should be properly ventilated to prevent moisture damaging the home. But crawlspaces are also a habitat for pests and other surprises. About a year and a half ago in Horse Cave as he was inspecting a crawlspace, Mitch crawled over what appeared to be human skeletal remains. Law officials never confirmed the remains were human and when Harry inquired as to the findings later, law enforcement officials only would tell him the case was an “ongoing investigation.” The potential home buyers got out of their contact after that, Mitch said. As Mitch inspected the house in Serene Oaks subdivision Monday, he provided information for the Thompsons and answered their questions. “There’s a lot of things I’m not really familiar with,” Kirsten said. “Apartment living and government living is very different from owning a home.” The fact that the homeowners hadn’t moved out created some limitations for Mitch, since he does not move personal belongings during an inspection. “An ideal inspection will be on an empty home,” he said. And while a home inspection is always a good idea, Mitch said people should beware of what he called the “rip and run” inspector who marks up a superficial checklist, tears off a copy for the client and leaves. House hunters generally should expect to pay $250-$450 for a home inspection, but the amount will vary. While the Nobles' business charges a base fee of $250, some home inspectors charge by the square foot. Extra charges for inspecting a crawlspace or for inspections that require crossing county lines are typical. Ultimately, a home inspector helps the real estate agent, the homeowners and the home buyers, Mitch said. The homeowners should want to get their house in the best shape possible for sale, and real estate agents should want to show houses that have as few issues as possible. Obviously, a home buyer should be aware of what problems, if any, exist in their potential investment. “We are your seat belt,” Mitch said. “We protect everybody.” Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.