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November 2007 Newsletter         
                     View an index of all our newsletters

From the Desk of Joe Dempsey
Alban Energy Audit Consultant

Home Energy Utilization Survey
New Service Provided by Alban

At the heart of a home inspection is the simple idea that buyers are better served by having thorough and accurate information about their new homes. That is why we regard communications with our clients about our findings, not simply filling out a report form, a key mission at Alban.

Since the time of our founding fourteen years ago, energy has become much more expensive. We have seen builders increase insulation and improve the efficiency of installed systems. All jurisdictions in our area have experienced energy price increases and recent increases have been the most painful yet, with BG&E customers having to absorb a 72% jump in rates.

Unfortunately, only a minority of homes has been designed with energy efficiency in mind and these rate changes will affect owners of less efficient homes severely. In this new era of expensive energy then, homeowners and homebuyers need to understand the energy performance of their homes.

Over the past few years, commercial property owners have been able to achieve significant savings by carefully monitoring their energy expenditures and retrofitting structures with new energy-saving materials and equipment. The “energy audit”, a review of a building and its systems for energy performance, has become common in the commercial property sector.

More recently, there have been efforts to find a way to offer homeowners and homebuyers some of the same kinds of information and benefits that owners of large
commercial properties have come to demand.

CMC Energy, a firm with long experience in providing energy efficiency assistance to homeowners, has developed what they call the “Home Energy Tune Up.” Essentially, this is an energy audit or survey for homeowners. The “Tune Up” relies on the skills of a home inspector to measure the home, as well as identify and describe major energy- elated systems and components in the home.

Then with the assistance of the Tune Up software, the inspector compiles a report that describes the home’s energy systems and suggests areas for improvements that are likely to provide savings for the homeowner or homebuyer. For many buyers, there are savings that can be achieved immediately with minor expenditure; for others, savings will be realized when a major component, such as a furnace or water heater, is replaced with a new, far more efficient alternative.

In order to make choices about energy improvements, the report contains estimates of costs, savings and payback for each energy efficiency recommendation. It identifies the improvements that, if financed, will save more energy that they cost. The analysis is customized, accounting for regional variables such as weather, implementation costs, and fuel prices.

Since much of the information gathered for the Home Energy Tune UP is routinely gathered as part of a home inspection, we are able to offer this service for a comparatively modest fee. For previously inspected homes or new clients, a separate service charge will raise the cost, but even then total fees will be no more than three hundred dollars.

Whether the homeowner or buyer makes changes immediately or waits for an opportune time in the future, the energy utilization survey allows them to begin to build an understanding of the home’s strengths and weaknesses from an energy perspective and to begin the process of planning improvements, whether those are minor investments accomplished as part of regular maintenance or the replacement of entire systems.

Alban now offers home “Home Energy Tune Up” surveys. With the home energy Tune Up report, all customers receive a free 1-800 access telephone number direct to a home energy professional for free consultation.

If you would like to schedule your own Tune Up, call Alban at 1-800-822-7200.

Alban is proud to offer FREE Continuing Education Courses in Real Estate Offices!
Call Tina to schedule one of our educational seminars, for additional information, or to schedule our services at 800-822-7200 or 301-662-6565.

From the Desk of
Arthur Lazerow

Listing Period Home Inspection for Sellers

Two questions have been bothering me all
year. With the number of homes on the
market at an all time high and sales slow,
why have sellers not tried to make their
house as appealing and deficiency free as
possible by having a listing period home
inspection? Secondly, why are Realtors not
recommending a listing period home
inspection to their listing clients?

Most of the Alban home inspectors have or
have had their real estate salespersons
license. We understand the real estate
transaction and we understand homes.
There is no better combination as a
consultant to help a seller maximize the
impact of the home, both by eliminating pit
falls and receiving recommendations on
making improvements that will make their
home more attractive.

Part of me has loved this year. The great
majority of homes the Alban inspectors
have inspected rank in the superior range
from a condition and a quality viewpoint.
The neighborhood may have three or four
homes with for-sale signs in the front yard,
but the one being inspected always has
some “wow” factor.

Another part of me this year has been in
disbelief that the home inspector is not
being considered as a beneficial component
of the overall sales program for a home.
We can help eliminate that subconscious
negative reaction potential buyers
experience as they walk through a home
and observe a 20 year old rusted water
heater or furnace.

Listing agents should recommend a listing
period home inspection. We give a discount
from our usual prices because these tend to
be faster inspections and we have
developed a summary report form, together
with preparing a deficiency list and
recommendations, to use during listing
period inspections. We can help make your
listing the first in the neighborhood to sell,
not the last.

GFCI Protected Outlets
Required Locations and Dates

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s) have been discussed probably a half-dozen times in the Alban monthly newsletter these past fourteen years, but we are still receiving the “when” and “where” question from both Realtors and clients.

The most accurate answer is that it depends when the local jurisdiction adopted the recommendations of the model electrical code regarding GFCI installations. For inspection purposes, we use the date of 1980 for exterior outlets, bathrooms and garage. One outlet in a basement and all kitchen outlets (excluding refrigerator or freezer 120 volt outlets) became mandatory around 1987. These are the five areas of a home that are now protected by GFCI’s, exterior, kitchen, all baths, garage and one basement circuit.

Homes built before those dates are grandfathered. All Alban home inspectors quite properly recommend retrofitting those circuits with GFCI’s in older homes as soon as possible after our clients move into their homes. More interesting is the not so rare instance that we find a newer home in which the GFCI’s have been removed. In this case, removal is a deficiency and is covered as a mechanical deficiency by the Property Condition Clause of the purchase agreement.

Integrity in Home Inspecting, Confidence in Home Owning The ASHI Experience