March, 2011

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


Inspecting Older Houses

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

Preparing a Client for an Old-House Inspection

Jim Rooney, an ASHI Certified Inspector from Annapolis, Md., recommended an article published in the November Old House Journal.

Titled "How To Survive a Home Inspection," it gets right to the point:

"A home inspection is one of the most crucial steps on the path to old-house ownership. Here's how to use it to determine if you should take the plunge on that fixer-upper."

Author Jane Powell cautions, "Buyer beware: What looks like a dream house from a distance could turn out to be riddled with problems upon closer inspection."

She advises readers, "It requires more know-how to inspect an old house than one that's only a few years old—the inspector needs to know how things were done back in the day, as well as how they're done now."

And, "A $99 inspection with a checklist is probably not adequate for a historic home."

After she walks the reader through what to expect from an inspection, she adds,  "Be aware that even the best inspector may not find everything — depending on the timing of the inspection, certain problems (such as roof leaks or drainage problems in the summer) can be difficult to uncover."

There's more common-sense advice, plus a plug for finding an inspector via the ASHI website. The article is available online at www.oldhousejournal.com/how-to-survive-home-inspection/files/1708.


Federal Agencies Join Efforts to Reduce Radon Exposure

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and eight other federal agencies announced a new effort to strengthen the fight against radon exposure. Radon exposure is the leading cause of non-smoking lung cancer. Senior leaders from the federal agencies are pledging to work together to create a national risk reduction plan for radon that will help save lives and create safer, healthier homes for all Americans.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration, and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

At the end of January, the federal consortium met with key leaders in the public health, environmental and private sectors to begin shaping a national action plan that includes both immediate and long-term steps to reduce radon exposure.

For more information on the joint federal initiative to reduce radon exposure go to: www.epa.gov/radon/federal_summit.html.

Housing Scorecard

Each month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury produce a monthly scorecard on the health of the nation's housing market. The scorecard incorporates key housing market indicators and highlights the impact of the administration's unprecedented housing recovery efforts, including assistance to homeowners through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP).

The January 2011 housing figures showed increased new and existing home sales as home affordability remains high, but officials caution that the market remains fragile, as prices are unsettled. Foreclosure starts and completions remained low at year's end as lenders continue to review internal servicing procedures. The complete housing scorecard on the nation's housing market is available online at www.hud.gov/scorecard.

Owners, Renters Agree: Owning a Home is a Smart Decision

According to the results of a National Association of Realtors® survey of 3,793 adults, conducted online by Harris Interactive, a substantial majority of both homeowners and current renters agree that owning a home is a smart decision over the long term.

The American Attitudes About Homeownership survey found that in today's challenging economy, 95 percent of owners and 72 percent of renters believe that over a period of several years, it makes more sense to own a home. In addition, an overwhelming majority of homeowners are happy with their decision to own a home – 93 percent of owners surveyed would buy again.

A majority of renters – 63 percent – said that it was at least somewhat likely that they would purchase a home at some point in the future. Among this group, young adults (18-29 years old) have the strongest aspirations for home ownership; only 8 percent of young adults said that it was "not at all likely" that they would purchase a home at some point in the future.

NAR also reported that pending home sales continued an uptrend in December, marking the fifth gain in the previous six months.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, increased 2.0 percent to 93.7 based on contracts signed in December from a downwardly revised 91.9 in November. The index is 4.2 percent below the 97.8 mark in December 2009. The data reflect contracts and not closings, which normally occur with a lag time of one or two months.

Source: National Association of Realtors®.



ENERGY STAR Third-Party Certification

Revised Specifications for January 2011 Recommitment

On October 26, 2010, the EPA finalized the revisions to the Product Manufacturer Partner Commitments to include participation in third-party certification for the ENERGY STAR program. All existing manufacturer/private labeler partners must recommit in order to continue their partnership with the EPA to manufacture/label products eligible for ENERGY STAR qualification. The deadline for recommitting was November 30, 2010, to avoid partnership interruption. These new program requirements were active January 1, 2011.

To ensure a smooth transition to these new procedures, the EPA has provided the following resources:

Will products I qualified prior to January 1, 2011, have to be retested after the effective date in order to remain qualified?
Currently, qualified products will not need to be retested to remain qualified. However, for most ENERGY STAR product categories, specification changes are pending or anticipated in 2011 or early 2012. For these categories, no product model will be permitted to carry the ENERGY STAR label after the effective date of the specification change unless it is third-party certified. For a small number of product categories, where the EPA is not anticipating near-term specification changes, the EPA will require that manufacturers submit both new and existing products for verification testing through an EPA-recognized Certification Body (CB).

How do ENERGY STAR partners qualify products under the third-party certification requirements?

ENERGY STAR partners had historically been able to test their products in any laboratory of their choice, and submit product data directly to the EPA for review pursuant to qualification. Under the new requirements, which were effective January 1, 2011, partners are required to have their products certified by an EPA-recognized CB of their choice. Upon certification of a product, the CB will notify the partner that the product meets the ENERGY STAR requirements and will submit the qualified product data to EPA for listing on the ENERGY STAR website at www.energystar.gov.


For Your Clients: Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating with ENERGY STAR


Don't Let the Air Out. Use caulk, spray foam and weather stripping to seal cracks around windows, doors, pipes, electrical sockets and other places where conditioned air can leak out. Proper levels of insulation, especially in your attic, can also improve energy efficiency and comfort. And, don't forget to check your duct system for leaks and disconnections. Learn more in ENERGY STAR's Do-it-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating.

Download the PDF at www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/DIY_Guide_May_2008.pdf.


EPA Submits Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan to Independent Scientists for Review

The draft plan is open to public comment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted its draft study plan on hydraulic fracturing for review to the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group of independent scientists. Natural gas plays a key role in our nation's clean-energy future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing that vital resource. EPA scientists, under this administration and at the direction of Congress, are undertaking a study of this practice to better understand any potential impacts it may have, including on groundwater.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape into the well and be recovered. Over the past few years, the use of hydraulic fracturing for gas extraction has increased and has expanded over a wider diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations.

For a copy of the draft study plan and additional information on hydraulic fracturing, visit www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing.