13 November 2009

Home Inspections Save Money

Daily Herald-Tribune

The curb appeal and the excitement of owning his first home led Dave Galway to buy a former army barrack house in the Swanavon neighbourhood. He said he didn't look at the home too closely, inspecting it himself as he had experience in the construction industry. The surprises he encountered led him to become a home inspector.

"When we finally got into the house, the first winter we almost froze because the furnace was so old and so inefficient and the gas prices were killing us," he said. "When we tear out the cupboards underneath the sink, the wall was rotten in behind. The floor had seem to be rotten so we lifted the floor. All the floor framing joists … were rotten so we had to open up the whole kitchen … and repair that."

Not to mention the shingles he had to replace, the water in the basement and discovering that the foundation was a combination of bricks and wooden posts.

"That house really inspired me to start in the home inspection industry because I knew construction. I thought I knew quite a bit about a house but after that, I realized I didn't know much about a house," he said.

The inspection usually entails a visual examination of a property, first from the exterior. Galway said he walks around the building checking the yard's slope to ensure the water drains away from the building. He then checks the portion of the foundation wall above ground for shifting and cracking. He said he also goes up on the roof, seeking signs of shingles and flashing deterioration.

"We go through the house and we check for major deficiencies – things that are not right, things that if maintenance is not done, it could become a problem in the future," he said.

Going inside, Galway said he checks and determines the age of the furnace and heating system to ensure it heats the building properly and all registers are working. He said anything older than 20 years is past its prime. He said he turns on all the tubs, toilets and sinks to check the main sewer line going out through the street. He added he also looks for items like missing handrails and electrical safety issues such as wiring for kitchen appliances.

"Our Number 1 concern is safety for the buyer, our client. Are they going to be safe in the house that we have just inspected," he said.

Galway said he takes about three hours to do average home inspection at a cost of $400. He added he usually does two a day but this summer has been the worst he's seen because of the economy. Homebuyers account for most of his clients but sometimes investors, looking at hotels, motels and apartment buildings, request such an inspection.

Galway, who now works for Critical Path in Grade Prairie, said he has 35 years experience in construction, including 15 years working as a home inspector. But the tribulations with his first home led him to take a two-year course in the United States.

"I've seen a need because I bought my house as a first-time homebuyer. Even though I was a carpenter-contractor, I didn't really know what to look for and then when we got in there, it was oh my God, all these problems," he said. "So that really inspired me to start a business. Just what I had to deal with in my old home was from the 1950s and the problems that I encountered trying to fix it and renovate it. It turns into a never do this again sort of thing."

The older the home, the more owners, the more additions and home remodeling it had usually means more problems, he said.

The main issue he sees in the resale home market is water around foundations or gutters knocked off, followed by heat issues.

"The back slope grading and drainage away from the foundation is one of the things I see quite often," he said. "The next one would be older furnaces that are over 20-years-old and electrical problems, a lot of electrical problems where maybe the homeowner has wired the basement."

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