Be Kind to Your Home Inspector

From the desk of

Arthur S. Lazerow

Chairman, Alban Inspections, Inc.

August 2020

Home inspectors work hard and with great focus for our homebuying and homeselling clients.  We also love what we do.  We derive great personal pleasure helping our clients and the Realtors® who serve them.  I worked as a home inspector from 1994 to 2011 and woke up every morning excited to start my inspection schedule.

While we typically serve our clients once and then have little further contact with them, the close relationships we develop with Realtors® are extremely meaningful.  Not a week went by that I was not called by multiple Realtors® for advice about a specific condition found in a home that a client was interested in putting under contract or a condition a listing agent found troubling.  I probably spent 10% of my time consulting and advising both Realtors® and past clients, all without charge.  Payment was the gratification experienced knowing that I could be helpful.

I wish I had kept a diary of my unique experiences while inspecting.  Here are a few that standout.

I arrived early for a townhouse inspection in Colmbia, MD, so I decided to look around the back.  As I walked around the end unit to locate the home to inspect, there were three gigantic Ravens lounging on my client’s deck.  Ravens are big, scary, ugly birds.  Just ask Poe.

I performed a radon test on a McMansion in Howard County.  When I reported an extremely high radon level to the Realtor® to insure this was not ignored, I learned that the wife-seller was suffering from lung cancer.  She was a non-smoker.  Apparently she lived in that house, raised her family and breathed radon loaded air for many years.

Two Montgomery County police officers were getting married and were buying a small cottage near Holy Cross Hospital.  The room where the electric panel box was located was filled with boxes.  I recall that I actually climbed over the boxes to open and inspect the electric panel box.  After the house was vacant and my clients settled, they discovered a massive mold infestation in that room.  After my mold inspection to determine the extent of the infestation, they arranged for an expensive remediation, removing walls and flooring so that their contractor could reconstruct a  mold-free room.  They then sued that seller.  I testified at the trial on their behalf.  When the defense attorney tried to blame me for not reporting the mold during my inspection, I retorted that my memory was clear; his client hid the mold with boxes, which I climbed over to inspect the electric panel box.  The judge awarded my clients their entire claim.

This one ended up in the Montgomeryt County State’s Attorneys office.  The house was near Falls Road and Tuckerman Lane and the seller owned a general contracting busines.  He bragged about knowing more than me.  The standard inspection protocol for a garage door is to close it onto a 2×4 piece of lumber standing on it’s 2” side.  The door should atomatically reverse to prevent a child from being crushed.  When the door hit the wood block, the entire operating assembly exploded.  I noted that there were no solid struts. The entire gear box was supported with limber metal straps, swaying in the wind.  The nasty seller went crazy and threw me, the buyer and her Realtor® out of the house.  He also refused to permit me to pickup the electronic radon machine I had started at the beginning of the inspection.  A $4,000 tester was nothing to walk away from.  After several diagreeable conversations requesting its return, I filed a complaint with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney.  One of his deputies called the miscreant  and offered him the choice between arrest for grand larceny or to permit me to pickup the machine.  The next day I traveled with an off-duty cop to rescue it.

FYI for Montgomery County real estate transactions: In the 17 years of testing for radon, the highest radon level I detected was in a Potomac home located behnd the Bindeman Center near Falls Raod and Tuckerman Lane.  Radon can be found in heavy concentrations in Potomac and in the Germantown areas.

One last story.  I hated crawl spaces, but when necessary, I donned overalls and went crawling.  This particular crawl space had a tight entrance, with an HVAC duct blocking a portion of the opening.  Somehow I entered and made my inspection, but I could not get out.  The solution was to lay on my back, extend my arms over my head and through the opening.  The two kind women literally pulled me out of the crawl space.

As a  home inspector, I considered myself in the service industry.  Since each property is different and presents differing challenges, every day was different.  I was also very busy.  I could perform 3 inspections a day.  One week I did a Realtor® who frequently requested me for her clients a favor and squeezzed in the 22nd inspection.  Be kind to us grizzley old home inspectors, we work hard for our clients and their Realtors®. And we love every minute.

Respectfully,  

PS: Realtors® and the Pandemic.  Please stay safe and Covid-19 free.  By nature, Realtors® are social people, from start of a transaction working to establish rapport with a new client through closing.  Realtors® thrive on close contact with many others.  For most Coronavirus patients, recovery is very unpleasant.   Survivors leaving hospitals uniformly report how utterly awful the course of the disease feels.  However, I believe news reports are not stressing enough that surviving CV may leave lasting health defects, including scarred lungs, heart and blood clotting problems and cognitive deficiencies.  It is one thing for an 80-year-old person to recover with some lasting problems, but currently Covid-19 is rampant among younger people in their 20s to 40s.  A thirty year old with cognitive disabilities for the remaining 50 years of his or her life seems devastating.  Please follow public health official’s guidance.

