December     2012
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


Natural Disasters Leave Their Mark

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

The U.S. has experienced eleven weather-related disasters that cost at least $1 billion in 2012, according to data taken from the AON Benfield October 2012 Catastrophe Report.
Although the cost of damages from superstorm Sandy has yet to be determined, it is expected to be more than the others in terms of loss of both life — 191 — and damage, exceeding $30 billion. As of October, this was the second-most costly year of billion-dollar weather-related disasters since 1980. Fourteen occurred in 2011.

Whether it was the hail and severe weather in Texas last April that caused $1.3 billion in damages or the eight significant weather-related events that occurred in October alone, home inspectors will be watching for signs of damage to a home consistent with the events that occurred in their regions.

In October, while Sandy was breaking records in the East, severe drought continued in the West.
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The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during October was 53.9°F, 0.3°F below the long-term average, ending a 16-month streak of above-average temperatures for the lower 48 that began in June 2011.

The October nationally averaged precipitation total of 2.19 inches was slightly above the long-term average. The Northwest, Midwest and Northeast were wetter than average, while below-average precipitation was observed across the Southern Rockies and the Central and Southern Plains. As of October 30, 60.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought conditions with the most severe conditions in the Great Plains.

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U.S. climate highlights: year-to-date (January-October)

  • The January-October period was the warmest first ten months of any year on record for the contiguous U.S.

  • January-October 2012 was the 16th driest such period on record   for the contiguous U.S. with a precipitation total 1.9 inches below the average of 24.78 inches.

  • Drier-than-average conditions were present from the Southwest, through the Rockies, across the Plains and into the Midwest. Nebraska and Wyoming both were record dry for the period. Nebraska's statewide precipitation total of 11.92 inches was 9.4 inches below average, while Wyoming's precipitation of 6.57 inches was 5.2 inches below average.

  • The Gulf Coast, parts of the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest were wetter than average during January-October. Washington's year-to-date precipitation total was 33.23 inches, 7.36 inches above average, and the fourth wettest January-October on record.

 

General Preparedness Information for Small Businesses

If you need assistance now as a result of a natural disaster, contact FEMA directly to apply for assistance, which includes money for housing and essential expenses, such as food and clothing, and critical personal expenses such as medication. You can apply for assistance online (www.sba.gov/content/disaster-assistance), through your local region or find out how to proceed at 800-621-FEMA (3362); TTY: 800-462-7585. 


For those who have not had to face a natural disaster, the many occurrences this year serve as a reminder that every small business needs to be prepared. The Small Business Agency provides the resources below on its website (www.sba.gov/prepare):

  • Create a preparedness program for your business
  • Identify critical business systems [PDF]
  • Create an emergency communications plan [PDF]
  • Test your business systems
  • Enroll in the Red Cross Ready Rating Program
  • Build a disaster preparedness kit
  • Learn about SBA's Disaster Assistance programs (online course)

 

The Solar Homestead Innovative Energy-Efficient Design Represents new era in Green Building
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Inspired by the traditional homes of early mountain settlers, the Solar Homestead is a self-sustaining dwelling designed to produce as much energy as it consumes. The home's fully panelized building kit can be shipped anywhere in the world or constructed turnkey by The Deltec Building company within 60 miles of Asheville, N.C. It's the perfect choice for homeowners who want to maximize energy savings and minimize their impact on the environment.

The Solar Homestead was the winner of the People's Choice Award at the 2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon, a project of the U.S. Department of Energy to highlight the comfort and affordability of energy-efficient construction. It is the first time a Decathlon winner is being made available to the consumer.

Designed to be a "net-zero" home, it uses a highly efficient building enclosure and solar technology to produce its energy. Customizable options allow home-owners to adapt the design to meet their specific "net-zero" living goals.
The main house features two bedrooms and one bath in 1,032 square feet of living space. An optional outbuilding module provides an additional 135 square feet for full or half-bath and a third bedroom or office. A grand porch and solar canopy connect the living spaces, and additional outbuildings can expand living and storage options even further into the outdoors.

Features like super-insulated double stud framed walls, triple-glazed windows and doors, and innovative heating and cooling systems add to the efficiency of the home.
It is manufactured by Deltec, and designed by students and professors in the Department of Technology and Environmental Design at Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, NC. ASU was one of 20 collegiate teams competing in the 2011 U.S. Solar Decathlon.

Sales of the home will support the ASU Department of Technology and Environmental Design's next large-scale sustainable design-build project and other research and creative activities at the university.

