New study finds that water runs down hill! Who knew?

Today is a day that will live in infamy as the discovery that water runs down hill was announced by a previously unknown kindergarten teacher in Seattle, Washington (obviously not the other Washington).

The teacher’s class of kindergartners, using standard garden hoses, Odwalla fruit juices and hamster slides, showed beyond a reasonable doubt that water does in fact run down hill. Before this day, this fact was obviously not known.

Because of how recent this discovery is, it is projected that there are still thousands of builders constructing homes unaware of the new information.

Many builders have expressed surprise at the way gravity affects water. Some even reacted with denial and accusations. Many were heard to say that the kindergartners, “don’t know what they are talking about—obviously!” Others remarked at how this information will be costly in the building of new homes from here on out.

Others called for further studies prior to jumping to rash conclusions.

Still others argued that government meddling in a free economy was likely involved. After all why shouldn’t someone be able to build a house any way they want regardless of what water does or does not do?

The very notion that flashings would now be required over any trim boards that are nailed on top of siding, above windows and doors, seemed just preposterous. But the fact that water was now known to be affected by gravity seemed difficult to reconcile with the industry standard of not installing any flashings at all. Is it any wonder that builders everywhere are crying foul?

Head flashing is missing

Head flashing is missing

Some builders, when shown pictures of the problem, merely argued for more caulk–although that did not seem to impress the kindergartners very much.

And caulking won't be good either

And caulking won’t be good either

It remains to be seen how this new information will affect home construction. Many experts belief that the information will be ignored and standard building practice will not be affected at all.

Only time will tell

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Cat Scratch Fever (not all pre-listing inspections are created equal)

There is a recent move for sellers to not only have pre-listing inspections done, but to use the pre-listing inspection report as a means of promoting the sale of the house.  This includes, in some cases, the sale of that report to prospective buyers for a small fee.  This helps the seller recoup the cost of the pre-listing inspection and maybe even make some money on it. 

Other approaches amount to the inspector doing the inspection for free and the payments from prospective buyers goes to the inspector.

In my opinion these models, and other similar ones, are fraught with problems.

Despite this, there are so many good reasons to get Pre-Listing Inspection done on your home when you are planning to sell your home.

The reasons most sellers are discouraged from having pre-listing inspections done, has to do with “disclosure” issues. 

Once the cat is out of the bag, they do not go back in quietly or safely. 

It does not seem to matter that sooner or later the seller is going to get scratched by the cat, but the thinking is that there is the “possibility” or “hope” the buyer’s inspector will not find the cat and the seller can ride off into the sunset financially better off.

I think it is better for any possible cats to be found beforehand, so that they can be properly de-clawed, and the home can be improved in the areas that might prevent a sale—or narrow the field of potential buyers.

This is a really good idea if the entire house has been used as a climbing pole and litter box.

There is always a buyer for any house—but are we really thinking about selling it to someone that is just going to tear it down?  That will likely make you the least amount of money—but then again it might be accurate.

A pre-listing inspection can be meaningful in starting the conversation about what the house is REALLY worth—perhaps the seller has unrealistic expectations that need to be brought into perspective. 

Perhaps the cat just needs to be put out of its misery—or merely petted nicely.

As compelling as the idea of pre-listing inspections might be to a seller, they should be of zero interest to a buyer, other than to maybe give them a clue as to whether they want to make an offer. This makes even more sense in a really hot market where there are going to be a lot of offers.

They should NEVER be a substitute for their own due diligence.

There are questions as to who owns responsibility for the report and its content once the report is sold.  Since the inspector has a contract with the seller and not the buyer, the buyer certainly cannot “rely” on that report for anything.

This would seem to add potential liability on the seller–or whoever is selling the report that is not likely even a home inspector.

Sure the “fine print” will say that the pre-listing inspection is not a substitute for a buyer’s due diligence,but there is a real danger the consumer will not know these reports do not satisfy their due diligence.  Under the pressure and the heat of the moment, and without reading the fine print or any encouragement to read the fine print, the buyer can make one of the bigger mistakes of their life.  Is it in the vested interest of the agents and seller to communicate clearly that the pre-listing inspection does not satisfy the buyer’s due diligence?

I caution any buyer, to not rely on these pre-listing inspections solely to make their decision.  If the report is inaccurate or incomplete and you “rely” on that information there will likely be no recourse because you do not have a contract with the inspector that did the report.  Most reports go out with very specific expiration dates and who can rely on them.  The further these reports get from who they were done for the less value they have.

There will be no way to put the cat back in the bag—and there may not be bandages enough if you try.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Do you know where your dryer vent cap is?

While I could get to the location in the picture to inspect the roof and the dryer vent cap on this two story house, it took my 26 foot ladder (fully extended with just a few inches of the ladder above the gutter) to do so.

Poor Dryer Vent Location

Poor Dryer Vent Location

I know inspectors that do not go on roofs like this–let alone homeowners.

Why do the building codes allow such locations for dryer vents?

Because, the codes are “minimum” standards.

Why do builders install them at these locations?

Because, it is the easiest place to get the duct to, and it meets code.  Do we really expect more of them?

The codes defer to manufacturers installation instructions and of course the manufacturer advises installers to follow applicable codes.  Most, if not all, manufacturers have no restrictions on location of the vent cap at the exterior–only that there be one (along with guidelines as to length, materials etc.).

Best practices would have the builder run the vent to a location where it could be monitored and more easily maintained by the homeowner.

Instead, the builder taking the easier and cheaper route might result in additional costs to the homeowner to have someone qualified to be on the roof assess and maintain the vent cap 2 or 3 times a year.

Until some homeowner gets killed trying to clean a vent at a location, or the house burns down because they were not able to clean it, the codes are not likely to change.

Of course perhaps a sport-climber may buy the house.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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