Warranty Spotlight: Roof Protection Plan

For the next several blog posts, the first few paragraphs will be identical since they cover necessary information related to each warranty or protection plan. If you have read these paragraphs, feel free to skip ahead to the plan details in each upcoming article.

Here at HPI, we offer a free, zero deductible 90-Day Home Warranty to all home inspection clients for added protection and peace of mind. In addition to the home warranty, we offer three additional free protection plans, including the 5-year Platinum Roof Protection Plan that I’ll review here. These warranties are provided through Residential Warranty Services (RWS), a premier residential warranty company with a proven track record of exceptional service. Every one of our home inspection clients is automatically enrolled in every one of these plans, and we take care of everything on our end so you have to do nothing! Read about the Platinum Roof Protection Plan and the other free plans we provide, and you’ll quickly see that at HPI we’ve got you covered!

The protection plans are similar to insurance policies for different components but with one major benefit. Just like an insurance policy, each plan has a deductible and a maximum (aggregate) amount of coverage if you file a claim; but unlike an insurance policy, you do not pay a premium! If you don’t have a claim, you never pay money; but if you do have a claim you’ll likely end up paying far less than if you had to be paying premiums all along. With the 90-Day Home Warranty there is no deductible, but the other protection plans do have a deductible if a claim is filed. Either way, having these plans provided for free and with no premiums is a huge benefit!

Since the protection plans are not insurance policies, they do not cover damage resulting from insurance covered events (fire, flood, lightning, vandalism, etc.), and any such claims should be filed under your homeowners insurance policy. They also don’t cover damage resulting from negligence or normal wear and tear. The warranties are there to help in other cases to provide you with broader protection.

Now to the 5-Year Platinum Roof Protection Plan… This warranty provides coverage for leaks for a whopping 5 year period from the date of your home inspection. That’s much longer than the 90 days of the home warranty and far longer than typical one-year home warranties that cost hundreds of dollars. If a leak that was not present during the home inspection emerges at any time during that five-year period, it will be covered up to $3,000 with a deductible of $500. But remember, even though a deductible is factored in, you did not have to pay premiums! In addition, the $500 deductible is half of the $1,000 deductible amount that many people choose for their homeowners insurance. So while you do have a deductible if a claim occurs, your cost is not nearly as much as you would normally pay without the warranty.

Once a leak has been repaired, it is guaranteed for the remainder of the policy term. For example, if a leak is repaired one year into the policy term, it is guaranteed for the remaining four years and will be repaired for free if issues with the same leak arise again. If it is determined that the leak is not repairable, the coverage amount can be applied to the purchase of a new roof.

The Platinum Roof Plan is good for any type of roof material. Many plans only cover common roofing types, like asphalt shingles, and exclude metal and other higher end roof coverings. With this plan, all roof types are covered!

When you choose Hill Property Inspections, you get this and several other free protection plans completely free of charge! That translates to exceptional value and peace of mind when you need it most, which is why we proudly proclaim that we offer the best value home inspections in Western Pennsylvania. At HPI, we’ve got you covered, and at a great price!

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Here’s a Suggestion…

For most people, a home inspection is a one-time thing that occurs before they buy a home. Why? Simple… everyone recognizes the importance of having a home they’re planning to buy inspected before finalizing the deal; but no one wants to continue paying for inspections on a regular basis (say annually or once every two years) after that.

But let me make a suggestion… having your home periodically inspected is exactly what you should do if you don’t want to become a victim of costly surprises. It comes down to the concept of frequent preventative maintenance versus less frequent but alarming (and costly) repairs.

Vehicles are a good example. You can either take your car in regularly for routine maintenance or not maintain it and hope you get lucky. Maintaining it well means more visits to the mechanic and more frequent payments, but it also means a much lower likelihood that a major, unexpected repair will come up. Safety is also a factor, which is why most states require vehicles to pass an annual inspection to be considered road worthy. Simply put, you can be diligent or take risk, and diligence always pays off in the long run.

Your personal health is another great example. Whether it’s an annual checkup with your family doctor or a semiannual cleaning with a dental hygienist, we all recognize the importance of preventative maintenance to maintain good health. In the medical world, this is so well accepted and understood that offices usually schedule your next checkup right away, and health insurers have started offering incentives for patients who take preventative maintenance seriously. We all recognize that maintaining continual good health offsets the likelihood of severe problems for which we may not be prepared.

It’s easy to have a mindset that we’ll wait until something goes wrong and has to be fixed before we’ll fork out money for it. After all, why would we pay money if we don’t need to? But in reality, most of us are not qualified to identify potential hazards that may lead to a costly problem, which is why experts exist in each field. I’m not a dentist, so I’m not at all capable of identifying problems with my teeth that may lead to much larger problems down the road. I’m not a mechanic, so I’m not in a position to spot a vehicle issue that may lead to a necessary repair. In any case, identifying minor problems before they turn into much bigger, more expensive problems is a cost saving practice that should be a top priority of everyone who is intent on properly managing risk and cost.

That being said, your home is a major investment – likely the biggest, in fact. Preventative maintenance for your home is especially important, yet few people take action to have preventative maintenance and routine checkups performed on their home the way they do with a doctor for their health or a mechanic for their vehicle.

Your home inspector is the expert qualified to perform a thorough checkup on your home, just like a doctor or mechanic does for your health or vehicle. After the initial inspection, you would ideally hire an inspector to perform an annual home maintenance inspection, which is a thorough checkup of your home’s condition, typically offered at a discounted price. Ideally, this checkup inspection is done annually but should be done at least once every two years, at minimum. The inspector will be able to advise you on important maintenance items that may need dealt with, defects that need immediate repair, recommendations for improving safety, and other critical items you likely wouldn’t identify or even know about on your own. The fee for this service is very reasonable and will protect your home and provide you with peace of mind that you certainly wouldn’t have if you simply waited for an obvious issue to arise.

So, in a nutshell, my suggestion is this: view your home inspector as the expert in charge of periodically evaluating your home, not just a person you’ll meet one time. Have a home maintenance inspection done at least once every two years – and ideally every year – as a form of preventative maintenance just as you do with your health and vehicle. By paying a smaller amount of money more frequently, you will likely save money in the long run and offset many unwelcome and expensive surprises.

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Carpet in Bathrooms

Carpet is arguably the most comfortable type of flooring. It’s usually padded, soft, warm and feels great on bare feet. Many carpets are also visually appealing, which makes carpet all the more desirable. It’s no surprise, then, that some people opt for carpet in their bathrooms in addition to other common areas like living rooms and bedrooms.

Unfortunately, carpet is not at all a wise choice for a bathroom. Bathrooms are continually subjected to high levels of water and moisture (as well as other less sanitary liquids), and the fibers in carpet quickly absorb water that can not easily be wiped up, dried out or cleaned. Furthermore, the carpet can act as a haven for bacteria and microbial growth – especially if water and moisture are not adequately controlled. Even if the carpet itself appears fine, the underlying pad may very well not be.

Fortunately, bathroom carpet is not nearly as common in modern homes as it once was since many people have experienced the negative consequences of carpeted bathrooms and have “wised up.” Higher end bathrooms tend to contain tile flooring, and standard bathrooms often contain linoleum – both of which are far more water friendly than carpet.

If you have a carpeted bathroom and the carpet seems fine, you may not feel it is necessary to immediately replace it; and that may, in fact, be true if the carpet is continually cleaned and water and moisture are adequately expelled from the interior. However, carpet and bathrooms do not typically mix well over time, and replacing the carpet as soon as possible with a more suitable flooring material should really be a goal.

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Well Water MCLs

MCL stands for “maximum contaminant level,” and potential contaminants in water are assigned specific MCLs based on health and safety standards. As you may have guessed, the maximum contaminant level is the highest concentration of a particular contaminant that can be present in the water and still considered safe. In general, local authorities dictate MCLs and other safety standards related to water, and I will address the MCLs for a few primary contaminants in this area. While the MCLs in your area are likely similar or identical, you are encouraged to check with your local authority.

While public water supplies can occasionally have elevated levels of contaminants, the treatment facility analyzes and treats the water on an ongoing basis to ensure its safety and alerts homeowners to any issues and requirements for ensuring their water’s safety (such as boiling until the problem is resolved). Private wells, on the other hand, are the sole responsibility of the homeowner, so water analysis of wells is much more common than analysis of public water supplies when it comes to hiring a professional to collect in-home water samples.

