The $325,000.00 bird house

birds-in-housesThere is no end to what people will spend their money on. But I think we can all agree that $325K for a bird house is a bit much, even in the land of conspicuous consumption. However I guess when you can do it in a way where it also happens to create habitat for human beings as a fringe benefit, perhaps it might even be considered “green.”

More and more we see the attempt to create more natural environments for our homes that include ponds, streams and wooded areas that provide natural habitat for all those species of flora and fauna displaced by the obliteration of their natural habitat of ponds, streams and wooded areas deemed necessary in order to build the houses.

Sometimes it appears that we do things simply because we can

Anyway, in the first picture you can clearly see the $325,000 bird house (with accommodations for humans).

The fact that we should probably include “intention” in the discussion does nothing to alter the fact that it is still a $325,000 bird house.

In the next picture we can see the main entry provided for the birds—complete with the occasional 50cfm breeze to freshen the nest. We all know how important good ventilation is.

birds-in-houses1

Of course there is also the “cosmetic” issue to consider.

Hopefully there was not too much of a learning curve for the sparrows to find materials that would stay put to create the nest—but perhaps the next generation will learn from this one.

Then again, perhaps not.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Why does the edge of my roof look like a health food snack?

Why does the edge of my roof look like a health food snack?
When OSB sheathing gets wet it acts like a sponge.  And while I am picking on OSB because it is worse, this kind of damage can also happen to plywood–it just takes longer.

roofedgedamage

On my planet, it has been required for a very long time that there be edge metal along the edge of the roof.  It is now part of the building code on this planet as well–and that is awesome.  It is all too common for roofers to not extend the roofing materials far enough past the edge of the roof sheathing.

One such metal flashing is called a “D” flashing (no clue why) and it looks like the following picture.

roofedgedamage2

Granted, if you hang the roofing materials far enough over the edge of the sheathing, water will not likely wrap around to the wood. However this can represent a problem with cleaning the gutters and the overhanging shingles fold and break and are subject to mechanical damage from cleaning etc.

Another solution would be to use one of the many types of gutter covers which would act as a flashing to protect the wood edge.

Somehow this edge needs to be protected or it will end up looking like a health food snack sooner or later. Repairs will often require replacement of at least the bottom 12” of the roof sheathing all along the edge of the roof and is typically done in the context of the roof replacement–sometimes sooner if damage is severe enough.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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There is a reason why they call it an “Inspection.”

It seems at times, home inspectors are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

noneutral1What should report write-ups about home defects look like? If you talk to 100 agents and 100 inspectors you will likely get 200 answers.

If you talk to clients, you will not likely get nearly so many answers.

Since obviously, we are not going to get the answer from home inspectors or agents, I will, for this exercise focus on consumers. After all, it is them the report is written for is it not?

If you asked agents this last question some would argue that it is for them to assist in negogiations. If you ask inspectors some would argue they are written to reduce their liability. Both would likely add that of course they are also written for the consumer. Sometimes who the report is written for gets lost in the nuances of other interests.

It is obviously more complicated than this.

Since I work for the client, I write my reports for the client. In that context I also know that the agent needs to be able to read it and understand it, repair persons will need to read it and understand it, but primarily, the client needs to read it and understand it.

As I get to see a large number of inspection reports in the course of a year, I am noticing a trend toward simplification of report writing to the point of them becoming almost useless. I won’t go into all the reasons for this but a major reason is “time.” There is a huge push to spend as little time on inspection reports so that the inspector can move along to the next inspection. To achieve this goal, the inspector relies on canned comments—canned comments that have a one-size-fits-all mentality.

For example the inspector takes the cover off the electrical panel and notices there are issues. The report reads something like this: “Inspector noted issues in the electrical panel. Recommend evaluation by electrician.”

This kind of report writing is not “informative,” or “useful,” in any way to ANY of the parties involved in the transaction—except to keep the inspector moving on down the road.

Keep in mind that not all inspections are even involved in a real estate transaction. This kind of reporting becomes even less useful when there is no agent involved to attempt to interpret whatever the report is trying to say.

More important—this is NOT INSPECTING!

To inspect something means, “to look at (something) carefully in order to learn more about it, to find problems, etc.”

What the report comment actually does is recommend that someone else do the inspection.

Without documenting what exactly the issues are, what is the client to think? They could think there is almost nothing wrong or the house is in imminent peril.

Home inspectors must provide enough information about what was observed to put the issues in some kind of context for the reader. The recommendation should discuss what the implications of the issues are; and, that would include some kind of indication as to the urgency of repairs. Can it wait until the electrician is at the home doing other things or does it need repairs yesterday?

A more appropriate write-up regarding the electrical panel would include all the noted issues in the panel, what each of the issues means (why it is wrong) and what the implications of the issue are. Is the issue a fire hazard, a shock hazard or a maintenance issue?

Most clients will have a knee-jerk reaction to “electrical issues” that is somewhat fearful or negative. Helping clients to understand the severity of issues can help them relax and have more room to deal with issues that might be of more consequence—electrical or otherwise.

Obviously it takes more knowledge, experience and time to inspect in this manner.

But that is why they call it an “Inspection.”

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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