Making Your Home Green  

Do something good for your family, your pocketbook, and the environment. Make your home a little greener. A few simple changes in your house can go a long way to combat both high energy bills and global warming. To be green, you've got to be efficient.

1. Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Replace your incandescent light bulbs (the cheap ones you probably got at the grocery store) with ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). By replacing even your five most frequently used light bulbs, you'll save $100 per year.  If every family in the U.S.A. did this, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by one trillion pounds--there are 12 zeros in a trillion!

Understanding the difference between “due diligence” and “right to request repairs”.

A standard Georgia Association of REALTORS® (GAR) purchase and sales agreement describes:

Purpose of Due Diligence Period. During the Due Diligence Period, Buyer shall determine whether or not to exercise Buyer's option to proceed or not proceed with the purchase of the Property. If Buyer has concerns with the Property, Buyer may during the Due Diligence Period seek to negotiate an amendment to this Agreement to address such concerns.”

During the due "diligence period" a buyer may walk away from a transaction for “any reason or for no reason” without consequence as long as the walk-away occurs during the due diligence period and supporting paper work is properly delivered.

An inspector is not privy to what occurs after an inspection is is delivered however having knowledge of various possibilities can be beneficial.

There is no right to request repairs in the due diligence clause however during the due diligence period a buyer may seek to negotiate an amendment to address concerns.

Sellers’ Required Disclosures in Georgia

Although Georgia law does not require a seller to fill out a specific disclosure form, the law does require a seller to inform a buyer about any known material (important) defects in the condition of the home. There's an exception if the defect would be discovered by the buyer upon a reasonable inspection, but that's meant to cover fairly obvious things – for example, you don't need to point out, "the porch roof has collapsed," if anyone looking at the property can see that the porch roof has collapsed.

The Georgia seller must also honestly answer a buyer’s questions about the home. Buyers might ask about anything from what repairs you've done in the past to how your dealings with the neighbors have been. Attempting to obfuscate can lead to lawsuits later, so it's best to be honest and open.

Again, however, you are not supposed to wait for questions if a defect is "material" and not readily visible. Georgia courts have generally held that a defect is “material” if the buyer would consider it material; that is, if known to a prospective buyer, it would cause that person to not buy the property, or to pay less for it -– such as, for instance, the fact that it was built on unstable ground.

As a general rule, in order to prevent later accusations of misrepresentation or fraud from a buyer, as a seller in Georgia you should be upfront, answer the buyer’s questions, and tell the buyer about any problems you are aware of regarding the condition of the home (most likely by filling out the optional standard form described below).

What a Georgia Seller Does Not Need to Disclose

Even though, as a Georgia seller, you generally must disclose known problems with the condition of your home, there are certain specific exceptions under the Georgia statutes. These relate to things that occurred in the home, not the home’s physical condition.

A Georgia seller does not need to inform a buyer if any diseased person ever lived in the home, or if a homicide, felony, suicide, or any other death occurred there (Georgia Official Code Annotated §44-1-16(a)(1)). Additionally, it is up to the buyer to investigate certain information about the neighborhood where the home is located. Georgia statutes specifically state that a seller is not required to inform the buyer if a registered sex offender lives in the area (Georgia Official Code Annotated §44-1-16 (b)). (However, to help the buyer, most form real estate contracts used in Georgia direct a buyer where to look online for information about the location of registered sex offenders.)

Even if the seller is not required to disclose an event on the property such as a murder, a seller still must answer any direct question from a buyer honestly (Georgia Official Code Annotated §44-1-16(a)(1)). So, if the buyer (who may very well do a Google search on your home's address) asks you whether your home was where the gang member was murdered last summer, you do need to answer honestly.

The only time you do not need to answer a buyer’s question completely and honestly is if it is a question relating to information protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act or Georgia’s fair housing laws (Georgia Official Code Annotated §44-1-16 (a)(2)).

The Federal Fair Housing Act (found at 42 United States Code, Sections 3601-3619 and 363), and the Georgia’s fair housing laws (found in the Georgia Official Code Annotated, Sections 8-3-200 through 8-3-223), protect people from housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and handicap. If, for example, a buyer asks about the previous occupant’s religion, or whether a person with AIDS (considered a handicap under the Fair Housing Act) ever lived in the home, this is protected information you should not give out. You should instead reply that you are not legally allowed to answer.

The following is a must read:

Inspecting Foreclosures

Homes that are in foreclosure represent a larger percentage of the overall real estate market these days.  According to RealtyTrac, a California based company that tracks foreclosures nationwide and is the third largest real estate website online, Georgia ranks 6th in number of foreclosures behind California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, and Michigan.  Several Atlanta area counties are providing the highest number of foreclosures in Georgia such as the core metro Atlanta counties of Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett; other local counties such as Paulding, Henry, and Rockdale are close behind in the overall foreclosure rate.

As a result, home inspectors are being called upon to inspect foreclosures more frequently as a greater number of bank owned properties continue to enter the market.  Buyers, and investors alike, are taking advantage of the significantly lower selling prices of foreclosed homes.

The National Safe Kids Campaign reports that more than 2,400 children died in home related injuries in 1997.  About 2 million children are hurt in home related injuries each year.

As the parent of a three-year-old, I worry endlessly about how to protect her from everything -- from ill-intentioned strangers to random bullets and stray dogs -- but as an Inspector I can’t overlook one of the biggest threats to a child's safety and well-being:  her own home.  Experts say that children ages 1 to 4 are more likely to be injured by falls, burns, drowning, choking, cuts, or poisoning than by a stranger.  As former surgeon general C. Everett Koop said, "If a disease were killing our children in the proportion that accidents are, people would demand that this killer be stopped."

