Inspect Your Inspector

Surprise! Don’t you love hearing that word when it celebrates an event or life milestone? You don’t, however, want to hear it when you are a home buyer, committing to a large mortgage and anticipating a smooth move to your new house. The last thing you want to deal with is an expensive home repair issue.

When Jim Allhiser bought his first house, he thought he knew what he was getting into. He had worked in construction for many years and the 1950’s fixer he saw looked like something he could live with. The home inspector who spent 45 minutes walking through the house didn’t say much, only shrugging his shoulders when Jim would ask questions. The $400 price tag for the inspection came with a brief checklist of items and little else.

On a chilly, damp November day Jim and his eight-month pregnant wife arrived to rip up carpet and paint in anticipation of moving in that next week.  How hard could it be? They were excited to finally have their own home! As they began applying paint to the walls, they turned on the furnace to speed the drying process. Surprise! Only cold air flowed from the vents. The paint would never dry in that weather!

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After a long day painting and cleaning in a cold house, Jim decided to take a quick shower. Surprise! A single drop of water exuded from the showerhead. The bathroom water pipe had rusted shut over the years. Well, a bath would suffice instead, thought Jim. As the water ran into the tub, the non-skid pads began to float to the surface, revealing cracks in the tub. Surprise! The entire tub had to be replaced.

One week after move-in, new tub installed and not leaking, Jim’s wife called him at work to inform him that her bath was currently running full of sewage water! Surprise! The drainage pipes, being of a certain age, were stopped up with tree roots. When Jim went to use his shop, the lights would occasionally flicker. Surprise! The house had been wired from the dryer circuit so that when clothes were drying, power was diverted away from the rest of the house.  The duct tape and electrician’s tape “fix” that was present didn’t help matters.

The house had been inspected in late summer, a usually dry time of the year. After they moved in, Jim found that in the rainy winter weather the 4-car garage roof, which looked perfectly fine from the front, leaked like a sieve in the back. It had not been inspected. Surprise!

How could all of these surprises been avoided? An informed home buyer should work with a trusted client-advocate realtor who can recommend qualified inspectors. The inspector should be CCB board tested and bonded to $500,000. They should provide a thorough inspection as well as teach the prospective homeowner about their house. They should offer a comprehensive but readable report of their findings. Budget shopping for an inspector will not give you the best deal.

After experiencing the drama and expense of a useless home inspection, Jim heard about a new technology that some home inspectors were using called thermographing. This instrumentation senses temperature differences that can be indicative of a whole host of potential problems. It takes home inspection to a higher new level of assessment and Jim incorporates this technology into his inspection sessions. He became licensed and bonded as a home inspector in 2005 and even teaches classes to Salem, Oregon area realtors.

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Jim will spend an average of three hours thoroughly going over your house, using his thermographing equipment . This shows hidden areas of heat or cold so Jim can further investigate potential problems like insulation holes, termites, dry rot, leaking windows, wiring hot spots etc. He will issue you a 30-60 page readable report the next day filled with information about your home and links to various agencies and resources for further assistance in repairs or detection.

Jim will also show you where shut-off valves are located and how to turn them off, how to relight that gas pilot light, where your fuse box is along with many other hints on home ownership and its maintenance. He charges $375 for a basic home inspection with the price rising for homes older than 1970 and larger than 2000 square feet. He will inspect outbuildings and barns for an addition fee, depending on the structure and contents. Outbuildings are often owner-wired and should be inspected for basic safety issues as well as code violations.

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Work through your trusted realtor or contact Jim directly at his web site He can be reached at 503-508-4321 in Salem, Oregon. Don’t be surprised when you buy your next home. Be secure in the knowledge that you know what you’re moving into.

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