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Summer Time and the Weather is Hot, Hot Hot: How to be Comfortable

From the desk of

Arthur S. Lazerow

Chairman, Alban Inspections, Inc.

July 2020

Summer is officially here and Mother Nature has paid attention.  Yesterday, after a thunderstorm, I walked outside to pick up the mail and I could literally swim in the humidity over the 20 yards to the mailbox.  Today was hotter, but without humidity.  I was comfortable potting a Meyer Lemon tree my wife gifted me for Father’s Day.  This was a rare delightful summer day which we will be able to count on fingers and toes from now until September.  Pepco reported to me that A/C for my 3,500 sf house cost $800 last year and was 42% of my electricity usage.

Here are some tips that you can send to your clients:

  • Air Conditioning is a human necessity these days. An air conditioning system needs replacement with a higher efficiency system if over 10-12 years old. If younger, annual pre-season maintenance is a must.  If you or your clients have forgotten to call an HVAC service company for a routine checkup, do so ASAP.  I was having an electrical problem with an otherwise fully operational system at my house last week.  We were comfortable but the service tech unexpectedly found a low refrigerant charge.
  • Keep your house comfortable.  Lower A/C costs by closing drapes and blinds to reduce radiant heating through your windows.  Remember the TV ads for canopies over an outside patio, which the ad claimed to reduce the temperature under the canvas canopy 15 degrees by blocking the radiant heating affect.  Think how this equates to inside temperature rises and stress on the A/C system.
  • Plan to run appliances at night when air conditioning your house becomes easier. A clothes drier and a dishwasher adds significant BTUs to the interor of a home.
  • Turn up the thermostat temperature several degrees. A/C works to dehumidify, so  slightly higher interior temps will still to continue dehumidification.
  • Alban Inspections preaches energy efficiency to all our clients and their Realtors®. After an energy survey of her home and completing an energy efficiency retrofit, we were able to reduce our Realtor® client’s summer air conditioning costs by a half. The home was a small rambler, so other type homes, such as Cape Cods, split levels or other style homes, may not see such a dramatic reduction, but 15% to 25% can be a significant saving.

Every house has air leakage.  Simple steps like adding more effective door weatherstripping, recaulking windows and insulating attic hatches can be homeowner chores worth the money.  If practical, have a window contractor install storm windows over windows without insulated glass panels.  Also, replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient bulbs that do not operate as heaters.  Hold your hand near an older bulb that has been on for several minutes and feel the heat.  Close doors to unused rooms and close their registers to better distribute cool air throughout your living areas.

Do not laugh at these, even though they may seem obvious or silly.  Should a  home not be air conditioned or a system breaks down, remember these:

  • For a hot spot that is difficult to cool but where you spend time, create your own localized cooling system. Place a pan of ice and water in front of a box fan and blow cool air and mist directly at you.
  • Wear loose cotton clothes and sleep on cotton sheets.
  • Enjoy a frozen treat. Ice cream and flavored ices are also cool.
  • Take cold showers and place a cold wet clothes on your neck or wrists.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Freeze water in your plastic water bottles and apply as needed.

Respectfully, 

PS: Realtors® and the Pandemic.  Please stay safe and Covid-19 free.  By nature, Realtors® are social people, from start of a transaction working to establish rapport with a new client through closing.  Realtors® thrive on close contact with many others.  For most Coronavirus patients, recovery is very unpleasant.   Survivors leaving hospitals uniformly report how utterly awful the course of the disease feels.  However, I believe news reporters are not stressing enough that surviving CV may leave lasting health deficiencies, including scarred lungs and heart and blood clotting problems and with cognitive processes.  It is one thing for an 80 year old to recover with some lasting problems, but currently Covid-19 is rampant among younger people in their 20s to 40s.  A thirty year old with cognitive disabilities for the remaining 50 years of his or her life seems devastating.

Public health officials recommend that to have the greatest chance of avoiding CV is to stay at home as much as possible, to wear face coverings, to wash hands carefully for 20 seconds and to maintain social distancing.  These should be mandatory for you, your family and your clients.  Ignoring these recommendations is now leading to the current second wave surge in new Coronavirus cases.

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