Many homeowners aren’t aware that when they have their water tested the lab is only testing for contaminants ordered to be tested. As a result, you may be expecting the lab to test for every possible contaminant when, in fact, they may only be testing for bacteria. One homeowner we did an analysis for a while back was surprised to learn that her water contained a fairly high concentration of lead. She said that she’d had her water tested many times and it had never contained lead. In all probability, her water had likely never been tested for lead, but she simply wasn’t aware. This was verified by the fact that the item causing the lead problem had been in the house for quite some time.

Here at HPI, we test for the same contaminants with every water analysis. There are countless potential contaminants, but we test for those which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends because we want our clients to have a more full picture of their water’s quality. The contaminants we test for are bacteria (total coliform and E. coli), nitrates and nitrites, total dissolved solids, lead and the pH level.

The MCLs for each of these contaminants are as follows:
1. Bacteria: the total absence of total coliform and E. coli bacteria
2. Nitrates: 10 mg/L, Nitrites: 1 mg/L
3. Total Dissolved Solids: 500 mg/L
4. Lead: 0.015 mg/L
5. pH: must be between 6.5 and 8.5

Knowing these guidelines can be very helpful for determining your water’s overall quality and safety. Fortunately, there are several options for reducing or eliminating contaminants that exceed their MCL, but you have to have those specific contaminants tested to know their levels. If you own a private well, be sure to have it tested as often as recommended and to have multiple contaminants analyzed. Otherwise, you’ll likely assume your water is safe when it may actually contain elevated levels of certain contaminants that may pose a health hazard.

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Common Defects: Wood Piles

Many people with rural homes keep wood piles in or near their house for easy access when they need firewood to fuel a fireplace, wood burner or an outdoor fire. If you use wood frequently, it’s obviously convenient to have quick, easy access to the wood; but unfortunately, the cons of keeping wood in or near the house can easily outweigh the pros.

Wood piles are a welcome habitat for wood-destroying insects, mice, snakes and other unwelcome vermin. In the winter, when burning wood is most common, the warm interior of your home is especially inviting to these pests. If the wood is inside, against or close to the house, it is fairly likely that you’ll have an unwanted pest intrusion problem before long.

Wood is ideally kept at least 30 feet from the house. That may seem like a far distance, but in reality 30 feet isn’t as far as it sounds. It’s generally far enough away to prevent pests from entering the structure but close enough to prevent you from having to walk too far to collect the wood.

Of course, wood is ideally dry to perform best when it’s burned, but keeping the wood dry while it’s outside can be difficult. One way this can be accomplished is by placing the wood on pallets on a level surface and covering the wood. Another option is creating a roof structure for the purpose of covering the wood pile(s). In any case, the wood outside will never be completely moisture-free, but it will be mostly dry and ready for use if proper measures are taken to ensure adequate drainage around the wood pile and prevention of direct contact with water.

Keeping wood inside the house – often in an area like an unfinished basement – can be very appealing since it prevents having to go outside at all and ensures the highest likelihood that the wood will stay dry. This is not a good idea, though, since the wood may already contain insects and other vermin that have now been freely brought right into your home. As with most things, the easiest way is unfortunately not the best way.

Don’t risk a major pest infestation or potential structural damage by keeping wood too close. The convenience of doing so is very appealing, but you’re far better off not risking a problem that could quickly overshadow the ease. Keep wood at least 30 feet from structure, and take measures to adequately protect the wood and keep it dry. When you do run out to grab a few logs, check them over before bringing them inside. Managing wood the right way is certainly less convenient, but it’s a much smarter option for preventing potential problems.

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Ungrounded Three-Prong Receptacles

Nearly every older home I inspect contains several ungrounded three-prong receptacles (outlets). Older two-prong receptacles are ungrounded, but modern three-prong receptacles are designed to be grounded for added protection. The small third hole in a three-prong receptacle is for the ground.

The primary reason for ungrounded three-prong receptacles in older homes is that the electrician or other person who upgraded the outlets used the wiring already present to make the installation much easier. Often times the existing wiring is older knob and tube, which does not possess a grounding conductor, so the installer simply uses the available hot and neutral wires. The end result of this improper “upgrade” is newer outlets that look better and will accept a three-pronged plug but provide no real benefit over their older two-prong predecessors since they offer no additional protection.

