January 2003 Edition

Builders Limiting Home Inspections?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a home inspector who meets the builder's qualification requirements in order to inspect new homes. Why do builders require home inspectors to carry Worker's Compensation insurance?

When a builder requires worker's comp insurance, they are doing one of two things. First, most of the reasonable builders are trying to protect themselves from the liability of a home inspector being hurt on their jobsite. Most will accept a "Hold Harmless" agreement in lieu of worker's comp. A Hold Harmless agreement prevents a home inspector from suing in the case of an accident. The builders that do not accept this type of agreement probably are trying to limit the buyer's choice of home inspectors. We had to take out a policy just to keep from being barred from some of the jobsites. The extra cost of the insurance is normally passed on to the homebuyer in the form of higher prices. The only ones who benefit from this type of requirement are the insurance companies. Be sure to read the find print of the builder's contract before signing it.

Cost Of Repairs?

When the inspector finishes the inspection, we are left with a list of needed repairs. The selling process stops until the repairs are completed. Is there a way to estimate repair cost without having to pull in a contractor?
It is a big problem when you are trying to close on a new home and repairs are holding up the process. The most accurate way to estimate repair cost is to go to a contractor. However, if you only need a rough estimate, you can try the "Home Inspector Locator" on the internet. They have a pretty accurate "Cost To Repair Guide". You can find them at http://www.homeinspectorlocator.com or the cost guide is located at http://www.homeinspectorlocator.com/resources/ Costtorepair.htm.

Lights Flickering?

I’m doing some wood siding repairs on a house, and every time I hit the trigger on my chop saw, the lights in the house flicker. The power company says the problem is with the house not their lines. But the lights in the house across the street flicker, too. A friend suggested that there could be a bad connection on the neutral. How can I determine what the problem is, and get the power company to fix it if it’s their responsibility?
Master electrician Rex Cauldwell responds: This has to be a utility problem: low voltage or too great a load for the available voltage. There is no other way your chop saw would be able to affect the house across the street. Probably both houses are working on the same transformer, and the transformer is under powered. If you are on different transformers, then the utility really has a problem. It means that their high-voltage line is overextended — in other words, there are too many homes on that particular tap.
The "bad neutral" theory doesn’t add up. A service entrance connection (SEC) neutral problem gives a whole set of different problems. Every house has two energized lines into the house and a neutral that either hot line can use. When an SEC neutral goes bad, one of the hot legs to the house goes high, and the other leg goes low. In the house, that will likely damage anything connected to the leg that goes high.
That’s not to say that there isn’t also a problem in the house that is making things worse. For example, if a house is underpowered, that would allow the lights to dim or flicker more easily.
The homeowners should have an electrician check out the power problem and verify it; that way the utility is hearing from a professional that it is their responsibility. Here’s how I would troubleshoot:
1. With a high-quality digital volt-ohm meter (VOM), measure the voltage going into the service panel under load and nonload. Load one leg, then the other, then both. The voltage should not change more than a few volts. If it does, the transformer is too small.
2. Make the same measurements with someone across the street operating the chop saw. If the voltage goes down (and we know it will), the problem is outside the house.
3. Make similar measurements at the utility meter. If the voltage drop occurs before going into the house, we know the problem is outside the house.
4. Look up at the transformer and read the kilovolt-amp (KVA) rating, which is often painted on the side. A 200-amp house at 240 volts needs a 45-KVA minimum; with two houses you need twice that. Odds are, they are running both houses off one 45-KVA transformer.
I’m confident that the main problem will turn out to be the power company running too low a voltage on the primary and overextending the tap line. I’ve seen this more times than I can count. If the utility won’t cooperate, the house owner should write the state utility board, with a copy going to the power company. Normally the power company has 30 days to respond to the board.
Editor's Note: If only your house lights flicker or dim, the problem may be either the circuit may be overloaded or the problem may be in the service ground. Have an electrician check the circuit to make sure it is adequate and check your ground wire from the pole or transformer. Sometimes squirrels eat through the ground wire which could cause voltage drops.

Source: The Journal Of Light Construction, September 2002

Home Mortgage Foreclosures On The Rise

Home mortgage foreclosures in the Atlanta metropolitan region have nearly doubled in 2002, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


The paper reports that roughly 20,000 homes have been advertised for foreclosure during the year. Experts say employment losses are a factor in the increase, but they also point to a trend towards unconventional mortgages that allow less financially secure buyers to borrow money for home purchases. Those buyers then may become unable to make payments.

Source: The Journal Of Light Construction, December 2002

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer."
- Ed Cunningham

A Tip Of The Hat To:

Ted Thorpe
Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty
4683 Highway 29
Lilburn, Georgia 30047

**** Thank You****

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