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Needs Maintenance, Repair, or Improvement?


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Hi Mark,

In your balustrade example, I wouldn't call it a "repair" because the balustrade isn't broken, is it? It's built to the standard allowed when the house was originally constructed and it's functioning as intended, right? So, does it actually need to be "repaired" or should we recommend that the prudent thing to do from a safety standpoint is to improve it or upgrade it?

Take Chris' quote from another thread and write something like:

Unsafe baluster spacing - You don't have a framajam on your thingamajig The balusters at the railing around the deck are installed 8 inches apartid="blue">. If this home were being built today, there'd be a framajam on the thingamajig Today, in order to prevent a toddler from slipping through them and being injured or worse, we install balusters no more than 4 inches apart. id="blue"> because the framajam makes the thingamajig safer, and that's why the framajam is required by current code (cite code). Now, there's no law requiring you to bring your thingamajig the railingid="blue"> up to current code by installing the framajam altering the baluster spacingid="blue">, but from a safety standpoint it's the prudent thing to do. Contact a couple of framajam decking contractorsid="blue"> to discuss options and cost find out what it will cost you to add more balusters between the originalsid="blue">.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Mike,

In the end we are making the same recommendation. I am just saying that I don't make two different lists or categories of recommendations based on the weather it's and upgrade or broken item.

In this example I would say whats wrong "the balusters are to far apart by todays standard", why it's wrong "your child could fall through and get hurt", and my recommendation "fit it, repair it, upgrade it, replace it". If the client often has small children in the house they may see this as a major issue. Others my think the balustrade is so beautiful they don't want it altered. Both clients made a decision that is right for them based on my report.

Weather it's a wet basement, old roof, outdated electrical system I report it the same. If you explain to the client what the concern is and why it is a concern and make a recommendation for action, they can decide if they want to take any action.

Sometimes the client takes our advice and sometimes they don't. Its funny how some clients can blow small items out of proportion and some can ignore major issues. It impossible to tell what items are going to be hot buttons for which clients

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Unless I am mistaken the original point of the question had to do with labeling/flagging findings in terms of repair, maintenance or improvement etc. - a form of prioritizing the findings.

In my opinion, in today’s real estate environment with today’s client, that does more harm than good for the client.

I advocate just listing the items in terms of what section of the SOP they are under and not labeling or flagging the finding. I know that runs against tradition.

Labeling presumes that a client knows enough about a house as to understand what the label implies. - Well in my experience these days either most don't or they don't care or worse the zoids or seller will take advantage of the flagging and pull items off of the negotiating table.

Thats why I like Hausdoks model construction so much because I don't have to label the finding. The narrative explains it all.

An example applied to a maintenance item

Roof: There is moss on the roof EIEIO Moss can cause the roofing to prematurely deteriorate and even leak EIEIO Thats why roofing mfg.s recommend maintaining it off of the roof EIEIO Have a roofer treat the moss on the roof now EIEIO Have your roof checked yearly and retreated if needed to maintain your roof clear of moss EIEIO

Now I am sure that Chad, Hausdok or Jim K. Could write it a lot better but you get the idea.

Chris, Oregon

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The difference is simple.

Repair = Something the buyer is going to want the seller to take care of.

Upgrade, improvement = Something the seller is not going to do or feel obligated to share in. There's nothing really wrong but it could be better. Realtors love you to use these words in a report.

Consider a pool fence. When my family put in a pool in the mid 1960's there was no requirement for fencing the pool. Would putting in a fence now be an upgrade? I guess it would by the above advice. Does anybody feel that it would be reasonable not to put in a fence? I would list that as a prioroty repair, I wouldn't go on about how it wasn't required when the house was built. Whats the point? If it's not safe, fix it. Sounds like a repair to me.

P.S. I think Mike's just trying to stir things up again[:-fight]

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Well, it got me fired up.[:-eyebrow

Even if it is just to get something going, it is a good thread because it gets us thinking about the terms we use in reporting.

Improvement- Anything that is considered an improvement really doesn't have a place in a home inspection report. Besides, where would you draw the line? Oh, and a second story would be really a nice improvement, especially with the views here. Improvements are something to maybe talk to the buyer about on-site but not to include in a report. If you think the 8 inch baluster spacing is OK because of when the house was built, just say it is OK.