For more information about the Solar Homestead, contact Joseph Schlenk, jschlenk@deltechomes.com or go to deltechomes.com/zero-energy.

 

NAR's Take on Current Appraisals: Low Valuation in Home Appraisals Causing Steady Level of Contract Glitches

According to the National Association of Realtors®, the real estate market is recovering but still faces hurdles, notably from tight mortgage credit, but problems with a sizeable share of real estate appraisals also are holding back home sales, according to survey findings by the National Association of Realtors.

Most appraisers are competent and provide good valuations that are compliant with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. However, appraisals generally lag market conditions and some changes to the appraisal process have been causing problems in recent years, including the use of out-of-area valuators without local expertise or full access to local data, inappropriate comparisons, and excessive lender demands. In addition, before the beginning of last year, some lenders' loan processors edited valuations, cutting them by a certain percentage.

Although 65 percent of Realtors surveyed in September report no contract problems relating to home appraisals over the past three months, 11 percent said a contract was cancelled because an appraised value came in below the price negotiated between the buyer and seller, 9 percent reported a contract was delayed, and 15 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower sales price as a result of a low valuation. These findings are notable given that homes in many areas are selling for less than replacement construction costs.

One of the major problems reported by Realtors was that some appraisers are using foreclosures, short sales and run-down properties as comparable homes, and are not making adjustments for market conditions or the condition of the property. 

Read the entire article here.

 

Quick-Age Buttons on Website

Having trouble identifying manufacturers' dates for equipment, including water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners and more?

The information is just a click away on the Quick-Click Button page of the The Building Intelligence Center website (www.buildingcenter.org.) And that's not all. Visit other pages to find construction calculators, a building industry dictionary and an article directory with brands of all the major household systems from A to Z.

Source: Michael Stephens, ACI

 

House Passes Drywall Safety Act of 2012

On September 9, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Drywall Safety Act of 2012 that expresses the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Commerce should insist that:

(1) the government of China, which has ownership interests in the companies that manufactured and exported problematic drywall to the United States, facilitate a meeting between the companies and U.S. government representatives about remedying affected homeowners; and

(2) such companies comply with any related U.S. court decisions. Requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to promulgate final rules concerning drywall manufactured or imported for domestic use that:

(a) require each sheet to be permanently marked with the name of the manufacturer and the month and year of manufacture, and

(b) limit sulfur content to a level not associated with elevated rates of corrosion in the home. Provides exceptions, and means of enforcement as a rule, if the CPSC determines that a voluntary standard in each case is adequate to permit identification and publishes the determination in the Federal Register. Provides procedures for revision of voluntary standards. Allows the initiation at any time of a subsequent rulemaking to reduce sulfur content or include a provision concerning drywall composition or characteristics that the CPSC determines is reasonably necessary to protect public health or safety. Directs the CPSC to revise its "Remediation Guidance for Homes with Corrosion from Problem Drywall" to specify that problematic drywall removed pursuant to the guidance should not be reused or used as a component in production of new drywall. 

There is no companion legislation in the Senate. The House bill was referred to a Senate committee on September 20, 2012.

 

The ACI Gold Logo is the Mark of a  Professional Home Inspector

The ACI (ASHI Certified Inspector) logo has been trademarked for use only by persons who have reached this level of competency within ASHI. Inspectors who qualify for use of the gold logo are encouraged to use it on marketing materials, vehicles and websites.

ASHI has met the rigorous requirements of the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) as a certifying body and therefore it is able to offer the only third-party-approved home inspector certification program.

ASHI Associates: Step up to ACI

Associates: If you have completed more than 50 inspections, get your reports verified, take the National Home Inspectors Exam and the ASHI Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics Education Module so you can move up to Associate with Logo Use. Associates with Logo Use: Contact ASHI (hq@ashi.org) when you are getting close to 250 inspections. We will send an Affadavit of Completion so you can become an ACI.

 

Why is it Important to Properly Clean up a Broken Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb

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Photo © Dreamstime.com

CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, the EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on its website, including the following.

Before cleanup
• Have people and pets leave the room.
• Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
• Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
– stiff paper or cardboard,
– sticky tape,
– damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces), and
– a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During cleanup
• DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
• Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder. Scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard. Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag. See the detailed cleanup instructions for more information and for differences in cleaning up hard surfaces versus carpeting or rugs.
• Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After cleanup

• Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
• Next, check with your local government about disposal requirements in your area because some localities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center. If there is no such requirement in your area, you can dispose of the materials with your household trash.
• If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

Source: EPA.gov and www.moneypit.com