Masking Update March 1st, 2023Posted by Nicole on February 28th, 2023

Thank you for helping to keep everyone safe over the past three years by masking on my inspections! I NEVER had to cancel or reschedule an inspection due to illness (knock on wood) and for that I am so grateful. I no longer require masks on inspections, though they are certainly appreciated.

Personally, I have no plans to stop masking indoors, but I ask everyone involved in the home inspection please stay home if you are sick! There are several illnesses going around and I’m not interested in ANY of them! For a tiny business like mine, sick days can be devastating and getting sick is still not worth the risk to me…. not to mention the havoc it can wreak on a time-sensitive real estate transaction! I won’t hesitate to cancel/reschedule an inspection if someone shows up sick and refuses to mask or refuses to leave. I will also physically distance from anyone who is unmasked and I still prefer to open windows (weather permitting) during the inspection.

For now, I will continue to do virtual reviews which have been surprisingly popular. Contract signing will be contactless through Docusign. I will still send invoices via Square, but check or cash payments are always welcome!

You used to call me on my cell phone

If You Have Lived In Your House For 15 Years or More…Posted by Nicole on December 29th, 2022

Remember when you bought your home all those years ago? The seller replaced some things, and you did some work or replaced some things after you moved in… and then you went on autopilot because everything big was fixed! Ahhh…. how nice to just have to worry about changing your air filter for the heating/cooling system, testing & changing the batteries in your smoke & carbon monoxide alarms, clearing the gutters, and treating the moss on the roof every so often. Cruise control, commence!

Now, 10 or 15 years later, what is the condition of your home? If you decided to sell now, what kind of repairs would you have to do? What would need replacement? Let’s tap the breaks and come out of cruise control for a bit to evaluate the situation.

Normally, homeowners just fix things when it becomes a problem… which, for the most part, is fine. But what about when your water heater tells you its life is over by leaking water all over your basement or garage? Or your roof leaks (always seems to happen during a torrential downpour)? Or your furnace stops working (always on the coldest day of the year)? Perhaps it’s time to look at these things again- if nothing else, to give you an idea of when you might expect to replace these things.

We know that one-layer asphalt composition roofs (most common here) in the Portland area can last anywhere from 15-25 years. Water heaters generally last anywhere from 12-20 years. Furnaces usually go about 18-20 years before needing replacement. Replacing an old cooling system is a no-brainer because older, more environmentally destructive coolants are being phased out, and are therefore more expensive to recharge, making repairs or recharging older cooling systems silly in comparison to replacement. And kitchen appliances? Expected service lives are 10-12 years! Don’t get me started on those old toilets that waste gallons and gallons of water every time you flush! (Aaaaaand…. what if rodents made it into your attic or crawlspace and wreaked havoc? Or your exhaust fan came loose in the attic?)

It is important to keep in mind that the quality of components/construction, as well as use and maintenance also play a big part in how much time may be left: Four hot showers per day and four loads of laundry per week is going to wear much faster on a water heater than in a home where there are only two hot showers per week and one load of laundry or a part-time occupant (hello snowbirds).

With these rough service lives in mind, if you’ve owned your house for 10+ years and haven’t done much, you might benefit from looking up the ages of these components or hiring an inspector to look things over for you.

Let’s say you had ALL the mechanical equipment and appliances replaced when you bought your home… 15 years ago. That means the roof, water heater, cooling system, and kitchen appliances are likely nearing their final years (if not months) and the furnace has just a few years left. Wouldn’t it ne nice to be able to budget for these things or be proactive and replace them before greater damage is caused?

The good news is that newer mechanical equipment, fixtures, appliances, etc. are much more efficient than even 15 year old components, so you’ll be giving the earth a fist bump and saving on your monthly utilities. Some things can wait to be replaced, but other things may cause damage if you just let them tell you when they’re done!

A 15 year old asphalt composition roof
A 15 year old asphalt composition roof

What is LEED AP?Posted by Nicole on July 6th, 2022

I’ve been asked a few times what “LEED AP” means when handing out my business card. It’s a great question- many acronyms on our business cards don’t have an obvious association or meaning.

