Mike's Home Inspector Blog
Michael Burfitt, CPI
Mike's Home Inspector Blog
Michael Burfitt, CPI
Many home inspector websites have a Q&A or frequently asked questions (FAQ) section, where they answer commonly asked questions about the home inspection process. Most of them involve simple questions such as what exactly a home inspection is, can I attend an inspection (YES!), how long does an inspection last (varies but 2 hours on site is a good rule of thumb) and do inspectors offer buying advice or recommendations (no). This blog is going to answer some questions that are rarely asked. Let’s take a look at a few:
Why Don’t You Do Short Term Radon Tests?
Another way to phrase this is why don’t I take advantage of the ‘easy money’ in short term (48 hour) radon testing, especially when I have the necessary training and ability to perform and interpret radon tests. The obvious answer is that, unlike in the USA, they are not considered valid in Canada. Short term tests are highly inaccurate (a recent study from the University of Calgary found about 96-99% inaccuracy) and require very specific closed condition parameters. For starters, all windows have to be kept closed both before and during the test and exterior doors opened only to enter/leave. In a hot summer day without air conditioning, this is a feature that can cause significant discomfort to put it mildly! I once heard someone compare making a radon mitigation decision based on a short-term test is like getting married based on a first date and this isn’t far from the truth.
Yes, a short term test is better than no test but a false negative can provide an unwarranted sense of security and a false positive will usually require a long-term test to confirm anyway. As much as I would love to be able to provide accurate information over a weekend, this is simply not possible due to the highly fluctuating nature of uranium decay deep underground and the constant changing of building conditions. It is recommended that radon tests should be completed with a 3-12 month timeframe (bare minimum of 30 days) and is the guideline that I operate under.
What Does “Independent Home Inspector” Mean?
This question can be expanded to include “are you hostile towards real estate agents?”. The answer to that is an absolute and clear NO! There are a large number of agents in both Halifax and Nova Scotia as whole that work very hard to ensure their client’s best interests are met just like I do. We both have a fiduciary responsibility to look out for our clients regardless of our personal opinions and we are both passionate about homes. In many cases we have mutual clients and work closely together with agents. All “independent” means is that we do not work under the direction of a real estate agent, real estate broker, contractor, or other similar organization and my loyalty is above all else to provide the unbiased truth rather than being influenced into writing a “soft” or "tough" report. Put another way, a "pre-sale" report, a "pre-purchase" report, and a "post-purchase/maintenance" report on the exact same house for the same individual client would have the exact same results with the exact same recommendations which is why I removed this section from my website.
What’s the Most Interesting Personal Items or Décor You Have Seen in a Home?
Nothing and even if I did stumble upon something interesting, I would not discuss it with anyone. I have stated before that the #1 thing I dislike about being a home inspector is the feeling of being intrusive in someone’s personal space. While I am skilled at looking past home contents, if there was a way to magically make every single piece of personal property temporarily disappear during an inspection, I would be a very happy inspector. A clean house also makes our job much easier, but I digress.
There was once a story in the local media about a property inspector who discovered and brought down some long-lost personal property out of an attic. While it was presented as a feel-good story I was infuriated when I read the article. Unless there is a VERY good reason, we do not touch, interact with, or disturb personal property and the person in question admitted they were snooping around. If there is a concern, I will always ask the property owner for further guidance before proceeding.
Being a home inspector is about trust, which I have spent many years building with both clients and the public at large. Anyone who uses our services has trust in us: that we will look out for their interests, that we will provide maximum value, that we will show up on time and finish the report as promised and most importantly that we do our best to leave only (hopefully invisible) footprints and take only photographs of the home and its various systems.