Face to Face Selling – Alive and Kicking?

Well, just as we started to think we were emerging from the GFC of 2009 – the worst worldwide financial crisis in something like seventy-five years – the prophets of doom are at it again, doing their best to talk us into a protracted recession. They may well be right, and it’s certainly not my field of expertise, so I’ll refrain from chiming in on the economics dialogue. However, as a committed sales professional, I am not as shy about speculating on how it is likely to impact this noble calling of ours – in particular, how it might affect the fortunes of those floor salespeople employed in small business bricks and mortar outlets (the BAMs)…

With so many dark clouds looming, we could be forgiven for thinking the worst, for allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by all the negativity. But adversity does indeed breed invention and it certainly spawns opportunity. With consumer confidence taking a battering, the role of personal selling inevitably gets redefined. Suddenly, we find it moving from backstage to spotlight.

In fact, the best news to come out of times like this is that many retail storeowners, resellers, and service providers, especially in the challenging small business specialist environment, are able to enjoy an ‘awakening’. While they are understandingly preoccupied with monitoring the mood of their local marketplace and anticipating the potential threats, many are seeing this brighter side, and are feeling encouraged to re-invent the positive aspects of their market positioning. Yes they are eying the opportunity to re-emphasise their unique selling proposition (USP). This is the one thing that can set the specialist apart: ironically it’s always there in the business mix, but it’s a shame that it is not always optimised until times get tough:

Expert advice
Personalised customer service
Local knowledge and back-up

For those smaller outlets who do keep their eye on the ball, it soon becomes obvious that their advantage over the larger generalist competitors, and the rapidly expanding worldwide web – is their ability to provide a combination of expert advice, and personalised customer service, topped with a serving of local knowledge and backup. Theirs is a classic example of the need to resurrect the all-important people advantage, and to promote it as their ultimate point of difference, particularly where considered purchases are concerned.

With consumer confidence frayed at the edges, prospective purchasers will be craving the kind of reassurance that can only come from the human experience. Without that person to person added-value either in-store or in the field, specialists face the daunting prospect of having lowest price become the default anchor point of their marketing proposition. They need to recognise that their online competitors don’t necessarily have it all their own way. Selling direct from a website, even with a well-composed benefit story and an attractive incentive package, can often represent little other than a price comparison. So there really are two sides to every story! Despite their obvious-cost-of-doing-business advantage, e-marketers suffer a constant headache trying to adequately differentiate their offer. In some respects, they are actually envious of their bricks and mortar adversaries.

So the ‘clicks and bricks’ scenario, combining the virtues of shop-from-home convenience with the live in-store buying experience, looks to be the most logical move for shopkeepers to share in the growth of web purchasing. A lot is being said about how online retailing will decimate the existing retail model, that how stores will simply become convenient ‘try-on’ and product demonstration showcases for the big cash register in the sky. Sure, this threat is certainly real, but just as real is the frustration of many of the aspiring e-marketers who rue the fact that they cannot offer ‘touch and feel’ local support out in the field. They see the other side, and know full well that they are just as often serving as little more than a pre-purchase product/price catalogue on behalf of their BAM competitors. Consequently, most of the smaller independent outlets have at least, and at last, written web activity into their marketing plan. Often it is no more than an enticement to visit the store, but nevertheless they are now flying the cyber flag!

While we have to concede that this consumer culture is changing rapidly, at least for now we seem to be still at the stage when the BAMs must ensure that for all but the commodity sector, their overall proposition adequately sells the added comfort, security, buyer confidence, and peace of mind that can only be experienced in the company of a competent salesperson. So, at every stage of the chain, vendors must simply get their prospects in front of a fellow human being if they want to salvage any reasonable level of gross profit return, certainly if they want to protect their full-service business model.

In response to the online challenge, many are now promoting elaborate ‘why buy from us’ market statements to deflect the price-consciousness of buyers by differentiating everything other than the price ticket. It is not surprising that these are based heavily on the benefits of personalised customer service, combining it with promotional events to put excitement and adventure back into shopping. The major shopping centre landlords and their big-brand anchor tenants have a serious responsibility too in this regard… they must ensure that the mall is seen as a ‘happening’ centre – a hive of people activity – and keep a constant flow of ‘reasons to visit’ in front of the public. Ironically, the internet threat can become the opportunity, with social networking the most effective medium for spreading the word.

It’s also interesting to note that many larger-scale resellers are now reversing their thrust into self-service delivery in favour of reinstating some good old-fashioned customer service. Around my home marketplace in Australia, many will surely try to emulate the Bunnings hardware example, heavily promoted to the public as the epitome of massive scales of economy blended with the passion and attentiveness of a dedicated shop-floor team – and, addressing both the trade and retail markets in the process. In their own words, ‘driving strong service is fundamentally important to our business’. This is a clear reversion to active rather than passive selling, and it has not been lost on the major retail banks, who are now countering their unpopular branch closures with ‘customer-friendly’ advertising and public relations campaigns aimed at restoring the people factor.

This need to have capable salespeople on hand becomes glaringly obvious when we take the time to sit down and weigh up the contribution of active personal selling within the total marketing mix. Sales managers have always been attentive to this, but it seems that of late it is an aspect that has been virtually neglected in the wider management spectrum, particularly in the department and chain store environments. I suspect it is about to get a lot more attention, because in any form of selling, we need to recognise how performance is measured – by those long-standing benchmarks that are generally accepted as the five critical sales performance variables. Total sales is always the most obvious measurement, but there are five other key performance indicators that tell us most about the live selling contribution we are making:

leads generated
conversion rate
average transaction value
gross profit
repeat sales

Conversion rate in particular is arguably the most important of the non-monetary benchmarks. In trade selling it reflects the success ratios from initiating contacts, to securing appointments, to closing sales. At retail, the simple relationship of sales transactions versus heads through the door is generally used as the measure. The other four are no less important either, and deserve the same recognition and attention… for, despite the many millions of dollars otherwise invested in getting goods to market, our personal interactive selling effort is the only component of that vast marketing mix which can effectively impact every one of these key performance indicators. If we happen to be the last live salesperson in the chain, it is no exaggeration to claim that the entire success of the exercise, from concept to consumption, ultimately rests on our shoulders.

It is not wise then for marketing managers to underestimate the real worth of our personal sales contribution. Despite the changing face of marketing and the relentless pursuit of cost efficiencies, it is still recognised that no corporation ever cost-saved or down-sized its way to ultimate success. It takes good marketing to deliver prospects, but it takes even better selling to convert those prospects to customers.

This is hardly one of the best-kept secrets of business – we all know that almost everything can be fixed by ‘more sales’. Selling its goods and services therefore remains the principle driver of any business enterprise, so the role of personal selling, that special kind where we are actively involved in helping our customers with their purchase decisions, has never been more important than it is right now. Combined with sound category management – the forecasting prowess to ensure ‘right product, right time’ – it could well become the saving grace for those merchants who recognise it!

Peter Drucker, considered by many the doyen of modern management, once observed ‘the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous’. But, with due respect to Peter, it hasn’t happened yet, and despite the current climate of change, probably never will. So where does this leave the salesperson?

Well, for starters, we must concede that the combination of web shopping and the use of more attractive and informative packaging will see more and more product migrate down into the self-serve commodity category. This doesn’t necessarily spell extinction for specialist selling staff, but it will ultimately mean fewer numbers of them. Top-performing salespeople will still have a vital role to play. Concentrated further up the scale of price, complexity, and pride of ownership – clearly at the full-service end of the spectrum – they will inevitably emerge as a select band.

Up there, on that higher plane, the role will never diminish in relevance; it will maintain its capacity to deliver just rewards for those who aspire to staying in that elite company. Given the pessimistic outlook for the economy over the next couple of years, this ‘will to succeed’ factor becomes doubly important as good business managers discard the traditional performance review approach in favour of performance preview. Yes, they will be looking at performance potential rather than history, and will be earmarking those who are showing the drive and willingness to claw their way to that top shelf.

With differentiated selling looming as such a critical component of business sustenance, this will present a rare opportunity to those of us who have devoted our career to face to face selling. A lasting dedication to self-improvement – that insatiable thirst for new knowledge and inspiration – will be the key to our success!