You’ve heard of Energy Star, “Passive House”, and probably even “Living Buildings”. Well, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is another rating system for different types of healthy, efficient, and cost-saving buildings. The “AP” afterwards stands for “Accredited Professional”. LEED accredited professionals have demonstrated a deep knowledge of green building practices which they use when building (or remodeling) to select good sites, efficiently use water and electricity (or reuse & generate its own), responsibly use/reuse materials, and even ensure that the indoor air is healthy. These things create better, cleaner environments for occupants, whether it’s a commercial or residential building. The great thing about LEED is that third party verification of many of these categories is required so that there is a built-in checks and balances to certification. Furthermore, systems management insures that the building continues to perform well, educating the occupants or maintenance staff so they can produce the best results.

The LEED certification process adds up points for each possible way that the building performs well, conserves resources, saves or creates energy, reduces impact or carbon footprint, etc. in giving a building a “certified”, silver, gold, or platinum rating- a sort of crown for the building.

My original LEED accreditation in 2009 was in LEED for New Construction (before LEED for HOMES existed!), which specifically focused on buildings that are newly built from the ground up. My profession in architecture at the time was not quite as savvy as we are today about green building, but the momentum and pressure was increasing (especially in Portland and along the west coast) for more efficient buildings, and it was important to me to do what I could to help the planet. So I studied and studied, took a LEED class and passed my exam. At the time, many builders weren’t aware of or weren’t using LEED certification or Energy Star, and the Passive House was a sci-fi dream.

LEED and other green rating systems have evolved a lot since then- now there are more ways to get points for LEED certification, different LEED categories (hello, LEED for HOMES), technologies have evolved, and have even become more efficient. The accreditation categories for professionals have also evolved.

Fast forward to now- LEED is one of the leading rating systems for green buildings and is globally recognized. There’s even LEED Canada! After starting my home inspection company after architecture, I changed my accreditation from LEED for New Construction to LEED AP (“Accredited Professional”, without specialty), which is a more general/non-specific credential. I still use the knowledge everyday when making simple recommendations like, “Insulate and weather strip attic access for better energy efficiency.” Time and energy well spent.

Summer 2022 COVID-19 UpdatePosted by Nicole on July 2nd, 2022

Summer is FINALLY here! Not much has changed in the world of COVID-19 except for different variants and more people are not masking. Infection rates remain high (higher than the official numbers show due to at-home testing) and I am still not willing to take risks when it means I won’t be able to work if I become infected. The following safety policies will help ensure everyone’s safety.

*Masks (must cover nose and mouth) and a minimum of 6 feet of distance from me will be required for everyone indoors with me, even if fully vaccinated.

*Buyers are welcome to be in the home, I just ask that you consider limiting the number of additional guests, especially in smaller homes. This includes contractors, who are also required to wear masks when indoors with me. I am willing to cancel the inspection if anyone refuses to mask.

*A slideshow/review of the home inspection will be done virtually. This works best given the limitations of distancing and masking (and my voice that simply does not carry).

*Contactless contract signing and payment will be done online (via DocuSign & Square). I normally send these 1-4 days before our inspection. Receipt of both are required in order to proceed with the inspection.

*I prefer to open doors and windows (weather permitting) while I’m inspecting the interior. Please consider this when scheduling testing with other companies.

*As always- for safety and in order to remain focused, I do not allow anyone to follow me during an inspection, but I’m happy to answer questions when I’m finished inspecting and/or during the slideshow.

Hope to see you soon!

Summer 2021 COVID-19 UpdatePosted by Nicole on August 12th, 2021

With vaccination rates continuing to slowly climb but the delta variant in full force, here is an update on my current COVID-19 protocols. I will continue to modify my policies as the situation evolves. I am taking into consideration daily infection numbers/hospitalizations, new/more contagious variants of the disease, and state/CDC recommendations… but my own comfort level will take precedence. I also invite you to check-in with your own comfort level and revert to more strict requirements for our inspection if you feel the need!

Until further notice, the following safety policies ensure everyone’s safety. These policies are subject to change, so check this page or ping me for the most current policy.

*Masks (must cover nose and mouth) and a minimum of 6 feet of distance from me will be required for everyone at the inspection, even if fully vaccinated.

*For homes that are larger than 1000 square feet: A real estate agent and no more than two buyers (+children) can be indoors with me at inspections, but no other family members/friends/occupants indoors, please. (That’s a maximum of three adults other than me indoors.)

*For homes less than 1000 square feet, I prefer two or less adults indoors with me.

*A slideshow/review of the home inspection will be done virtually. This works best given the limitations of distancing and masking.