Maintenance- This is taking care of things that are in functional condition. Scraping flaking paint, caulking and painting is not maintenance, it is repainting, it is fixing. After it's fixed you can maintain it. Maintenance should only be included in a report as something to do in the future. Re-seal the deck annually, etc. because you want to give your client some extra info. Resealing vent pipe flashings is not maintenance if it looks like they may leak. If you are going to use this term, save it for things like periodically emptying your water heater to reduce calcium buildup (before the buildup occurs). If the water heater is full of calcium chunks and sounds like a coffee percolater, it doesn't need to be maintained, it needs to be replaced. If it needs to be done NOW, it's not maintenance. The items we see need repair or replacement in many cases due to lack of maintenance.

Repair- All the stuff we should be talking about in a report.

I understand there are gray areas, particularly when it doesn't concern safety, but really, if it NEEDS to be improved, it is a repair. If it doesn't NEED to be improved, mentioning it is just a CYA.

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Originally posted by homnspector

Well, it got me fired up.[:-eyebrow

Even if it is just to get something going, it is a good thread because it gets us thinking about the terms we use in reporting.

Improvement- Anything that is considered an improvement really doesn't have a place in a home inspection report. Besides, where would you draw the line? Oh, and a second story would be really a nice improvement, especially with the views here. Improvements are something to maybe talk to the buyer about on-site but not to include in a report. If you think the 8 inch baluster spacing is OK because of when the house was built, just say it is OK.

I disagree. Even if it was okay when the house was built, if it's a safety issue NOW, regardless of age of the house, it needs to be in the report. If it's an issue like baluster spacing, GFCI, etc., how do you prove, when someone is hurt later on, that you ever recommended to the client that the baluster spacing be corrected or the GFCI's installed if you don't document it in the report?

I don't use conventions like Improve, Maintenance or Repair. Those are too easy for the reel-tours to try and pigeon hole into a non-issue category.

For the baluster spacing I start the comment with Unsafe Baluster Spacing. That is a definitive statement. I don't start it with Possibly Unsafe Baluster Spacing or Previously Accepted Baluster Spacing. I wouldn't start it with Improvement or Maintenance or anything like that, because the reel-tour will automatically tell the client to disregard it and only look at the stuff that says Repair.

I don't care who fixes something, I only care that the client knows that it needs to be fixed. If that "fix" means to upgrade it, repair it, or perform maintenance on it, I just say what it needs. There's no confusion in the client's mind that way. If the client reads "Unsafe Baluster Spacing," and reads the explanation, the client will understand the recommendation and can make up his or her own mind whether it's important or not. If the client wants to try and get the seller to do it, or wants to do it himself, that's up to the client.

Maintenance- This is taking care of things that are in functional condition. Scraping flaking paint, caulking and painting is not maintenance, it is repainting, it is fixing.
Again, I disagree. A deck might be perfectly okay but long overdue for maintenance that a homeowner neglected to do. If that's the case, why not say something like:

The deck has been neglected and is overdue for maintenance - followed by an explanation of the maintenance that should have been done, what the consequences of not doing that maintenance will be and a recommendation to contact a couple of handy guys who clean and reseal decks to find out what it's going to cost to get it done. Heck, if you know what it'll cost to get it done in your area, give 'em a ballpark figure.

The client deserves to know what's been cared for and what hasn't. If a house is a huge list of deferred maintenance items that are functioning but have been neglected, it sounds like you advocate not recording that fact in the report because things might not actually be broken.

Stuff can need to be upgraded or improved but not be a safety issue. That's fine, just state that fact in the description of the house, but don't leave it out.

If it needs painting, just say so. There's no need to say it needs to be "Repaired". Start the comment with The house needs to be painted - , not the words repair or maintenance. For crying out loud, why are folks pigeonholing things into conventions; just say what needs to be done and then write it up the way you tell it to the client.