I guess the simple message for salespeople is a rather blunt one – get good at it or get out of it!

By Keith E Rowe

In a distinguished career spanning half a century, Keith Rowe has managed the full journey from shop floor to boardroom. Along the way, he has headed the Australian sales and marketing operations for three of the world’s largest Consumer Electronics manufacturers – Toshiba, Sanyo and Sharp.

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Seller’s Home Inspection

For a Seller, getting a home inspection done before putting the home up for sale is very important as it helps in estimating the value of the property. It also helps in getting the home spruced up based on the inspection so that they can get the right price for the home without much negotiation.

If you are considering putting your house on sale, it is wise to invest in a certified home/property inspection soon.

The pre-inspection of a home is an excellent tool to help sell your property faster. After the inspection, the seller will be aware of the shortcomings and positive features of the home. Home sellers can then set a realistic price and refrain from overpricing that would delay a sale.

A thorough house inspection is a foreseeable reality of the real estate industry today. Buyers want to know exactly what they are paying for. This is why it is helpful to get a head start by employing a pre-listing home inspection company. A qualified home inspector will inform you of the “problem” areas of the house. This works to your advantage as you can evaluate the price of your home better.

Here is a list of advantages for a seller’s home inspection:

Assess and evaluate the problem areas after an inspection before a buyer can raise doubts
Armed with a home inspection report when meeting with a potential buyer, shows thoroughness and sincerity on the sellers’ part
Negotiating repairs can be avoided if the seller can take care of them before interacting with the buyer
An inspected home may command a premium in the market

A seller’s home inspection will highlight problem areas ranging from safety risks to property damage. It gives you the flexibility and time to hire the right contractors to attend to any necessary repairs.

A pre-listing property inspection also lets you assess your property in a method similar to that of a prospective buyer. This information is instrumental in determining the actual market value of your property. The home inspection report also empowers you with a great deal of advantage during price negotiations.

Sellers can also choose a few repairs that require immediate attention, to factor in price adjustment to reflect the findings. They could also opt to offer the home inspection report as a part of the Buyers disclosures. By doing so, prospective buyers are prepared for the actual condition of the home. This lowers the chances of buyers backing out of a deal.

With the comprehensive and detailed report that you receive at the end of your house inspection, you can answer any query or concerns regarding your property with prospective buyers. Today, frugal buyers may even waive a home inspection after checking that a pre-listing property inspection was already done by the seller.

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Seven Things You Shouldn’t Say on a Business Website

Remember when comedian George Carlin so famously reeled off the seven words you can’t say on television? He called them “the heavy seven”, the nasty words “that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.”

Well, since countries are again at war and souls are just as endangered as ever, I’d like to do a riff on George’s list, this time bringing it into the Internet age. With a nod to Mr Carlin (may he jest in peace), here is my list of the heavy seven words and phrases you should never use in business web copy:

1. Second to none. This phrase is second to none in the vacuous cliché category. It’s worn out and says “next to nothing”.

2. One-stop shop. An expression borrowed from convenience stores, where it should have stayed.

3. We are proud of our ___. Whatever you’re proud of, it doesn’t matter one iota to your prospective customers. They just want to know your stuff works, that it can help them solve a problem or make their life better. Give ‘em proof, not pride.

4. Welcome. A word that should be restricted to door mats and stuffy maitre d’s. The biggest problem with “Welcome” on a website is that it always appears where your scintillating heading should go. “Welcome to…” is a waste of valuable real estate.

5. Limited time offer, act now. You should only use this expression when it’s actually true, and usually it isn’t. What if I order your gadget “now” to get the offer and find the deal is still being plugged on your site next month? You tricked me into buying, a mistake I won’t make again.

6. Outside the box. It was clever the first time around. It was even kind of cute when Taco Bell started “thinking outside the bun”. But now if you boast about thinking outside the box, it’s pretty clear you aren’t.

7. Solution. It has something to do with computer software. Or is it hardware? Or is it a word from chemistry? Oh wait, maybe it’s the answer to a math problem? Vague words elicit vague responses – not the desired outcome for any business website.

Deploy This!

Any term that reeks of insider jargon should be used with extreme caution and restraint – turnkey, scalable, deploy, etc. Even in B2B marketing where your web copy is supposedly addressing a savvy, insider audience, why place that cognitive load on the reader? Wouldn’t it be a faster, more pleasant read without the gobbledygook? And the bonus is that anyone (a curious relative, journalist, non-techy manager) who lands on your site for any reason will get it.

David Meerman Scott, who wrote The Gobbledygook Manifesto, said,

“Many people never get off their butt and get out into the marketplace to learn how people really talk so they end up using the language of their own R&D labs, CEOs, and the jargon used in conference rooms and internal meetings.”

And that is why “the heavy seven” listed above continue to enjoy such heavy usage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The world clearly is hankering for some colorful new wordplay to replace the anemic old cliches.

So next time you’re tempted to insert a “solution” or a “second to none” in your writing, think of George Carlin’s wonderful, original brain and make up your own expressions. It’s fun that won’t infect your soul or curve your spine.

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Some Home Inspection Tips for Buyers

Homebuyers want home inspection tips as they consider making a large financial investment. Tips about home inspection are especially valuable for those who have not purchased a house before. This article is intended to provide such readers the most important pointers to follow so that the real estate buying process is not so overwhelming.

The home inspection tips contained herein address three primary concerns, namely, how to select a home inspector, how to ensure you get the inspection you want and need, and how to get the most benefit out of the inspection report. These pointers apply whether or not you are working with a real estate agent. In fact, if you are working with an agent, these tips will help you get more involved so that the agent doesn’t make all or even some decisions unilaterally.

Our first tip is to consider why you should have the house you plan to buy inspected. There are various motives or reasons for doing so, the most common of which is to avoid buying a money pit. Sometimes the lender requires an inspection, and in general it’s a good idea to discover what may need to be remedied prior to closing. Also, though at one time a home warranty policy was commonly incorporated into the purchase agreement (perhaps seller and buyer sharing the cost), today the home inspection is in essence the only step taken to protect one’s investment.

But this makes it all the more important to get a report that covers all the bases and serves as a kind of owner’s manual to help you get acquainted to your new residence. Unfortunately, too often the inspection is somewhat rushed or even cursory. Minor problems might get glossed over and occasionally a serious major defect is missed. In such a case, if damages occur down the road, the buyer has some recourse by filing a claim, assuming the inspector is bonded. But the liability may be limited to the price of the inspection.

So our second tip is to find a home inspector who is thorough and who writes a complete report that puts everything he finds in proper perspective. If something is wrong, it is important to know what the implications are, just how serious the problem is, and how necessary it is to fix it.

To accomplish this, your inspector should not be too beholden to the real estate agent. If his primary goal is to please the agent (so he can continue to get referrals), he may take shortcuts. (Agents in general prefer quick inspections and summarized findings of major issues only.)

Don’t ignore or discount an inspector referral from your agent, but ask for more than one name and research them. (Most inspectors have a website with sample reports, and you may find there or elsewhere reviews or client testimonials appraising their work.) Be sure you are going to get the kind of home inspection you want before choosing the inspector.

Our third tip builds on the first two and is similar to them. The first tip was the why, whereas the second advises care in determining who inspects the house and how it is inspected. This next tip advises taking care to establish what is inspected.

A number of things can cause an inspector to exclude items from the inspection. Examples are Standards of Practice, his contract, the utilities not being on, inaccessibility due to blocking objects or locked doors, and dangerous situations. Some of these things are under the inspector’s control, some are not, but he is not liable for unintended exclusions and will charge the same fee despite them.

Thus, we recommend reviewing the contract carefully, identifying normally excluded items you want included and possibly normally included items you don’t care about. Also, be sure that lender requirements and constraints will be accommodated. Discuss changes to the list of exclusions and inclusions with the inspector, potentially negotiating a reduced inspection fee.

Then, we advise leaving as little to chance as possible. Ask the inspector what his expectations are to ensure that all inclusions are actually inspected. Relay this information to your real estate agent, who is responsible for seeing that the expectations are met by making arrangements with the owner via the owner’s listing agent. Now, any unintended exclusions that arise would suggest a deliberately uncooperative seller.