*Contactless contract signing and payment will be done online (via DocuSign & Square). Normally I send these 1-4 days before our inspection. Receipt of both are required in order to receive the final report.

*I prefer to open doors and windows (weather permitting) while I’m inspecting the interior.

*For safety and in order to remain focused, I do not allow anyone to follow me during an inspection, but I’m happy to answer questions when I’m finished inspecting and/or during the slideshow.

I still offer generous discounts for apartment-style condos in order to keep the cost reasonable. Additional mileage fees apply to some outer suburbs. For my latest pricing, call or text me: 503-913-1281.

Tips for Staying Cool In a Heat WavePosted by Nicole on August 11th, 2021

Another heat wave is here! I’m guessing this will become more regular as time goes on, so here are a few quick tips to help you stay cool!

1. Change (or clean, if reusable) your HVAC air filter(s). A clogged or dirty filter reduces air flow and can force the system to work harder, causing unnecessary wear.

2. Close your curtains/shades starting early in the morning to reduce solar gain. If you don’t have curtains/shades, use blankets or towels. This will help even if you have blinds because the gaps between the blinds allow heat to enter the living space.

3. Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature. In reality, a cooling system can only cool to about 20 degrees below the exterior temperature… so, with 100+ temperatures in Portland’s forecast, setting your thermostat at 80-85 later in the day is ideal. Setting the thermostat lower than that causes the system to work harder for no additional results, wasting energy and $$!

4. If you don’t have A/C, consider staying with a friend or at a hotel (preferably a hotel with a pool 😊). Or find a cooling center. Free rides to cooling centers are available by calling 211.

5. Remember: Fans cool PEOPLE, not rooms. When you’re not in a room, turn the fan off! At night (if it cools down enough), open windows on opposing sides of the home and set up fans to cross-ventilate by bringing in cooler air from outside and pushing it through the home to the windows at the other side.

6. Drink lots of water! Hydrated bodies sweat, which is your body’s natural way of cooling itself!

Love and ThanksPosted by Nicole on April 25th, 2020

I want to thank you all my clients and fellow colleagues for being patient during this strange time we’re in. I miss all the faces of real estate agents and eager new clients. I joked with an agent this week (but it is true) that her dog was the only being I’ve touched in weeks. 🙁

Major disruptions to our process have thrown me off, and I’m sure they have you too. I truly appreciate the trust you continue put in me and the very hard work you put into each home. The extra work & energy that this requires as well as the extra time spent on on each job with this new process has been COMPLETELY exhausting for me. It’s WAY more work than normal and by the weekend, my brain and body can barely function… so thanks again for remaining flexible with receiving reports later than normal, with scheduling and with the extra phone calls and Zoom meetings. It’s certainly not ideal and may not be as seamless as my original routine, but just know that my main goal is still that the buyers feel comfortable with the home moving forward.

With that, a reminder that agents and buyers can ALWAYS contact me with questions ANYTIME- after our inspection review, anytime during the homebuying process, and even after moving in. I know each home that I inspect quite well, so I’m a great, ongoing resource for answers!

I’m SO grateful for all the people I’m connected with in this business, even more so right now. I can’t wait to actually see you and perhaps even give you a hug when it’s safe!

We’re all in this together and I’m here for you.
Sending so much love,

Time for a nap

COVID-19 Update from Home GnomePosted by Nicole on March 18th, 2020

Yes, I’m still inspecting and testing for radon! I’m doing everything I can to prevent the spread of the virus while still providing services as best I can.

  • Only one other masked person is allowed inside the home at the same time as me. I require at least 6 feet of distance at all times. Others are welcome to wait outside or join in the slideshow later in the day.
  • I wash my hands and/or use hand sanitizer as often as I can when I’m on an inspection.
  • As always, I wear booties. I also wear gloves inside the home.
  • I use disinfectant wipes on all surfaces I touch to keep both myself and the occupants/sellers safe. I may use disinfectant spray as well.
  • In place of the slideshow on site, I now do a virtual slideshow later the day of the inspection. 
  • I also disinfect my car, all of my tools & equipment (including radon testing equipment) at the end of and/or before my inspections/radon tests.
  • I am not currently inspecting fixers, bank-owned, cash only or distressed properties.

Basically, everything I touch in homes gets disinfected!

As you can imagine, these precautions take a bit of extra time, so for now I am suspending my same-day report delivery guarantee. It’s possible (and even likely) that you’ll receive the report later that same night, but I can’t guarantee it.

Thanks for your patience while the world feels so surreal! If you have any questions about my process or want to discuss further, please contact me. Stay healthy!

[This post was last updated on November 13, 2020. Check back for any changes.]

How Detailed Should Your Home Inspector Be?Posted by Nicole on February 9th, 2020

If you’ve had an inspection with me, you’ll notice that my reports are quite detailed. I inspect and report on each home as if I were buying it myself- what would I want to know before I make the largest purchase I’ve ever made? I’ve been told by many real estate agents that my reports are the most detailed and thorough they’ve seen. I am a Type A personality, so this doesn’t surprise me (I take it as a compliment). What does surprise me is how many important details other inspectors seem to miss or not even report on. I’m saying this from personal experience- I had two home inspections before becoming a home inspector myself. I’ve also seen reports for the exact same property that I inspected, making it easy to compare my report to another inspection company’s report. Although I’m obviously biased, the things that are missing from the other reports are too important to ignore. 

For instance: I test as well as check the manufacture dates on every single smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm whenever possible. Why? BECAUSE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are required both by law and by your lender to be installed in a real estate transaction. Knowing that the sensors on these alarms become less sensitive over time, don’t you, as a buyer, want your home to be as safe as possible? 10 years is the life of a smoke alarm; 5-7 years for carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms that are any older need to be replaced. I am adamant in my inspections about this. Furthermore, this simple thing is probably the easiest and most affordable requirement to fulfill in a real estate transaction, having (potentially) the largest safety factor. It’s a no-brainer.

Case in point: I recently inspected a newly constructed home- nobody has lived there yet… the paint was probably still drying. Any normal person would assume that all the smoke & carbon monoxide alarms are brand new, right? WRONG. Two of the six smoke alarms in this home were 13 years old– they’d been reused from another home when they should have been disposed of three years ago. Now, if I had assumed all the alarms were new because the home is new, I’m putting my clients’ safety at risk. This is just one example of the level of detail that I take a little bit of extra time to verify so that your home is SAFE.

Now… it’s possible that my inspections take a tad longer than the “average” inspector, but I guarantee that it’s worth it. Does that little bit of extra detail really make a difference? I believe it can mean the difference between (excuse the scare tactics- see above) life and death… and, well, that’s also a no-brainer. Don’t you agree?

The following are excerpts of inspection reports from the exact same house- one from a competitor and then Home Gnome’s report.

Competitor’s report- Heating System
Home Gnome Inspections’ report- Heating System

Getting Ready for Cold WeatherPosted by Nicole on January 13th, 2020

Here are some quick tips on getting your home ready for cold weather!Foundation vent plug

Install insulation blocks or close foundation vents (if you have a crawlspace). These polystyrene plugs fit into the screened openings at your foundation. If your vents have little flaps on them, just close the flap to help keep cold temperatures out. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to open the vents/remove the plugs once the threat of freezing has passed- you do NOT want to suffocate your crawlspace!

faucet protector

Winterize hose faucets.  Disconnect all your garden hoses and turn off interior valves (usually located at interior side of wall near hose faucet or under a nearby sink) for all hose faucets. Then, turn the faucet back on temporarily in order to remove the remaining water in the pipe. Once the water in the pipes has been bled out, install styrofoam faucet covers on the hose faucets.

Supply piping insulation

Insulate exposed supply piping in your attic, crawlspace and garage. Supply piping is the smaller size piping that carries water to the plumbing fixtures in your home. Freezing temps can cause pipes to burst since water is in these pipes all the time.

Be sure your furnace filter has been changed recently. An inefficient furnace wastes energy, restricts air movement and causes unnecessary wear on your furnace.

Weatherstrip doors & insulate single pane windows. Install sweeps at bottom of doors, weatherstripping at sides & top of doors. Install insulating shrink film kit to help keep the cold out at single-pane windows.

Door sweepV-seal weatherstripWindow insulating kit

Bonus tip: Now’s a great time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as check the dates on them... especially if you have a fireplace that creates carbon monoxide. Smoke alarms should be less than 10 years old and carbon monoxide alarms should be less than 5 years old. The sensors become worn and less sensitive as time goes on. Replacement is needed if these alarms are too old! Manufacture dates are printed on the back or side of alarms. If you can’t find a date (it’s usually tiny), it’s probably outdated and should be replaced.