How ASHI Georgia Started

On April 22, 1986 eleven home inspectors held a meeting to form the Southeast Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors. Original chapter members were from Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. The chapter now know as ASHI Georgia is a not for profit Georgia Corporation. Florida, South Carolina and Alabama have their own chapters.

ASHI Georgia currently has 100 plus members and candidates.

ASHI Georgia's purpose is

1. To build public awareness and confidence in the home inspector.

2. To promote Excellence within the profession and to improve inspection service through the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

3. To provide members and others a forum in which to enhance their professionalism through education, an informed exchange of ideas, and other related benefits which can be provided best by a professional inspection profession.

4. To interact with related professions, the legal community and government bodies as the leading authority in the home and building inspection profession.

Carbon monoxide, or “CO” is an odorless colorless gas that can kill.

The purpose of the following information is not to tell someone how to fix a space that does provide enough air for combustion and the dilution of combusted gases, the purpose is to help the inspector identify if a room or space is too small and needs outside air.

Let’s start with a few definitions.
Combustion Air: Air necessary for complete combustion of a fuel, including theoretical air and excess air.
Theoretical air: The amount of air theoretically required for complete combustion.
Excess air: The percentage of excess air is an amount of air above required air for complete combustion.
The inspector should be concerned with the amount or volume of air necessary to complete combustion of fuel in gas appliances located inside a building not the definitions.
Oxygen depletion, a subject that is not often discussed, is generally associated with water and is one of the main contributors of water pollution, however in the context of combustion air requirements if air in a room or space is not of an adequate volume to complete combustion oxygen depletion can occur and under the right conditions can do great harm to the occupants, especially in very tight house. The reason for including this is to identify that only small gas fired appliances call for the use of oxygen depletion safety shutoff systems, all other gas fired systems rely on a volume of air as determined by a formula discussed below.

The International Fuel Gas Code (IFCG) defines prohibited locations for the installation of fuel gas burning appliances. Appliances shall not be located in or obtain combustion air from any of the following rooms or spaces:

  1. Sleeping rooms.
  2. Bathrooms.
  3. Toilet rooms.
  4. Storage closet.
  5. Surgical Rooms.

When finishing a basement or attic space that contains gas fired appliances a homeowner and/or a contractor overlook the need to provide adequate amounts of combustion air.
The IFGC uses the term “confined space”. This is any space that contains gas appliances that is not large enough to provide combustion air without bringing air in from outside the space.
Determining the amount of space required for the safe operation of gas appliances is based on the total or combined Btu/hr rating of gas appliances located in one space. For example, if one space there is a water heater with a 40,000 Btu/hr rating and a furnace with a 90,000 Btu/hr rating how do we determine how much space is required.
50 cubic feet of space provides enough air for 1,000 Btu/hr. We have 130,000 Btu/hr so we need 6500 cubic feet of space. If the basement ceilings are 9 feet divide 6500 by 9 for 722 square feet. Now we need to determine how big the room should be to not require additional air. You can play around with the numbers, for example use 12 feet for the width and divide divide 722 by 12 for a room size 12X60. If the ceiling height is 10 feet divide 6500 by 10 for 650 sq. ft. A 12-foot-wide room would need to be 54 feet long.
The purpose of doing the math is not to tell someone how to fix the problem. Fixing the problem is up to a qualified and licensed HVAC contractor. The purpose of doing the math is to validate the inspector’s findings.
In a finished basement, to be in compliance, one can install metal grills between the unfinished and finished space as long as the grills do not open into a sleeping room or bathroom or a louvered door between the unfinished and finished space.
Then we have the prohibited locations part to contend with. Many of the codes have exceptions and this issue is no different.

Exceptions to the ventilation portion are:

1. Direct-vent appliances that obtain all combustion air from the outside.
2. Certain room heaters, wall furnaces, vented decorative appliances, and decorative appliances for installation in vented solid fuel burning fireplaces, provided the room is not a confined space and the building is not of unusually tight construction.
3. A single wall mounted unvented room heater equipped with an oxygen depletion safety shutoff system and installed in a bathroom provided the input rating does not exceed 6,000 Btu/hr and the bathroom is not a confined space.
4. Same as the above for a bedroom as long as the rating does not exceed 10,000 Btu/hr.
5. The space is acceptable if it is a dedicated enclosure and all combustion air is taken directly from outdoors and access into the space is protected by a solid weather stripped door in accordance with air leakage requirements of the International Energy Conservation Code and the door is equipped with an approved self-closing device.

An appliance that is not part of IFGC, but should be mentioned is the whole house fan and the impact they can have on water heater flame rollout and gas appliance venting in general. I identify water heaters because a furnace is not apt to be operating during the season when a whole house fan is used.

Should I report the possible presents of Chinese Drywall?  CPSC has received about 3,296 reports from residents in 37 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico who believe their health symptoms or the corrosion of certain metal components in their homes are related to problem drywall. State and local authorities have also received similar reports. Yes, as a home inspector you should address the possibility of Chinese Drywall presents. But first a little background with recommendations at the end.

Drywall is a common building material typically used for wall and ceiling finishing, made of a layer of gypsum-based plaster pressed between two thick sheets of paper, then dried in a kiln. Foreign drywall was imported by the United States as early as 2001 and through 2008. During the construction boom between 2004 and 2007 heavy usage occurred. Importation was further spurred by a shortage of American-made drywall due to the rebuilding demand of nine hurricanes that hit Florida from 2004 to 2005, and widespread damage caused along the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. An analysis covering drywall imports since January 2006 showed that more than 550 million pounds of Chinese drywall was brought into the United States since then, enough to build 60,000 average-sized homes.