Our fourth tip is to get maximum leverage out of the inspection report. Study all findings in the body, not just the major items listed in the summary. If you followed our second tip faithfully, there should be nothing unclear, vague, or out of context. Even so, don’t hesitate to ask the inspector for explanations or elaborations, who should be more than willing to comply.

Some findings may be purely informational and not defects. Some defects may be more or less trivial and not worth pursuing. Serious problems can be addressed in three different ways: as deal breakers, causing you to withdraw your offer; as things you want the seller to remedy prior to closing at his expense; or as conditions you will accept possibly with some form of compensation such as reduced sales price.

We advise against sharing the inspection report with the seller or listing agent. You have paid for it and it belongs to you. The lender may require a copy, but you may request him to keep it confidential. Simply work up a brief contract addendum with your agent covering items falling into the last two categories mentioned in the previous paragraph.

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Franchises Are Expensive – And Other Myths

FICTION #1…Franchises succeed because of the quality of their product.
FACT: Can you make a better burger than McDonalds? Of course you can! Franchises are successful because of their business systems…marketing, sales, operations & accounting. Proof? What is the average age of a fast food employee? If a “kid” can run a million dollar business, the systems must be well defined.

FICTION #2…Successful franchises emerge in new industries with no competitors.
FACT: Think about a really successful franchise…thinking outside the bun…how about…

Martinizing…didn’t people have their clothes dry cleaned before this franchise?

Dunking Donuts…didn’t people eat donuts before Dunkin came along?

Ace hardware…people have been buying tools long before this franchise opened its door. Successful franchises emerge in basic industries with lots of competitors by developing effective systems to dominate the industry. Right now, Fast Food is 95% consolidated, Hair Care is 30% consolidated; Janitorial is 5% consolidated. You can see where the opportunities exist.

FICTION #3…Franchising is all fast food and retail
FACT: There are over 3100 franchise companies in 80 industries. Franchises range from advertising/direct mail to senior care to financial services to home repairs to storage systems. Printing and postal centers, website and social media services, pet services, building services, painting, money stores…and the list goes on.

FICTION #4…Franchises are expensive.
FACT: The “All-In” cost of 30% of franchises is under $100,000. Investing in a franchise is similar to buying a car, a house or a stock. The cost will be based on what you are buying; it can range from $30,000 to many million. The “All-In” costs include the franchise fee; start up costs (marketing, rent, training, etc.) and enough funding to keep the doors open until break even…which can be 6-12 months. About 1/3 of the “All-In” costs will be your own money. With good credit, there are financing options available to cover the rest.

FICTION #5…High return requires a high investment
FACT: The fastest growing segment in franchising are service businesses. They don’t require real estate or equipment. They often require less capital; can ramp up quicker and have a faster ROI than brick and mortar businesses. There is no automatic correlation between the cost of a franchise and the financial potential.

FICTION #6…My industry knowledge is the key to success in a franchise
FACT: Only 25% of franchisees stay in the same industry as when they were employed. The franchisor teaches the technology of the business. Some franchisors won’t accept franchisees with industry experience because they are less likely to follow the franchisors proven systems; which can contribute to franchisee failure.

What does it take to succeed in a franchise business? Drive, determination, a good franchise system and the right “fit”. Specifically, make sure the business maximizes your strengths, passions and skills.

FICTION #7… Franchisees are just buying a job.
FACT: Quality franchisors want their franchisees working “on the business not in the business”. The bigger your business, the more money the franchisor earns. Franchising is attractive to many entrepreneurs because it offers many of the advantages of a partnership. “Franchising means being in business for yourself but not by yourself.” Whether it’s accounting and financing, advertising and public relations, personnel management, purchasing, or inventory control, franchisors are there to provide ‘hands on,’ one-to-one assistance.

FICTION # 8…Franchise businesses are complex, you wouldn’t be able to get into the business yourself.
FACT: For a business to be a franchise, it must be a simple business so that it can be easily replicated time after time. The question is not “Could I do this business myself?” Of course you could. The question is “How will I make MONEY faster?” The good/great franchisees save you time; allowing you to get to the financial finish line quicker.

FICTION # 9…A new business can’t be successful during this recession.
FACT: There are many franchise businesses that are not affected by economic sways and some that even thrive in recessionary conditions. Think about growing markets that are driven by demographics and need. For example, 7,000 Americans turn 65 years old every day. Many franchise businesses serving the senior market continue to do well. By 2030 the 65 and over population will double…this is a demographic opportunity! According to USA today, 16 of the 30 corporations that make up the Dow Jones started during a recession.

The biggest MYTH is “Getting a job will insure my financial future”.
FACT: According to the Federal Reserve, the average net worth of American families headed by an employee is $352,000. The average net worth of American families headed by a self-employed person is $1.96 million.
Franchising is not for everyone. The question is…”Is Franchising right for YOU?” To find out, you are invited to attend a free educational seminar on December 15th during The Business and Career Expo. You will learn about franchising; meet several top franchise representatives & get your questions answered. Join us at “Franchising 101…Today’s Alternative to Corporate Employment”.

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Home Inspection Misconceptions

What To Expect: Home buyers sometimes buy their home in on impulse. Home inspectors can help home buyers avoid buyers remorse by reporting on home defects and problems before the home buyer finds them after closing. Professional home inspectors assist home buying clients with the tools they need to make an educated choice regarding the quality and condition of their potential new home. Home buyers must take care to hire the most experienced home inspector they can afford and make sure the person they hire has their best interest solely in mind. Inspectors who rely on realtors for referrals sometimes have moral dilemmas.

Buyers Benefits: A professional home inspection is the best way for potential home buyers to effectively evaluate the risks of a property purchase. A major concern of home buyers is being suddenly confronted with major and costly problems after they take possession of a property. A professional pre-purchase home inspection can reduce anxiety by screening for problems and itemizing them in a comprehensive report. This report may include approximations of repair costs and recommendations of useful upgrades to the property systems. The general result of a professional home inspection is that property buyers make significantly more informed purchases.

Screening for Problems: All homes have strong and weak points, they are not always what they seem. Gain the perspective and sound information you need to make better decisions with a home inspection performed by an experienced professional home inspector. A good home inspector works through a very long checklist of potential concerns to identify the major and minor deficiencies in the home. A good report will clearly describe the problems and illustrate them along with the what-to and how-to of repairs.

Provide Owners Benefits: Home owners who are planning to make improvements to their homes in order to increase its market value would be well advised to have it inspected first. A home inspectors can help prioritize home improvements and offer advice on the best ways to approach repairs. More importantly, an inspectors can help the seller identify potential or undiscovered problems before those problems become material for contract contingencies. By taking a pro-active approach one can avoid the frustrations many owners encounter when they are asked to renegotiate their contracts because of unanticipated problem areas.

Credentials: Like any other professional, home inspectors (even those with licenses) have varied degrees of expertise. All home inspectors should be carefully screened. Inspectors learn from experience. It takes a few thousand inspections and a more than a few complaints for a home inspectors to LEARN what it takes to satisfy clients.

Recently passed legislation allows New Jersey home inspectors to be licensed with as little as three weeks of class room training and just one week in actual homes. Licensing is a minimum qualification. Make sure you ask for resume! Belive it or not the standards in many states are LOWER!

Many people without specific home inspection credentials offer home inspection services. Likewise, credentials are not always what they seem. Engineering and architectural credentials alone do not prepare anyone to competently inspect homes and communicate the findings. A helping attitude, good communication skills, and mature judgment must supplement technical competence. Make sure you work with a company employing a contract which specifies both what is inspected and what limitations apply.

Additional services like the ones listed below are usually NOT included in the standard home inspection are available for an additional fee.

Code compliance: to determine what changes and upgrades are necessary for the home to comply with modern (or when built) building, fire, plumbing, zoning, mechanical and electrical code and to determine if the required permits and inspection were obtained when changes were made to the home.

