Owning a home is still considered by many as the pinnacle of prosperity, and the culmination of the American midlothian home inspectiondream. Still, it isn’t with out challenges. With crooked window salesman, dirty Groupons, and DIY failures, home ownership can be like navigating a ship through treacherous  waters. Of all the problems associated with home ownership, none seem to be as nefarious as dealing with home warranty companies. The grievances seem limitless on the web and no company escapes unscathed.

We’ve boiled down the hostility to 4 main reasons, and have solutions for each.

1. The consumer did not read the contract. 

The number one reason people seem to hate their warranty company is because they treated their contract like the Facebook terms of service. They didn’t read it. No one wants to hear it, but the customer is always right, until they’re wrong. A home warranty company isn’t a charity. They only make money by paying out less than the revenue they generated. They have strict rules and coverage, and limits and you need to read the contract and understand it. There is an abundance of home owners annoyed that their claim was denied, or not fully paid for, that simply didn’t understand their coverage. For example, you can’t attempt to repair something and expect a warranty company to come in and save the day. They won’t. Leave it alone. Normal maintenance isn’t covered. Welcome to home ownership.  Some coverage is only available in premium packages that cost more. Secondary repairs are often not covered. If your furnace breaks, and new duct work is needed, they aren’t going to replace the duct work. That is on you. Basically, read your contract and understand what your obligations will be and what your coverage is.

2. The repair time was egregious.

Also on the top of the list for sending a home owner into a fit of fury, is the egregious repair times when a claim is filed. There is no end to the horror stories of one week or longer turnaround times as homeowners huddle around a space heater waiting for the contractor sent by their warranty company. And if you followed step 1 one above, you probably noticed that using your own contractor will void coverage. My recommendation is to use a company that allows you to use your own contractor. It’s always best if you use their approved vendors, but you will want the option to use your own if they give you an outrageous wait time. Residential Warranty Services and Select Home Warranty are two companies that give you that opportunity. Again, read your contract to see what the process is for choosing your own contractor.

3. Preexisting Conditions.

Home warranty companies have a very loose definition of “preexisting condition.” Many consider any item that fails within 30 days of owning the home, or purchasing the warranty as preexisting. If your AC works fine for 29 days and then quits, your warranty company is going to wiggle out of that claim citing their preexisting conditions clause. It’s enough to make some people vomit. Other companies rely on the technician they send out to determine if a system has a known preexisting condition. They may conclude that a defective system should have been noted by the home inspector even though it was working fine at the time of the inspection. There is not a whole lot you can do about preexisting conditions, but you do have options. Some warranty companies have plans that don’t have a preexisting conditions clause, but the seller of the home must have the systems evaluated and have a warranty in place until you take over the home and your warranty starts. AHS allows you to purchase additional coverage that covers undetectable preexisting conditions. Residential Warranty Services has a simpler solution. If you have your home inspected by Certified Inspection Expert, you won’t need to worry about preexisting conditions. It is as simple as that. (Shameless plug) If we inspect your home, and you purchase your warranty from Residential Warranty Services, you won’t need to worry about preexisting condition clauses. You will also get 6 months of additional coverage for free.

4. Multiple Deductibles

It doesn’t matter if you call them deductibles, trade service fees, or service call fees. If you pay more than one for the same repair, you will want to pull your hair out. Even if a company offers low deductibles, they can add up. You shouldn’t be surprised though. Your contract probably clearly states you will need to pay a deductible EACH time a technician comes to your property, regardless of the outcome. The most ridiculous part of this is that you need to use their contractors. If they send out an incompetent contractor who can’t fix your problem, you need to pay the deductible, and you will need to pay it again when they send out another contractor. Some home warranty companies put their money where their mouth is though. The Home Service Club won’t make you pay another deductible for the same repair if its within 30 days for a labor related problem, or 90 days if its a parts related problem. Residential Warranty Services steps up to plate yet again not requiring another deductible for the same repair if its in the same policy period. You can save your money and your hair.

 

 

Midlothian home inspectorIn case you have been living under a rock for the last few years, a groupon is a coupon with an adrenaline shot. The Groupon website offers steep discounts on products and services from local businesses. Patrons purchase a voucher from Goupon, which usually has a time limit, that they can redeem from the business. Groupon makes it money by taking a cut of the already discounted fee. I think the idea is absurd, but 6 Billion dollars in sales says that not everyone agrees with me.

You can find good deals from businesses offering loss leader products or services to bring in new prospects (you) who they can convert to loyal customers.

One problem with Groupon is that it is the perfect “hook” for a classic “bait and switch” and some crooked businesses have mastered the craft. The worst deal on Groupon that you should absolutely avoid is the super cheap duct cleaning. You may find them offered for as low as $49, $69, $79, but as the old adage goes “if it sounds too good to be true…” A proper duct cleaning will cost $300-$500 or more depending on the number of air handlers, furnaces, and ducts in the home. It can take hours and the true professionals use expensive and specialized equipment. Groupon takes 50%, so how can a duct cleaning company profit on service fees as low as $25? They can’t.

