Infrared thermography, 3D tours, floor plans and maintenance checks even if you’re not moving – home inspections have changed a lot in the last decade. And now like everyone in this COVID-19 world, home inspectors are doing their part to keep everyone safe while conducting their inspections.

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Dan Steward
Dan Steward

Home inspection is a personal endeavour that you can’t do virtually, says Dan Steward, president and CEO of Pillar To Post. But he says they’ve gone from high to low touch. In the pre-COVID-19 world, Pillar To Post inspectors welcomed, and sometimes had entire families – parents, in-laws and siblings – along for the inspection. Afterwards the inspectors would print the report and go over it with the clients on site.

Now, along with masks, shoe coverings and gloves, and wiping down equipment before it enters and leaves a house, safety includes limiting those in attendance for the inspection to two people plus the buyer’s agent.

Steward says agents have done a good job with standards and procedures to keep their clients, themselves and others safe, and Pillar To Post does the same.

Inspectors undergo daily temperature checks and they ensure no one in the seller’s household is under a 14-day quarantine period. The seller is asked to turn on the lights and open doors, creating as touch less an experience as possible. Physical distancing is practiced.

The home inspection includes a visual check of the exterior, interior and major systems.

Infrared thermometry is used to detect temperature differences that could indicate, for example, wiring issues.

The client receives a hard copy of the home inspection report in a binder to keep as an easy reference guide. “People are counting on the inspection to know the good, bad and ugly,” Steward says.

A summary is followed by a 20 to 40-page report with lots of photos.

For those who don’t want to attend the inspection, the report is prepared and the inspector sets up a Zoom meeting to go over the details.

Pillar To Post rolled out 360-degree photography and virtual tours prior to COVID-19. “The change in conveyance of information is inspired by COVID and technology,” Steward says.

The 26-year-old company has inspectors of all ages. Some older inspectors, and those with health conditions, have felt uneasy and only do inspections when no one is present. It’s the same for clients. Some don’t want to be there, and that’s okay, Steward says.

Inspectors don’t usually see the sellers, but now leave a note about what safety measures were taken while inspectors were in their house, Steward says.

Home inspection has always had safety issues – inspectors are up on ladders and working with electrical equipment. COVID-19 is an invisible risk. “We’re working hard at not getting complacent,” he says.

Homeowners’ and agents’ feedback shows that customers value the extra precautions being taken. That feedback is shared with inspectors, so they know their measures are appreciated.

In a hot market like 2017, some buyers may have skipped a home inspection, but overall, people know the value of an inspection and feel the knowledge is important.

Some sellers, whose strategy is to sell as quickly as possible, are choosing to have a pre-listing inspection. “It’s a great idea. It adds a level of transparency to the transaction,” says Steward.

Having a pre-listing inspection can also help when determining the property’s list price. For example, says Steward, “Say the furnace is 15-years-old and the life of a furnace is 15 years, so it may have to be replaced soon. The seller can go in saying they know that and take $3,000 off the price in consideration for that, versus a buyer finding out themselves and wanting $10,000 off.”

More homeowners are choosing to do a maintenance inspections and environmental inspections even if they are not moving, he says.

“There may be the arrival of a new baby or parents moving in and they want to know if there is mould, or about the air quality. There is more interest in owning a home than ever before.”

Steward says knowing the condition of various systems also lets homeowners be proactive rather than waiting until something breaks down.

Pillar To Post, founded in 1994, continues to grow despite the pandemic. Steward says it currently has 80 offices in Canada but needs 30 more in Greater Toronto and Hamilton area alone.

“As real estate changes, consumers want more – they want to know about water quality, mould, septic, the condition of a fireplace and if it’s venting properly…we’ve come a long way from inspections 10 years ago,” he says.

Home inspections start at $500. For more information and to view a “what to expect” video, visit  www.pillartopost.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. Perhaps include this information in your real estate newsletters…

    Each year there is a general reminder to change batteries in house or apartment fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors; sometimes people need to be reminded to change their furnace filters. I’ve never seen a reminder to change batteries in HVAC thermostats.

    I was recently witness to a thermostat situation where the thermostat had been placed on a tiny 30″ wall at immediate right angles to a full sun south-facing wall that was all window, installed by the builder in that position and the window was covered by old brittle vertical blinds that didn’t close properly, and when closed could only be angled to point the sun directly on the thermostat.

    In the recent high humidity intense heat the AC unit failed. It worked occasionally but didn’t seem to follow thermostat instruction settings.

    The instruction problem had started last Fall when the furnace didn’t work properly. The owner had engaged an HVAC service company who couldn’t determine a problem, and although the thermostat was checked no one in the HVAC repair business looked at the batteries or suggested changing them.

    After weeks of ongoing HVAC issues, finally someone suggested batteries might need changing. The batteries were so corroded they were literally mush that had hardened encasing the contacts. New batteries were installed but the professional HVAC person didn’t clean the contacts. But the furnace got through the winter.

    Then came summer. And the AC system only worked erratically. Many days the humidity in the house was as high as 66%. The walls were running moisture. (A possible future mold making problem?) A large dehumidifier that blew very hot air from its top was put in the house on the upper level where the nighttime temperature was often 39 C making sleeping and breathing difficult for the occupant, a recovering heart attack patient.

    Again a service company could not find an HVAC problem. Several costly repair bills later, the problem again appeared to be the thermostat.

    The air quality control was so bad the dog suffered heat stroke in its bed on the main level. And the occupant had trouble breathing. AC repair didn’t work weekends. Owner had already paid several repair bills. And once again NO ONE had thought to change the thermostat batteries.

    There are often reminders not to fall asleep with your cell phone on your bed. The battery can overheat and set your bed on fire. Warnings show pictures of raging fires caused by overheated cell phone batteries. Maybe not a good idea to leave your cell phone in your car in an overheated garage.

    When you change your clocks and check your fire alarm detectors spring and fall you might want to add thermostat battery replacement to your list. Change the batteries whether or not you think they need changing.

    When you are looking to purchase a new house or apartment take a look at the position of the thermostat. Figure out if it is in full direct line with full sun exposure. If so, be prepared to have the thermostat professionally moved. You will need an electrician. Do not ever attempt this project yourself. Or simply buy another place instead.

    It would be much less expensive to move the thermostat before the drywall goes up, and avoid upcoming HVAC issues. If you are buying from a builder insist that this issue be addressed before taking title. Don’t take no for an answer. Your life might depend on it.

    And always remember when viewing a resale property, house or condo apartment to check the position of the thermostat, and when you have your building inspection done, insist the inspector open the thermostat and check the batteries (and the contacts) to see if they are corroded. It could prevent a future fire.

    And be sure the attached garage has a vent to outside air exchange so it doesn’t overheat. Your car engine is running hot when you park in your garage and close its door.

    You might have recently painted your house. Do not store unused paint cans in your closed garage, especially in intense heat environments. An accident waiting to happen. Even car batteries can and do overheat. If your attached garage isn’t outside air-vented and some garages are positioned beneath bedrooms, you might want to have that attended to immediately. An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.

    Side note: Be sure your clothes dryer machine vents to outside to avoid mold opportunity. And have your ducts cleaned at least every two years. Some properties have never ever had the ducts cleaned and most home inspections do not check this as part of their routine inspections; likewise the thermostat batteries are typically not checked.

    Carolyne L ?

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