Engineering analysis: structural, heating, cooling, soils, electrical, geological, site, investigate for latent structural defects or problems, evaluate the condition of playground equipment, determine if private waste disposal systems are functional, determine if cantilevers are safe, evaluate traffic density and noise, evaluate insulation efficiency, perform flood plain review and issue flood hazard certification, evaluate easements and encroachments, determine the quantity and cost of wood replacement made necessary by rot, age, water infiltration and insect damage.

Hazardous materials: to determine the presence or absence of: asbestos, lead paint, lead in water, formaldehyde, radon gas, lead paint, fungus, mold, mildew, water and air quality, toxic or allergenic substances, flammable materials, underground oil or fuel tanks and other environmental hazards.

Pest evaluation: to determine the presence of animal, rodent, termite, pest or insect infestation and to provide an opinion as to the cost of repairing damage caused from these infestations.

Pool and spa: to evaluate the necessary changes and upgrades to pools, pool equipment, gates and fences.

Plumbing: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the waste piping, main sewer pipe, supply piping, venting, shower pans and tub walls, lawn and fire sprinklers, water wells (water quality and quantity) condition of underground and under slab piping.

Electrical: to determine the condition and necessary upgrades and repairs to the electrical system, telephone system wiring, intercom system, security systems, heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, provide circuit mapping, determine the electrical system capacity, adequacy of ground bonding, perform voltage testing, to evaluate electro magnetic fields, check voltage drops and circuit impedance.

Chimney sweep: check condition of flue, safety of wood burning stoves and perform level II chimney flue inspections as recommended by National Fire Protection Association.

Appraisal: determine the value of building and suitability for intended use, check zoning ordinances and provide an opinion on the advisability of purchase.

Mechanical contractor: determine the adequacy of the heating and cooling system size and provide efficiency measurement, provide an underground storage tank evaluation, perform heat exchanger leakage test, check the condition of evaporator coils, determine air flow velocity and balance system.

Appliance service person: test and calibrate oven and range temperature, test for microwave leakage, check to determine if appliances secured to floor as required.

Roofing contractor: more detailed evaluation of the roofing, flashing, chimney, provide tall ladder roof inspection and a detailed evaluation of the life expectancy of the roofing, feasibility of repair vs. replacement.

Home buyers are advised to make sure they check all of the following items carefully. If any of these problems after the purchase of the home the problems come with the home and they are now the YOURS (without costly litigation).


Were all your questions answered by the home inspector?

Were all your questions for the home owner answered in writing?

Have the previously agreed to repairs been professionally completed?

Have warranties and guarantees been provided for agreed upon repairs?

Were the home inspectors recommendations to have all recommended additional inspections and invasive inspections performed? If not open ended risks may be more than most buyers budgets can bare?


Check the operation of the windows and screens?

Has water been stopped from accumulating near the building?

Check doors, decks, siding, windows & fences for damage / deterioration?

Are there any signs of water infiltration from the roof, siding or windows?

Are there any signs of gutter or downspout problems?
Are the downspouts discharging water away from the foundation?

Has the soil around the home been pitched away from the foundation?


Have all the areas listed in the home inspection report as inaccessible or not traversed been accessed & professionally inspected to determine if defects exist?

Do the garage doors and their openers function?

Was the reversing devices for the garage door openers tested?

Did you find out why any stains or cracks on any of the walls or ceilings that have become larger or have appeared since the time of the home inspection?

Have all cracked windows or mirrors been repaired?

Have all the clouded double pane windows been replaced?

Are all the permanently installed fixtures or appliances been in place and in good condition?

Are there any signs of birds, rodents or animals?
Has any damage to damage to the walls, floor or ceilings been repaired?


Do the plumbing fixture faucets leak or drip?

Are the plumbing fixtures chipped or damaged?

Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for leakage?

Was water for a time through all plumbing fixtures and check for stoppage?


Are all the light fixtures are all in place?

Do the light fixtures, switches and receptacles all function?

Does the door bell work?


Do the thermostat, heating and cooling systems function?

Is there adequate air flow through the heating and cooling registers?

Did all the radiators or convectors get warm in a reasonable amount of time?


Do all the appliances function properly?

Are the counter tops or cabinets damaged?

Do the cabinets and drawers operate?

Complete this check list during the walk through and go over it with your attorney prior to closing on the property Most inspection companies accept no liability for changes and problems that occur after the home inspection takes place. Please take the time to carefully and completely perform your pre-settlement walk though. Contact the home inspection company if there are any questions.

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Mobile Foodservice Options

Getting a street vendor, an outdoor-event foods provider, or component of a foods court is another role that an current restaurant or institutional foodservice business can play to increase visibility and profit in nontraditional areas where possible customers congregate. Nearly every type of foodservice procedure, from country clubs to contract feeders, can discover a method to make use of cellular cooking and serving equipment, as lengthy as they think about their return on purchase.

Whether it’s called a cellular merchandiser, vending cart, kiosk, foods center, or concession trailer, these models are made to take foods to customers when time constraints and/or distance avoid them from patronizing the main dining facility. The very first mobile merchandisers were small a lot more than tables on wheels from which prepackaged foods and beverages had been sold. Today they can be custom-ordered with food-holding compartments, fryers, warmers, induction cookers, microwave or pizza ovens, refrigerators or refrigerated display cases, beverage dispensers, cash registers, safe-keeping space, power and water lines, exhaust fans, and vented hoods.

If a hot dog cart with a bun steamer is all you’ll need, terrific; but there are also complete mini-kitchens. This category of gear could be divided roughly into two segments: indoor and outdoor. The indoor options include buffet assistance carts and foods merchandisers that can hold warm or cold food, typically used as efficient ways to increase display or counter room. Outdoor carts are a lot more self-contained than buffet service carts, and they’re made to withstand weather and to be visible. They often consist of bright canopies, awnings, or umbrellas, with adequate counter and storage room for two employees. Your cellular merchandising option (and price) will depend on answers to a couple of questions:

Will service take location on one, two, or three sides from the cart?
Will the operation need a staff, or be self-service?
Wherever will money alter hands and money be safely stored?
Where will the cart be stationed-indoors or outdoors? At a mall, indoor arena, ballpark, carnival, foods court?
Which meals (and what times of day) will the cart function?
How will wares be displayed-photos and menu boards?
Show instances?
Wherever will you store the cart when not in use?
How big are the doors, aisles, and other spaces that it will have to fit through or into?

Carts differ in size, from three to 10 feet in length. Most fold down to some degree, making them relatively simple to safe after hours and to store. A handy note: A unit having a pop-out heater or cooler within the base can do double duty being a warmer or refrigerator, depending on your wants. Other experts recommend purchasing carts that will create as significantly heat as feasible, because doors from the heated compartments is going to be opened and closed frequently. Some carts are modular and can be bought in fit-together units-a cold-food module, a hot-food module, or perhaps a coffee module that may perform with each other. Frequently these could be custom-made to match a particular space. When purchasing for carts, you ought to look at this list of particulars:

Frame. Welded stainless steel is most likely to be the strongest but also the heaviest; lighter frames are made of aluminum. Examine the manufacturer’s specifications for weight, being a fully loaded cart can weigh from 400 to 1000 pounds.

Exterior finish. A cart can be created from wood, laminate, plastic, and/or stainless steel. The National Fire Protection Association is pushing for a lot more municipal codes that need the use of fireproof food carts, which means that a wooden cart might limit your access to some possible locations. The shell from the cart ought to be finished with an excellent weatherproof coating. Stainless steel is one of the most costly (and once again, the heaviest), but it is rustproof and easy to clean. Laminates are appealing but can chip with heavy use. Polyethylene (polyester reinforced with Fiberglas) is really durable and comes in numerous colors, but the “plastic” appear may not fit the image you wish to project.

Countertops and wells. Stainless steel is the best food contact surface, since it is easy to thoroughly clean and sanitize; the wells (the indentations in the counter wherever food or beverages are displayed) should always be stainless steel and thoroughly insulated. Laminates are a lower-cost, low-end countertop option; chic-looking finishes also are obtainable in composite materials, such as Corian, Silestone, and Zodiaq. Hardware. Hinges and brackets and handles ought to be heavy-duty and corrosionresistant. Stainless steel and chromed brass are the most common. A cart set with each other with screws will price more than one put with each other with rivets, but it’s worth the extra expense. A loose screw can effortlessly be tightened; a loose rivet has to possess a new hole drilled. Be certain there is sufficient storage space about the cart; an excellent rule is four cubic ft of safe-keeping for each five feet of cart length. And the ability to lock the space is also important, as becoming capable to secure the contents reduces time and labor as nicely as theft potential.

