As expected, 2017 has gotten off to a cold and
snowy start across much of the U.S. At A-Pro’s
headquarters in San Antonio, we’ve had temperatures
in the 20s followed by scorching days in the 80s. The only safe
bet for the rest of winter is that it will remain unpredictable.
Snow, ice, and cold present special challenges for real
estate agents and home inspectors. In our latest issue of
From the Rafters, we take a look at what to expect from your
home inspector in the winter, how to prepare your clients for
an inspection, carbon monoxide safety, and some incredible facts
that put 2017’s winter in perspective.
From all of us at A-Pro, we wish you all the best in the
coming year. Enjoy the newsletter and let us know how
we can be of service. Remember…spring isn’t far away!
Know the Facts about Carbon Monoxide…A Silent Winter Killer
In February of last year, the carbon monoxide (CO) produced by a portable generator running inside a home led to the deaths of a family of six. Sadly, such tragic reports fill our nation’s news feeds annually.
Despite increased awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide, this odorless, colorless, tasteless, and toxic gas continues to cause hundreds of deaths and thousands of emergency room visits in the U.S. every year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Be smart as the weather turns cold. Nearly half of all accidental deaths caused by CO poisoning occur in January, February, and March when windows are closed and heaters are active. Victims often mistake common symptoms (headaches, confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness, and nausea) for the flu. If you exhibit these symptoms and suspect they are due to carbon monoxide exposure, seek fresh air immediately and prompt medical attention.
Minimize the Risk of CO Exposure in the Home
The CDC recommends that you should never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, gas-engine-powered tool, or other fossil fuel-burning devices inside a home and garage, or outside the home near a window.
Further, never run a vehicle inside the garage, even if the garage door is open; never burn anything in a fireplace or stove that is not vented to the outside; never heat a house with a gas oven or range; and always operate appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Any malfunctioning or poorly vented appliance that burns wood or fuel (oil, gas, propane, kerosene, coal) can put your family at risk. These include oil and gas furnaces, fireplaces, boilers, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, and wood stoves.
It’s important to have regular inspections of your heating system, water heater, and other gas-, oil-, or coal-burning appliances to make sure they are working properly, sufficiently vented, and not leaking carbon monoxide. A professional CO inspection will also include:
- Checks for the presence of CO in the home
- Checks to see if appliances have been installed correctly and meet EPA emission standards
- Checks to see if chimneys and flues are connected, in good condition, and cleared
- Advice on choosing a CO detector, where to place the detector, and how to best maintain appliances
If you or your clients are in need of a carbon monoxide inspection, contact your local A-Pro Home Inspection team in (location) at (xxxxxxxxxxx).
How Cold Weather and Snow Can Affect a Home Inspection
As a dedicated real estate agent, you’re working 365 days a year to help your clients. Like you, home inspectors are hard at work no matter what the season. Snow and freezing temperatures can’t stop us from doing our job, but sometimes the weather can get in the way of a complete inspection.
Even with some of the potential limitations below, homebuyers should never skip a home inspection in winter or any other time of year. When scheduling a winter home inspection, here are some points to consider:
- Several inches of snow on a roof may preclude your inspector from visually assessing the condition of flashing and shingles. Additionally, ice and snow may make it too dangerous to walk on the roof. Access to the attic, however, can divulge roof problems in the form of moisture and water damage.
- Snow covering driveways and walks can hinder viewing of these areas.
- High drifts can make it difficult to get a full picture of the foundation. An inspection of the basement, though, can reveal some of the story about the foundation’s condition.
- Snow can prevent an inspector from evaluating the grading of the soil away from the home.
- Without getting underneath a porch or deck, it’s hard to fully determine structural integrity. In this case, deep snow can present another challenge to the inspector.
- Frozen pipes present two areas of concerns: they won’t show leaks and are prone to cracking after thawing, which won’t be apparent until later.
- To prevent potential damage to the cooling system, air conditioning should not be cycled when temperatures outside have been below 60 degrees for a few days. Your inspector will be able to note the type, age, and capacity of the cooling unit.
Cold-weather inspections do offer several advantages.
Low temperatures present a perfect opportunity to check a home’s heating system. Wintry weather also makes it easier to tell how evenly the heat is distributed around the home and if attic insulation is present and effective. By simply touching cold spots, inspectors can detect drafty areas and energy leaks that would not be apparent during a summer inspection.