Many homeowners seeking to upgrade their wiring request that older two-prong receptacles be upgraded to modern three-prongs, but they have no idea once the work is finished that their new “grounded” receptacles are actually not grounded. In fact, many homeowners aren’t even aware that grounding is the primary difference between newer and older receptacles. Without this knowledge, they hire someone to perform an electrical upgrade, think the work looks fine, trust that everything has been done properly, and have no idea that the “upgrade” they paid for is subpar.

Now, two-prong ungrounded receptacles still exist in many homes and often pose no problems. This is because over-current protection devices (circuit breakers and fuses) are designed to trip or blow if an over-current occurs. However, these devices can fail, which is why grounded receptacles were invented to provide additional protection to people and electrical devices if a fault occurs. Having additional protection is certainly a good thing, so you do want your three-prong outlets to actually be grounded.

If you’re looking to have older two-prong receptacles upgraded, be sure to hire a qualified and reputable electrician, and make it a point to stress that you want your new three-prong outlets to actually be grounded as they should. Upon completion of the job, ask the electrician to verify (by showing you with a tester) that the outlets are, in fact, grounded as they should be. You’ll likely pay more to have the job done properly, but you won’t regret it.

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Loan Requirements

There are several types of loans available to would-be homeowners, depending on their circumstances and if they qualify. A few common loan types are conventional loans, USDA loans, FHA loans and VA loans. Each type of loan offers advantages, although it can be argued that some offer more than others. Depending on the type of loan you obtain, certain requirements may be in place, and I’d like to clarify some of those here.

VA loans are arguably one of the best loan types but are reserved for veterans, so many people do not qualify. VA loans also carry some of the most strict requirements for a home’s condition prior to the sale. In our area, VA lenders typically require a pest inspection and prohibit the buyer from paying for it. This is unique because the buyer pays for a pest inspection (if they have one) with other loan types. If a house has a private water supply, the VA lender often requires a water analysis as well and may require additional inspections for rural properties. VA requirements are generally more stringent than other loans, but they are in place to protect the veteran buying the home.

FHA loans are commonly used by first-time home buyers because they can be obtained with a fairly low credit score and a low down payment. Longtime homeowners typically have equity and (hopefully) savings, so the common appeals of FHA loans are not as appealing as they are to younger people who are in need of more financial leeway. FHA loans have certain requirements, especially regarding a home’s health, safety and structural integrity, and the lender may require improvements to be made before granting the loan. Again, this is to ensure the well-being of the client.

Like VA and FHA loans, USDA loans have some fairly strict requirements pertaining to health, safety and structural integrity. All three of these loan types are backed by the government and carry additional requirements beyond a standard conventional loan.

When an appraiser performs an appraisal for a house being purchased with a conventional loan, he or she is simply assessing the value of the property. When a government backed loan is in play, the appraiser is required to be HUD approved and must inspect for additional requirements like those already mentioned. This, of course, can result in repairs/improvements having to be made, which is something buyers and sellers should expect and plan for.

While the requirements for each loan type are generally well established, lenders will sometimes be a little more strict or more lenient. For example, some VA lenders prohibit the buyer from paying for the pest inspection, period, while others will allow the buyer to pay for it upfront and be reimbursed later. If you’ve made the wise decision of working with a reputable realtor, he or she can help in communicating what your particular lender is or isn’t requiring in your unique case.

Because of minor variations between lenders and the fact that home inspectors are not mortgage lenders or appraisers, inspectors like myself are not in a position to predict or comment on what improvements the lender may require. Occasionally, realtors ask me what needs to be done to satisfy the lender based on the home inspection, knowing that I will have a good idea. And while I can generally predict the answer to that question with good accuracy, it is not appropriate to provide a concrete answer to that question.

If you’re planning to purchase a home, take time to research the different types of loans available to you, the lenders offering them, and the requirements of each. If you qualify for a government backed loan, expect to have a few more “hiccups” along the way, but recognize that the loan requirements are ultimately meant to protect you, not to cause you grief.

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