Casters. What make the carts cellular are the wheels and here, too, there are choices. For indoor use, smaller carts ought to have hard Neoprene™ casters, a minimum of 3 inches, that won’t mar floors. For outdoor use, the typical cart has five-inch casters and some have eight-inch tires, foam-filled or air-filled. Foam-filled tires work nicely for carts that move often, as the foam keeps the tires from getting flat spots in them; air-filled tires work best on rough surfaces and are suitable for carts that stay stationary most of the time.

Umbrellas and awnings. These should be retractable so the person pushing the cart can see wherever he or she is going with it, and tall sufficient (8 to 10 feet) to ensure that tall customers will not hit their heads on it. Durability of the fabric is essential, because it can dry out, fade, and tear over time. Power sources. A cart is created to become as self-sufficient as possible. Cold-food carts can use ice or chilling compartments to hold cold foods at secure temperatures, but numerous other types of carts need sources of power and water. The more gear on the cart, the greater the amperage it will need, and perhaps 208-volt or 240-volt service. Basic indoor carts are usually electric, running on 115/250-volt power; they should be outfitted with adequate lengths of cords and right kinds of plugs for the outlets you will be using.

Outdoor carts might be equipped with rechargeable batteries or a little propane generator. Propane is regarded the safest fuel option by numerous fire marshals, but it also is one of the most costly. A 22-volt, 50-amp propane generator can cost as much as $4000, along with a single propane tank provides about three hours of heat. You should determine early within the buying process regardless of whether you would like your unit to become completely self-contained or plug-in. If the cart will stay in one location and gas is available nearby, you might determine to order your cart having a quick-disconnect line for natural gas. Water and drains. A cart that includes hand-washing or prep sinks will have an onboard drinking water tank, heated with electrical power, plus a direct hookup to an external water source. For convenience, drains in the wells of the cart should be tied into a single drain line.

Accessories. You in no way know what you may require, but it is nice when the manufacturer can offer a range of gear created to match the cart: sneeze guards, drop-in plate or cup dispensers, tray slides, adjustable shelves, demonstration mirrors, and so on.

A kiosk is set in a fixed area. It’s a lot more like a small framework than a cart, using the employee typically seated within the framework. Security is a major concern, because the kiosk can’t be rolled behind a locked door after several hours. Make sure yours can be covered and/or locked when not in operation, or you’ll need to make arrangements to possess it guarded. Kiosks come using the same range of gear options as carts and are large sufficient to accommodate ventilation for a lot more elaborate restaurant functions, like grilling.

They could be fitted with hoods, conveyor ovens… just about something you’d need to turn out a specialty product. One notable observation: Kiosks have a way of seducing their operators into adding a wide range of products for sale, to capture more clients. Keep in mind, more extremely skilled labor is needed to staff these kiosks. Some restaurants use a cart inside the primary dining facility, to sample and test new menu products, to function a particular type of food (for example desserts or specialty coffees), or to handle overflow crowds. When tastes and/or traffic changes, the cart or kiosk can be moved.

At this writing, the main chains are likely to use carts in airports, colleges, and hospitals and similar areas, while independent operators seem to choose kiosks more frequently. One isn’t necessarily much better than the other; they meet various foodservice wants. A final alternative, for vendors who function foods at ballparks, county fairs, concerts, and other outdoor venues, is the concession trailer. Riding on 15-inch tires, it can be pulled behind a vehicle and set up with stabilizing jacks at each website of operation. Like any other trailer, a concession trailer has its personal brake and signal lights, axles, and brakes.

Inside, the equipment can run on either gas or electricity. In most jurisdictions, strict rules for cellular foodservice apply to security, cleanliness and look. Numerous cities need that mobile units be dismantled everyday for cleaning and sanitizing. Some communities (e.g., Los Angeles and Orange County, California) require that mobile units have 50 percent a lot more room for wastewater than fresh water, to avoid overflows. There should be a secure way to drain the drinking water created by melting ice instead of maintain food seated in it. Other sanitation requirements consist of a separate hand-washing sink-and for foods preparation, a three-compartment sink deep sufficient to submerge all utensils-so a water supply is critical. The cart can carry its personal drinking water or be capable of hookup to a remote drinking water provide. The cooking equipment about the cart must fulfill National Sanitation Foundation International (NSFI) and Underwriters Laboratory standards for safety and sanitation.

Foods safety is a main consideration. If you store raw meats or vegetables, function perishable products or cream-filled pastries, refrigeration is really a requirement. Heated compartments and warming lamps usually need an electric power supply. Some carts can be plugged in long enough to heat the food, then unplugged to move close to, with storage in an insulated compartment that keeps the foods safely warm for a number of hours. A couple of foods thermometers and know-how of secure temperatures should be requirements. Getting the raw ingredients to and from your remote area is an additional possible dilemma. You might have to invest in very rugged coolers and airtight safe-keeping bins created of high-impact plastic or stainless steel.

When selecting coolers and bins, look at how easy these are to clean, carry, and repair. With use, the gaskets close to the doors and lids wear out and require replacing. Some coolers could be bought with wheels, which is an advantage if they have to be hauled really far. Some have their lids on the best; other people, on the side. If coolers or bins will be stacked, side access is preferable. There’s a portable alternative for each require. Now let’s think about the costs included in cart and kiosk procedure. Costs for standard or custom-made carts differ according to their sizes and the equipment they contain. One of the most fundamental mobile merchandising equipment ranges in cost from $2000 to $3000 for a easy setup to market bottled drinks and packaged snacks.

(In some cases, food producers even provide the carts free of charge of charge to restaurateurs who will market their wares.) Higher-end models can cost as significantly as $50,000 or $60,000 for virtual kitchens on wheels that may be linked to others to form a larger unit. Nevertheless, sales can top $1 million for lucrative cart areas. The promise of higher rewards with fairly small investment and small risk has led some national quick-service chains to “go mobile” outside the United States. In international cities wherever actual estate expenses have soared out of sight, a cart or kiosk is a low-cost choice that seems to work nicely.

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Tips on a Thorough Home Inspection and Home Testing

A thorough home inspection is one of the most important steps before purchasing a home, and many buyers try to skip this step only to end up regretting it later when problems become apparent. Your home is the place you go to get away from the world, and to relax and put your feet up, or spend time with your family and friends. You want to be reassured that the home you buy is safe and in good condition. A home inspection can give you this peace of mind, using a visual inspection of every aspect of the home both inside and out. This should be done by a professional home inspector who has the education, knowledge, and experience needed to identify problems which may not be readily apparent.

There are some questions you should ask any prospective home inspection company, and things to consider, to guarantee you get a thorough and complete inspection. How long has the inspector been doing these inspections? How many home inspections does the inspector do in a year? How much experience does the home inspector have inspecting homes identical to the one you are buying? These questions are important, because without adequate experience the inspector may miss signs of a hidden problem. Choose a home inspection company that exclusively does only home inspections, and does not just practice this as a sideline to their day job. Ask about the reports that will be given, will you get a written report, an oral report, or both? Does the home inspection company have certification? Do they have insurance?

Set up an appointment for the home inspection with both the seller and the home inspector. Make the appointment during the daytime, when there is plenty of daylight so that flaws and problems will be noticeable instead of hidden in shadows. Allow for at least two to three hours for the home inspection, and make sure you are present. Ask questions of the home inspector, and listen to the answers closely. Make sure that you contact the seller, and that they agree to the visit by the home inspector at the specified time and day. Give the home inspector the name, address, and phone number of the buyer, and the address and directions to the home being inspected, as well as any codes needed to access any lock box that may be installed.