Repair- All the stuff we should be talking about in a report.
It sounds like you want to say that only stuff that needs to be repaired needs to be mentioned in a report and that everything else should be left out. Excuse me for saying so, but that's the reel-tour's approach to reporting. Clients need to know about it all, not part of it, and including it in a report isn't just about CYA, it's about giving the client what the client is entitled to, which is a report containing everything that you know about their prospective new home.

I understand there are gray areas, particularly when it doesn't concern safety, but really, if it NEEDS to be improved, it is a repair. If it doesn't NEED to be improved, mentioning it is just a CYA.
I covered this above.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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We all have our own approaches. Mine goes against some of the above posts but it works for me and, no, I don't feel I'm being "soft" on any issue by using "improve".

This is what I have in my report preamble...

For convenience only, items which appear to need attention or repair are reported in the following categories. As the categories are somewhat discretionary the client should read and rely on the whole report, and not just certain categories, for a complete understanding of conditions.

SAFETY CONCERN: Conditions which pose a real or potential threat to safety or health are listed here (regardless of cost).

INVESTIGATE FURTHER: Conditions which appear to require further investigation by a specialist or by acquiring information from other sources. This includes investigations that would entail destructive inspection or testing, engineering, or analysis beyond the scope of a visual home inspection.

STRUCTURAL REPAIR: Conditions that may adversely or imminently affect the structural integrity of the dwelling.

PROMPT REPAIR: Conditions which require immediate action. These items may be actively causing or contributing to damage, or pose a major safety hazard.

REPAIR: Items which, while in need of repair, do not preclude safe occupation of the home. These repairs may be postponed at the discretion of the client.

IMPROVE: Upgrades or improvements that, while not required, are highly recommended for safety, security, or the integrity of the home.

Comments: These are observations or suggestions for preventative and/or routine maintenance, possible upgrades and efficiency improvements, or just for general information.

A note about recommended improvements and upgrades: While building codes are constantly changing, home owners are generally NOT required to make these changes to an existing structure. Therefore, simply because a component does not meet the latest standards does not mean that it should necessarily be considered a defect. Recommendations for upgrades, which may be in any of the above categories, are suggestions for future improvements to the safety, integrity and efficiency of the home.

It's "prettier" than that but I can't get my heading boxes to show here. Note that I don't have a "maintain" or "monitor" category and I also don't do summaries (other than punch lists for literacy challenged builders on new homes).

Here's how I typically report balusters on older homes...(using two of my category headings)

SAFETY CONCERN and IMPROVE: The gaps between the balusters of the upper deck railing are bigger than the modern standard of 4 inches maximum. You should upgrade this area with additional balusters or some type of meshwork if there is any chance of toddlers using the deck.

I use "SAFETY CONCERN and REPAIR" for items that should have been there or when I have any doubt about the requirement history.

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does it actually need to be "repaired" or should we recommend that the prudent thing to do from a safety standpoint is to improve it or upgrade it?

I don't use conventions like Improve, Maintenance or Repair. Those are too easy for the reel-tours to try and pigeon hole into a non-issue category.

Mike, It sounds to me like in the first post you are the one advocating the pigeon-holing, hence, the entire reason I posted in the first place.

The client deserves to know what's been cared for and what hasn't. If a house is a huge list of deferred maintenance items that are functioning but have been neglected, it sounds like you advocate not recording that fact in the report because things might not actually be broken.

Sorry if you got that impression. We just differ on the term 'maintenance'. IMO, 'deferred maintenance' is realtor-speak for 'numerous repairs or replacements'.

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Originally posted by homnspector

Mike, It sounds to me like in the first post you are the one advocating the pigeon-holing, hence, the entire reason I posted in the first place.

That's because the first post had actually been a response to one by Mark Mustola in another thread that had been split off from an electrical thread. Someone turned around and split that thread, making mine the first post in the thread. Without context, it's different.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Why I don't use conventions to flag the findings:

1) Zoids and sellers will use them against the buyer.

2) They give me a headache trying to figure out if in any one particular circumstance is the thing better characterized as a repair, maintenance or an improvement.

3) All those definitions taking up space in the report.

4) They tend to weaken and cloud the point.

5) They cause misunderstandings.

6) They are lawsuit baitid="blue">

I believe times have changed. Clients today tend to see everthing as a repair item.

Chris, Oregon

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