June, 2010
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

The rule is the law


As of April 22, 2010, renovations in target (pre-1978) housing and child-occupied facilities must be conducted by certified renovation firms, using renovators with accredited training and following the work practice requirements of the EPA Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), while committed to success of the rule and to the prevention of lead poisoning in innocent people, has expressed serious concerns that subsequent revision to the Opt-Out provision will create confusion and undermine successful implementation.

Through the first weeks of May, the EPA was apologizing on its website (www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm) for search delays due to heavy traffic regarding how to become lead-safe-certified.

Economists think it’s unlikely Feds will raise interest rates this year

If you’re a betting person, you'll like the odds on the Federal Reserve Board keeping interest rates near current levels until at least the final quarter of this year, maybe longer.

Cambridge Realty Capital Companies Chairman Jeffrey A. Davis says three of four economic experts polled by the Associated Press news service in a new quarterly survey think it’s unlikely the Fed will be making a seismic policy shift any time soon.

Most economists expect the economy to lurch along slowly and fitfully for the remainder of this year and next. Unemployment is expected to remain stubbornly high for the next two years, and home values, the other pillar of American financial security, are projected to remain flat for the foreseeable future as well.

At this time, many of the nation’s leading economic indicators appear to have turned up. But the panel of economic experts responsible for identifying changes in the U.S. business cycle says it’s “premature” to say whether the recession that began in 2007 has actually ended.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the economic indicators are “quite preliminary” at this time and could be revised in the months ahead.

EPA announces new guidelines for Energy Star homes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing new, more rigorous guidelines for new homes that earn the Energy Star label. Compared to the current Energy Star guidelines, the new requirements will make qualified new homes at least 20 percent more efficient than homes built to the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) – slashing utility bills for qualified homes by 15 percent compared to IECC code-built homes.

These guidelines will go into effect in January 2011, although some builders may choose to adopt the new requirements earlier.

Key elements of the new guidelines for Energy Star-qualified homes include:

  • A complete thermal enclosure system: Comprehensive air sealing, properly insulated assemblies and high-performance windows enhance comfort, improve durability and reduce utility bills.

  • Quality-installed complete heating and cooling systems: High-efficiency heating and cooling systems engineered to deliver more comfort, moisture control and quiet operation, and equipped with fresh-air ventilation to improve air quality.

  • A complete water management system: Because Energy Star homes offer a tightly-sealed and insulated building envelope, a comprehensive package of flashing, moisture barriers, and heavy-duty membrane details is critical to help keep water from roofs, walls, and foundations for improved durability and indoor air quality.

  • Efficient lighting and appliances

  • Third-party verification: Energy Star-qualified homes require verification by independent Home Energy Raters who conduct a comprehensive series of detailed inspections and use specialized diagnostic equipment to test system performance.

For more information about Energy Star-qualified homes, go to www.energystar.gov.

National Flood Insurance Program extended, but for how long?

On April 16, President Barack Obama signed legislation retroactively extending authorization for the National Flood Insurance Program through May 31. The program had expired on March 28.

Flood insurance is required by law for home sales mortgages on properties located in the 100-year floodplain areas. When Congress left town for its spring recess without extending the flood insurance programs, thousands of home sale closings were canceled or postponed.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac temporarily accepted mortgages on homes while flood insurance was not available as long as certain conditions were met.

According to Business Insurance, repeated short-term extensions to the flood insurance program have been necessary because “the House and Senate have been unable to agree whether the program should be expanded to provide windstorm as well as flood coverage, an expansion that insurers oppose.”