If you need to reschedule the home inspection appointment, make sure to give the inspection company at least twenty four to forty eight hour notice before the appointment time, to avoid being charged. Make sure that all utilities are on at the home, including the electric and gas, and make sure that all appliances like the furnace and hot water heater are on and running. Arrange with the seller for the home inspector to have access to everything, including any attics, basements, garages, outbuildings, closets, and other areas. This will ensure a complete and thorough professional home inspection. Also make arrangements with the seller to make sure any furniture or stored belongings which may block access to electrical panels, access panels, and appliances are moved before the inspector arrives. Payment is expected after the home inspection is done, before the inspector leaves the home, so make sure to have a check or money order ready when the inspection is finished.

When looking at homes, do a personal inspection of each home to narrow down the list of possibilities. A professional home inspection should be done on the home you finally decide to purchase, but doing a personal inspection on each potential purchase will help you weed out the obvious bad choices and save you time and energy. Look for things like apparent cracks or shifts in the foundation, obvious electrical malfunctions, sockets that have scorch marks, signs of severe water damage or mold growth, evidence of leaks, both inside and outside the home, the overall condition and age of the roof, dampness or signs of flooding in the basement or crawlspace, and other signs of repairs that may be needed.

There are some things that a home inspection may not cover, depending on where you live and what company you use for the inspection. Most of the time these are referred to as third party testing services, and they can include water quality testing, radon testing, mold testing, air quality testing, and inspection for wood boring and eating insects like termites. All of these tests may be considered important, depending on what the home inspection shows and any problems that may have been detected by the home inspector. If there is visible mold then mold testing may be suggested, to ensure it is not a toxic strain of mold that can cause human disease and illness. If the water quality is suspect, water testing may be suggested to guarantee that there are no bacteria or other organisms that can sicken you. Radon testing should always be done to make sure this cancer causing gas is not present in the home, and the home inspection report may suggest this as well. A termite inspection could be ordered if the inspector finds evidence that these pests may be present, and posing a danger to the structure of the home by eating the wood. Air quality testing may be done if there is any reason to suspect that the air in the home may be harmful to occupants, and this can be due to mold, radon, or other harmful airborne irritants and pathogens.

Knowing what to expect during a thorough professional home inspection, and the tips to make this process more effective and efficient, can help you get a good idea on any flaws in the home before you make the purchase, without any doubt or confusion involved. This step should never be omitted, even though it may seem costly, because it can save you significantly if there are hidden defects and unseen flaws.

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Tips to Interior Decorate on a Tight Budget: Ideas Well Under $50 to Achieve a Beautiful Abode

Fantasies of achieving a beautiful new decor can be crushed when a tight or nonexistent budget is factored in. Having a lovely decor does not have to equate with spending a fortune on designer furnishings. Anyone can make their own unique high style decor with a bit of imagination by just thinking outside of the box and turning items found and already owned into designer furnishings. For well under $100, often for no money at all, one can transform their tired looking decor into an exciting new updated look.

Get ready for the exciting adventure of reinventing to achieve a new decor.

Achieving new decor items does not have to mean spending a lot of money. With Spring comes spring cleaning and yard sales allowing for you to easily create a new designer look without tallying up the dollars.

The first step to attaining your new decor is to consider what you already own.

Carefully look at existing decor; what furnishings do you already have that can be transformed and rediscovered to use for a new decor plan.

With just some new paint, hardware and even new feet, old furnishings can instantly be given a renewed life.

Take a worn out dated dresser and paint it in sleek black or silver metallic to give it a sleek contemporary look.
Change out old drawer and door pulls, knobs and hinges on furniture and cabinets with beautiful new hardware to create an entire new look for your decor.
Short Steel feet can replace dated bun feet instantly swapping an old look for a new one.

Move furnishings from one place to another one to discover a brand new beautiful purpose.

Sofa end tables can find new life in the bedroom rediscovered as night tables and visa-versa.
An old chest can be turned into a new sink vanity to update the bathroom decor.
Take the dresser out of the bedroom and give it new life working as a beautiful new media cabinet.
Take the ottoman away from sitting in front of a chair and turn it into a coffee table simply by placing a beautiful tray upon it.

Have fun hunting yard sales, consignment shops, and dare I say, the garbage.

Another person’s garbage can be a treasure found. Yard sales are a fun day out on a fresh Spring day. As others are shedding their winter coats and other items you can find new uses for them salvaging finds and creating beautiful decor.

An old fur can be remade into a beautiful throw.
Out of date leather skirts and pants can be used to make pillows or to reupholster a chair seat.
Save a broken ladder from the garbage and upcycle the ladder into a beautiful bookcase ready to show off.
Turn an old door into a new table or desk top; prop it upon inexpensive pedestals that can be purchased at IKEA.
Create new art for the walls out of aged window frames that are being tossed.
Old broken plates can find new life being used as mosaic pieces to create a beautiful backsplash in the kitchen.
Save those old magazines and coffee table books ready for the garbage by turning them into new unique wall covering.
Frame beautiful pages from a coffee table book to turn into artwork for the walls.

Keep the brain flowing and the thoughts coming. Have fun creating and rediscovering as you turn the old dreary decor into a new eye-popping appearance. Make it a new challenge to see how little you will need to spend to create a beautiful new designer look that guests will surely envy and you will love living within.

Share ideas with others to open the door for a brand new look. Never be afraid to dance!

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Home Inspections – A Question and Answer Guide

A home inspection is an evaluation of the visible and accessible systems and components of a home (plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical, structure, roof, etc.) and is intended to give the client (buyer, seller, or homeowner) a better understanding of the home’s general condition. Most often it is a buyer who requests an inspection of the home he or she is serious about purchasing. A home inspection delivers data so that decisions about the purchase can be confirmed or questioned, and can uncover serious and/or expensive to repair defects that the seller/owner may not be aware of. It is not an appraisal of the property’s value; nor does it address the cost of repairs. It does not guarantee that the home complies with local building codes or protect a client in the event an item inspected fails in the future. [Note: Warranties can be purchased to cover many items.] A home inspection should not be considered a “technically exhaustive” evaluation, but rather an evaluation of the property on the day it is inspected, taking into consideration normal wear and tear for the home’s age and location. A home inspection can also include, for extra fees, Radon gas testing, water testing, energy audits, pest inspections, pool inspections, and several other specific items that may be indigenous to the region of the country where the inspection takes place. Home inspections are also used (less often) by a seller before listing the property to see if there are any hidden problems that they are unaware of, and also by homeowners simply wishing to care for their homes, prevent surprises, and keep the home investment value as high as possible.

The important results to pay attention to in a home inspection are:

1. Major defects, such as large differential cracks in the foundation; structure out of level or plumb; decks not installed or supported properly, etc. These are items that are expensive to fix, which we classify as items requiring more than 2% of the purchase price to repair.

2. Things that could lead to major defects – a roof flashing leak that could get bigger, damaged downspouts that could cause backup and water intrusion, or a support beam that was not tied in to the structure properly.

3. Safety hazards, such as an exposed electrical wiring, lack of GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) in kitchens and bathrooms, lack of safety railing on decks more than 30 inches off the ground, etc.

Your inspector will advise you about what to do about these problems. He/she may recommend evaluation – and on serious issues most certainly will – by licensed or certified professionals who are specialists in the defect areas. For example, your inspector will recommend you call a licensed building engineer if they find sections of the home that are out of alignment, as this could indicate a serious structural deficiency.

Home Inspections are only done by a buyer after they sign a contract, right?

This is not true! As you will see when you read on, a home inspection can be used for interim inspections in new construction, as a maintenance tool by a current homeowner, a proactive technique by sellers to make their home more sellable, and by buyers wanting to determine the condition of the potential home.

Sellers, in particular, can benefit from getting a home inspection before listing the home. Here are just a few of the advantages for the seller:

· The seller knows the home! The home inspector will be able to get answers to his/her questions on the history of any problems they find.

· A home inspection will help the seller be more objective when it comes to setting a fair price on the home.

· The seller can take the report and make it into a marketing piece for the home.

· The seller will be alerted to any safety issues found in the home before they open it up for open house tours.

· The seller can make repairs leisurely instead being in a rush after the contract is signed.

Why should I get a home inspection?