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Virginia State Bat

Did you know that a single little brown bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour? Falling creek in Richmond is in my backyard so I wouldn’t mind a few bats. It’s a smorgasbord here. As much as I love bats, most people don’t want them in their home, but it isn’t uncommon for us to find bats roosting in the attics of unsuspecting homeowners.

Depending on the species, bats prefer to call caves or trees “home”, but as we invade and destroy more of their space, it is becoming more common to find them inside homes, culverts, or other buildings. They generally aren’t dangerous, and contrary to popular belief, it is rare for a bat to have rabies. The problem is guano. Guano is bat feces and it causes histoplasmosis-an infection that infects the respiratory system. Guano also smells and attracts cockroaches which is another problem all on its own.

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Pile of guano

If you find feces in your attic, you may be wondering if it is from mice or bats. It is actually very easy to identify. During my home inspections, I will grab a small pellet and place it on a hard surface. I then crush it. If it turns to powder with shiny insect parts in it, it is Guano. Guano is also usually in large piles where mice feces are usually more spread out.

Bats can fit into tiny cracks on the outside of your home. When a homeowner finds out they have a bat problem, they may attempt to seal up all the cracks they can find. THIS IS A MISTAKE. If a bat can not find its way out of the attic, it is more likely to fly into your living space. Killing bats is illegal so any poisons are out of the question. Despite what anyone tells you, moth balls and other similar methods have a zero percent effective rate. They don’t work. You will need to call a pest control company that specializes in bat exclusion.

Bat exclusion involves sealing up the cracks in the home, and installing one way devices. The bats will be able to fly out, but will not be able to fly back in. The process should also include clean up and vacuum of any guano which may include replacement of insulation, drywall, or other building materials. However, exclusion should not be done mid May to early August. Female bats give birth during this time and the baby flats can not fly. Permanently separating the mother and pups is inhumane. Aside from the inhumanity of it, baby pups may be difficult if not impossible to find. Consequently, when separated from their mom, they will die leaving you with a foul odor.

Bat exclusion and and clean up should be left to the professionals.

In any business, it is absolutely important to stay in contact with your customers. Its quite an arbitrary number, but many experts say it costs 5 times as much to acquire a new customer, as it does to keep your old customers. That is why we created these Maintenance Check Lists that you can EASILY customize and distribute to your clients. I personally recommend printing them and mailing them in a cute festive envelope. Snail mail is much better than an email these days. Enjoy!

 

Customizable Fall Maintenance Checklist

Winter Maintenance Check List

Spring checklist

6 Things Duct Tape Should Never Be Used For

Juan Jimenez-The Richmond Home Inspector

Duct tape is glorious. It is a magnificent creation, and a staple for all house holds. A swathe of it can be employed for a simple repair, or rolls upon rolls can be spent by enterprising adolescents constructing unique prom attire. I dread to imagine a world with no duct tape. However, duct tape isn’t for everything. As a Richmond home inspector, I often find the adhesive fabric applied in inappropriate places that at best will cause more repairs later, and at worse, can be harmful to  your family. Here are things duct tape should never be used for.

1. Gas Appliance Vents

The purpose of your gas appliance vents is to convey the combustion by-products to the exterior of the home. Leakage of combustion by-products such as carbon monoxide can cause illness or even death. Depending on duct tape to ensure these gasses make it to the outside is dangerous. It fails, and most times is installed poorly anyway. If you have a separation in your gas appliance vent, call an HVAC contractor to repair it correctly.

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2. Plumbing Pipes

Despite viral videos of duct tape boat repairs, duct tape doesn’t do well with water. The water will eventually make its way out and if its the crawlspace, it could be a long time before you notice the leak. Mean while its rotting your wood, attracting termites, and mold is growing. A whole role of duct tape isn’t going to save you. Just call a qualified plumber.

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3. Condensate Drain Lines

Heat pumps and air conditioners are equipped with condensate drain lines. As the warm return air passes by the cold evaporator coil in the air handler, condensation forms and needs to be drained to the exterior of the home. Sometimes the drain lines leak, and duct tape isn’t going to stop it. A qualified HVAC contractor can repair the drain line is a snap. Leave it to the pros.

midlothian home inspector4. Shower Walls

If you want mold festering in the voids behind your shower, then by all means use duct tape to repair damage in your shower walls.

midlothian home inspection5. Dryer Vents

Boy scouts collect lint to start fires on their camping trips. If you want to spread fire starter in your crawlspace, attic, or walls, go ahead and use duct tape to secure you dryer vent.

midlothian home inspectorand last but, not least…

 

Duct tape should never be used for…

 

Ducts!

6. Ducts

These duct splices are held together by duct tape only. Don’t let the name fool you. Duct tape should never used for ducts, and these splices are destined to fail. Duct splices like this should have a metal sleeve between the two ducts, and the ducts should be secured to the sleeve with clamps.


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