All aspects of the home that cannot be visually or operationally checked will be noted in the inspection report. If possible, once the snow has thawed and temperatures rise you can arrange to have the inspector return to assess areas that were previously unavailable for full evaluation.
Real Estate Agent Question Corner
How can I best prepare my client for a home inspection?
Real estate agents can play an important role in the home inspection process by making sure their selling and buying clients understand what to expect. Start by explaining what a home inspection is and what it is not.
Simply, a home inspection is a visual and operational, non-destructive examination of a home’s accessible features performed by a licensed and certified inspector. It is the inspector’s job to determine the present condition of the home’s major systems.
While the inspector has been hired and paid by the seller or buyer, his/her job is to deliver a fair, balanced, unbiased, and accurate report that all parties may ultimately use in the negotiating process. Positive aspects of the home as well as systems that are nearing the end of their life expectancy or pose imminent danger will be pointed out — without exception.
Make sure your clients know the inspector will not be placing a value on the home (that is an appraiser’s job), reporting on cosmetic concerns, or performing an official review to check if there are building code violations. An inspection is not a guarantee or warranty on the home. Further, the home inspector will not take apart equipment, punch holes in walls, or dig up the landscape to access concealed areas. Items such as hot tubs, cable TV, swimming pools, lawn sprinkler systems, detached structures, alarm systems, and wells are also not part of the standard inspection.
Finally, tell your clients that the inspection is a good time to ask questions about the home. The inspector’s expertise regarding home maintenance and safety is an added value beyond delivery of the report.
Don’t Let Ice Dams Damage Your Properties
We’ve all enjoyed the idyllic beauty of a Currier and Ives winter scene or smiled at the Budweiser Clydesdales dashing through the snow. But when it comes to your real estate listings, snow and ice are anything but heartwarming.
When melting snow runs to the edge of the roof and refreezes, it can result in an ice dam. These winter menaces often appear as clusters of icicles cascading off the house – spectacular-looking but dangerous. Ice dams restrict adequate drainage and can cause a number of costly problems, including leaks in the roof; deterioration of the roof surface as water backs up underneath shingles; and damage to gutters, downspouts, and eaves.
- The best way to prevent ice dams is to have gutters cleared of debris in the fall before bad weather strikes. This will allow proper drainage after snow melts. If you’re in the midst of winter, there still may be a chance to get the gutters cleaned after a mid-season thaw. Take advantage of any break in the weather to get this done before snow falls again.
- After a snow storm, clear the roof’s edge of snow using a roof rake. Many landscaping and snow/ice removal companies offer this service.
- If an ice dam occurs, clear it from your roof as soon as possible.
- Consider upgrading attic insulation. Also, make sure there is adequate attic ventilation.
When spring arrives, take measures to prevent damage from flooding. Make sure gutters and downspouts are cleared; remove snow from the perimeter of the foundation and around basement windows; and remove anything that would prevent the flow of water away from the house.
Winter can be hard on your listings. A home inspection as spring approaches is a good idea to assess what repairs may be necessary. In addition to roof damage, severe conditions can take a toll on a home’s exterior, foundation, driveway, walks, and trees.
Think Winter 2017 Has Been Rough?
Check out these cold, hard facts:
- Not even the heaviest pair of long johns would have made a difference at the Russian research station in Vostok, Antarctica, on July 21, 1983. The temperature plunged to -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit – the coldest temperature ever recorded.
- One of the most frigid NFL games took place the previous year. In what has been coined “The Freezer Bowl,” the wind chill plummeted to a bone-shattering -59 degrees Fahrenheit on January 10, 1982 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium for the AFC Championship Game between the Bengals and Chargers. The Bengals won 27-7, but San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts scored the game’s most enduring image – icicles hanging off his beard.
- On November 11, 1919, the afternoon temperature in Oklahoma City reached 83 degrees Fahrenheit – a record high for that day. Due to a bracing cold front, thermostats bottomed out at 17 degrees just before midnight, setting a record low as well.
- In Spearfish, South Dakota, on January 22, 1943, early morning temperatures registered a frost-bite-inducing -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Only two minutes later, the temperature soared to 45 degrees. Two hours later, it would reach a high of 54 degrees before freefalling to -4 about a half an hour later.
- One last tidbit to warm up the winter blahs: The largest cup of hot chocolate ever made was 880 gallons. Mixing in 1,100 pounds of cocoa, students created the marshmallow-topped monstrosity at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry in 2013. This, of course, demands the question: Why in Tampa and not Vostok, Antarctica?