Your new home has dozens of systems and over 10,000 parts – from heating and cooling to ventilation and appliances. When these systems and appliances work together, you experience comfort, energy savings, and durability. Weak links in the system, however, can produce assorted problems leading to a loss in value and shortened component life. Would you buy a used car without a qualified mechanic looking at it? Your home is far more complicated, and to have a thorough inspection that is documented in a report arms you with substantial information on which to make decisions.

Why can’t I do the inspection myself?

Most homebuyers lack the knowledge, skill, and objectivity needed to inspect a home themselves. By using the services of a professional home inspector, they gain a better understanding of the condition of the property; especially whether any items do not “function as intended” or “adversely affect the habitability of the dwelling” or “warrant further investigation” by a specialist. Remember that the home inspector is a generalist and is broadly trained in every home system.

Why can’t I ask a family member who is handy or who is a contractor to inspect my new home?

Although your nephew or aunt may be very skilled, he or she is not trained or experienced in professional home inspections and usually lacks the specialized test equipment and knowledge required for an inspection. Home inspection training and expertise represent a distinct, licensed profession that employs rigorous standards of practice. Most contractors and other trade professionals hire a professional home inspector to inspect their own homes when they themselves purchase a home!

What does a home inspection cost?

This is often the first question asked but the answer tells the least about the quality of the inspection. Fees are based according to size, age and various other aspects of the home. Inspection fees from a certified professional home inspector generally start under $300. An average price for a 2,000 square foot home nationally is about $350-$375. What you should pay attention to is not the fee, but the qualifications of your inspector. Are they nationally certified (passed the NHIE exam)? Are they state certified if required?

How long does the inspection take?

This depends upon the size and condition of the home. You can usually figure 1.2 hours for every 1,000 square feet. For example, a 2,500 square foot house would take about 3 hours. If the company also produces the report at your home, that will take an additional 30-50 minutes.

Do all homes require a home inspection?

Yes and No. Although not required by law in most states, we feel that any buyer not getting a home inspection is doing themselves a great disservice. They may find themselves with costly and unpleasant surprises after moving into the home and suffer financial headaches that could easily have been avoided.

Should I be at the inspection?

It’s a great idea for you be present during the inspection – whether you are buyer, seller, or homeowner. With you there, the inspector can show you any defects and explain their importance as well as point out maintenance features that will be helpful in the future. If you can’t be there, it is not a problem since the report you receive will be very detailed. If you are not present, then you should be sure to ask your inspector to explain anything that is not clear in the report. Also read the inspection agreement carefully so you understand what is covered and what is not covered in the inspection. If there is a problem with the inspection or the report, you should raise the issues quickly by calling the inspector, usually within 24 hours. If you want the inspector to return after the inspection to show you things, this can be arranged and is a good idea, however, you will be paying for the inspector’s time on a walkthrough since this was not included in the original service.

Should the seller attend the home inspection that has been ordered by the buyer?

The seller will be welcome at the inspection (it is still their home) although they should understand that the inspector is working for the buyer. The conversation that the inspector has with the buyer may be upsetting to the seller if the seller was unaware of the items being pointed out, or the seller may be overly emotional about any flaws. This is a reason why the seller might want to consider getting their own inspection before listing the home.

Can a house fail a home inspection?

No. A home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value, or a municipal inspection, which verifies local code compliance. A home inspector, therefore, cannot not pass or fail a house. The inspector will objectively describe the home’s physical condition and indicate which items are in need of repair or replacement.

What is included in the inspection?

The following list is not exhaustive. Not all of these may be in the inspection you get, but the inspector will be following a standardized checklist for the home:
· Site drainage and grading
· Driveway
· Entry Steps, handrails
· Decks
· Masonry
· Landscape (as it relates to the home)
· Retaining walls
· Roofing, flashings, chimneys, and attic
· Eaves, soffits, and fascias
· Walls, doors, windows, patios, walkways
· Foundation, basement, and crawlspaces
· Garage, garage walls, floor, and door operation
· Kitchen appliances (dishwasher, range/oven/cooktop/hoods, microwave, disposal, trash compactor)
· Laundry appliances (washer and dryer)
· Ceilings, walls, floors
· Kitchen counters, floors, and cabinets
· Windows and window gaskets
· Interior doors and hardware
· Plumbing systems and fixtures
· Electrical system, panels, entrance conductors
· Electrical grounding, GFCI, outlets
· Smoke (fire) detectors
· Ventilation systems and Insulation
· Heating equipment and controls
· Ducts and distribution systems
· Fireplaces
· Air Conditioning and controls
· Heat Pumps and controls
· Safety items such as means of egress, TPRV valves, railings, etc.

Other items that are not a part of the standard inspection can be added for an additional fee:
· Radon Gas Test
· Water Quality Test
· Termite Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Gas Line Leak Test (usually performed by the gas company)
· Sprinkler System Test
· Swimming Pool and Spa Inspection
· Mold Screening (sometimes performed by a separate company)
· Septic System Inspection (usually performed by a separate company)
· Alarm System (usually performed by a separate company)

We recommend getting a Radon Test if your prospective home falls into an area of the country with known Radon seepage, since Radon gas produces cancer second only to cigarette smoking and can be easily mitigated by installing a vent system. We also recommend a water test to make sure you do not have bacteria in the water supply. Water can also be tested for Radon.

What is not included in the inspection?

Most people assume that everything is inspected in depth on inspection day. This misunderstanding has caused many a homebuyer to be upset with their inspector. The inspections we do are not exhaustive and there is a good reason for this. If you hired someone with licenses for heating and cooling, electrical, plumbing, engineering, etc. to inspect your house, it would take about 14 hours and cost you about $2000! It is much more practical to hire a professional inspector who has generalist knowledge of home systems, knows what to look for, and can recommend further inspection by a specialist if needed. Your inspector is also following very specific guidelines as he/she inspects your home. These are either national guidelines (ASHI – American Society of Home Inspectors, InterNACHI – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors) or state guidelines. These guidelines are carefully written to protect both your home and the inspector. Here are some examples: We are directed to not turn systems on if they were off at the time of the inspection (safety reasons); we are not allowed to move furniture (might harm something); not allowed to turn on water if it is off (possible flooding), and not allowed to break through a sealed attic hatch (possible damage). The downside of this practice is that by not operating a control, by not seeing under the furniture, and not getting into the attic or crawlspace, we will might miss identifying a problem. However, put into perspective, the chances of missing something serious because of this is quite low, and the guideline as it relates to safety and not harming anything in the home is a good one. There are other items that 95% of inspectors consider outside a normal inspection, and these include inspecting most things that are not bolted down (installed in the home) such as electronics, low voltage lighting, space heaters, portable air conditioners, or specialized systems such as water purifiers, alarm systems, etc.

What if there are things you can’t inspect (like snow on the roof)?

It just so happens that some days the weather elements interfere with a full home inspection! There isn’t much we can do about this either. If there is snow on the roof we will tell you we were unable to inspect it. Of course we will be looking at the eves and the attic, and any other areas where we can get an idea of condition, but we will write in the report that we could not inspect the roof. It is impractical for us to return another day once the snow melts, because we have full schedules. However, you can usually pay an inspector a small fee to return and inspect the one or two items they were unable to inspect when they were there the first time. This is just the way things go. If you ask the inspector for a re-inspection, they will usually inspect the items then at no extra charge (beyond the re-inspection fee).

Will the inspector walk on the roof?

The inspector will walk on the roof if it is safe, accessible, and strong enough so that there is no damage done to it by walking on it. Some roofs – such as slate and tile, should not be walked on. Sometimes because of poor weather conditions, extremely steep roofs, or very high roofs, the inspector will not be able to walk the roof. The inspector will try to get up to the edge though, and will also use binoculars where accessibility is a problem. They will also examine the roof from the upper windows if that is possible. There is a lot the inspector can determine from a visual examination from a ladder and from the ground, and they will be able to tell a lot more from inside the attic about the condition of the roof as well.

Should I have my house tested for Radon? What exactly is Radon?

In many areas of the country, the answer is a definite yes. You can ask your real estate agent about this or go on to the internet for a radon map of the country. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that’s formed during the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon exits the ground and can seep into your home through cracks and holes in the foundation. Radon gas can also contaminate well water.

Health officials have determined that radon gas is a serious carcinogen that can cause lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking. The only way to find out if your house contains radon gas is to perform a radon measurement test, which your home inspector can do. Make sure the person conducting your test has been trained to The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) or The National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) standards.

What about a newly constructed home? Does it need a home inspection?

Yes! In fact, we find far more problems, some quite serious, in newly constructed homes than in homes that have been lived in for years. This is not due to your builder’s negligence – he/she has done the best job they could with subcontractors and planning – it’s just that there are so many systems in a home, that it is close to impossible to inspect everything, and correct it before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Then, for some reason, the subcontractors no longer want to work on the home, and final jobs and details are missed. We recommend getting several professional home inspections near the completion stages of the home to discover everything that should be corrected. If the house is still new but sitting for a while before sale, it’s even more important to get a home inspection. We have seen water lines not hooked up, plumbing lines not hooked up, sewer lines not hooked up, vents not hooked up, and a variety of other serious but easily correctable problems!

I am having a home built. The builder assures me he will inspect everything. Should I have an independent inspector make periodic inspections?

Absolutely yes! No matter how good your builder is, he/she WILL miss things. They are so concerned with the house, they get so close to their work, as do the subcontractors, that important items can, and will be, overlooked. Have a professional inspector make at least 4-6 interim inspections. They will be worth their weight in gold.

What is the Pre-Inspection Agreement?

Most service professionals have a service agreement, and home inspection is no different. In fact, there is enough confusion about what a home inspection should deliver that the agreement is even more important. Some homeowners who get a home inspection expect everything in the home to be perfect after the repairs. This is not the case! Imagine getting a call from a homeowner a year later who says the toilet is not flushing – remember that the inspection is a moment in time snapshot. In the inspection agreement the inspector is clear about what the inspection delivers and the things that are not covered, as well as what you should do if you are not pleased with the services. We really think that by reviewing this before-hand you will understand much more about the inspection and be happier with the results. A home inspection does not guard against future problems, nor does it guarantee that all problems will be found.

What kind of report will I get following the inspection?

There are as many versions of a “report” as there are inspection companies. Guidelines dictate that the inspector deliver a written report to the client. This can range from a handwritten checklist that has multiple press copies without pictures and 4 pages long to a computer generated professionally produced report with digital pictures that is 35 pages long and can be converted to Adobe PDF for storage and emailing. Be sure to check with your inspector about the report he or she uses. We recommend the computer generated report, since the checklist is more detailed and easier for the homeowner/buyer/seller to detail out the issues with photographs. In this modern age, we feel the reports must be web accessible and e-mailable to match the technologies most of us are using.

There are some great things you can use the report for in addition to the wealth of information it simply gives you on your new home:

· Use the report as a checklist and guide for the contractor to make repairs and improvements or get estimates and quotes from more than one contractor.

· Use the report as a budgeting tool using the inspector’s recommendations and the remaining expected life of components to keep the property in top shape.

· If you are a seller, use the report to make repairs and improvements, raising the value of the home and impressing the buyers. Then have a re-inspection and use this second report as a marketing tool for prospective buyers.

· Use the report as a “punch list” on a re-inspection and as a baseline for ongoing maintenance.

Will the report be emailable or available as an Adobe PDF file?

Yes. As discussed in the last question, you will probably want your inspector to be using the latest reporting technology.

What if I think the inspector missed something?

Inspectors are human, and yes, they do miss items. However, they routinely use advanced tools and techniques to reduce the possibility that they will miss something. This includes very detailed checklists, reference manuals, computer based lists, and a methodical always-done-the-same-way of physically moving around your home. That is one of the reasons that an inspector can miss an item when they get interrupted. The inspector will have a set way of resuming the inspection if this happens. If, in the end, something IS missed, call the inspector and discuss it. It may warrant the inspector returning to view something that you found. Remember, the inspector is doing the very best job they know how to do, and probably did not miss the item because they were lax in their technique or did not care.

What if the inspector tells me I should have a professional engineer or a licensed plumber or other professional contractor in to look at something they found? Isn’t this “passing the buck”?

You may be disappointed that further investigation is required, but, believe us, your inspector is doing exactly what they should be doing. The purpose of the inspection is to discover defects that affect your safety and the functioning of the home; the inspector is a generalist, not a specialist. Our code of ethics as well as national and state guidelines dictate that only contractors that are licensed in their specialty field should work on these systems and areas. When they tell you that a specialist is needed, there may be a bigger, more critical issue that you need to know about. If you move into the home without getting these areas checked by a qualified specialist, you could be in for some nasty and expensive surprises. The inspector does not want to cause you any more expense or worry either, so when they do recommend further evaluation they are being serious about protecting you and your investment.

Will the inspector provide a warranty on the inspected items?

Most inspectors do not give the homeowner a warranty on inspected items. Remember, a home inspection is a visual examination on a certain day, and the inspector cannot predict what issues could arise over time after the inspection. However, some inspectors are now including a warranty from the largest home warranty company in America – American Home Warranty Corporation, as well as others, on the inspected items for 60 or 90 days. This is a very good deal, and the agreement can be extended after the initial period for a relatively small amount of money.

Do most inspection companies offer money back guarantees?

Most inspection companies do not offer a satisfaction guarantee nor do they mention it in their advertising. It’s always a good thing if you can get extra services for no additional cost from your inspection company, and of course a satisfaction guarantee is an indication of superior customer service. You usually have to call your inspection company right after the inspection and viewing of the report to tell them you are not satisfied. If you are not happy with the services, you should talk to your inspector first and let him/her correct the issue(s) you are unhappy with first, as the inspector is trying to make an honest living just like the rest of us, and is not failing you on purpose.

What if my report comes back with nothing really defective in the home? Should I ask for my money back?

No, don’t ask for your money back – you just received great news! Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property and all its equipment and systems. You will have valuable information about your new home from the inspector’s report, and will want to keep that information for future reference. Most importantly, you can feel assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision.

What if the inspection reveals serious defects?

If the inspection reveals serious defects in the home (we define a serious defect as something that will cost more than 2% of the purchase price to fix) then pat yourself on the back for getting an inspection. You just saved yourself a ton of money. Of course it is disappointing, even heart wrenching, to find out that your well researched house is now a problem house, but you now know the facts and can either negotiate with the seller, or move on. You may want the home so much that it will be worth it to negotiate the price and then perform the repairs. Imagine, though, if you had not gotten the inspection – you would have had some very unpleasant surprises.

Can I ask my home inspector to perform the repairs?

You can, but if your inspector is ethical, he/she will refuse, and correctly so; it is a conflict of interest for the person who inspected your home to also repair it! Inspectors are specifically barred from this practice by licensing authorities, and it’s a good practice – an inspector must remain completely impartial when he or she inspects your home. This is one reason you should have a professional home inspector inspect your home and not a contractor – the contractor will want the repair work and you are likely to not have an objective inspection from this person even though they mean well and are technically competent.

Does the Seller have to make the repairs?

The inspection report results do not place an obligation on the seller to repair everything mentioned in the report. Once the home condition is known, the buyer and the seller should sit down and discuss what is in the report. The report will be clear about what is a repair and what is a discretionary improvement. This area should be clearly negotiated between the parties. It’s important to know that the inspector must stay out of this discussion because it is outside of their scope of work.

After the home inspection and consulting with the seller on the repairs, can I re-employ the inspector to come re-inspect the home to make sure everything got fixed?

You certainly can, and it’s a really good idea. For a small fee the inspector will return to determine if the repairs were completed, and if they were completed correctly.

What if I find problems after I move into my new home?

A home inspection is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in. However, if you believe that a problem was visible at the time of the inspection and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call the inspector. He or she will be fine with this, and does want you to call if you think there is a problem. If the issue is not resolved with a phone call, they will come to your home to look at it. They will want you to be satisfied and will do everything they can to do this. One way to protect yourself between the inspection and the move-in is to conduct a final walkthrough on closing day and use both the inspection report AND a Walkthrough Checklist to make sure everything is as it should be.

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