What is a Truth in Housing report, and why is it important? TIH is designed for the safety of ‘other people,’ and focuses on code items. Most homeowners know that all single-family and duplexes are required to provide a TIH report to buyers to review. Condos and triplexes, 4plexes are exempt.
I sat down with Luis Alcaraz of Inspectucasa who is a 15+ year veteran inspector of city required inspections in Minneapolis, St Paul, and most other surrounding suburbs. Here’s Luis’ heads up for homeowners on what inspectors look for, and homeowners overlook.
- Smoke and carbon detectors have to be less than 10 years old and working. It’s common that homeowners think that smoke detectors live forever, and never replace them. There needs to be a smoke detector on each level, including basements and walk-up attics, and carbon detector within 10 feet of all the bedrooms. Combo detectors cover both. The lack of becomes an automatic RR.
- The city always calls for backflow preventers on laundry faucets and outdoor spigots. It’s a $6 investment that allows water to flow in only one direction, prevent drinking water from contamination. Homes usually need only 2, one at the laundry, one outdoors,
- Exposed light fixtures, meaning dangling and uncovered bulbs. The city and FHA appraisals require that they are covered by a bowl or protective bulb cover. The city doesn’t require that all outlets be covered with a plate (but will report it as a suggested correction (SC). Appraisals will require outlets to have a cover so no one accidentally sticks in a finger.
- Provide access. Inspectors are required to look at the attic if there is one, check outlets, and review the garage. It’s always frustrating when they can’t access the attic because the homeowner has furniture or boxes blocking it. The same holds true for outlets and forgetting to unlock the garage. No access becomes an automatic RR, Required Repair, and the inspector has to make a 2nd and a 2nd feet for the trip back when it’s clear. When either the furnace, boiler, or water is turned off it becomes an automatic RR with the permit. Inspectors can’t turn on the gas or water, you will need both on and functioning.
- The main drain needs to be open, have a ball in place to drain properly. Homeowners don’t always pay attention, the cover is dirty, and there is no ball. They aren’t expensive, and it’s probably a good idea to have it cleaned out. Because it’s on the basement floor it will clog up with dirt and debris over time.
- The attic needs ventilation to the outside of the roof as do bathroom and kitchen vents. Sometimes a kitchen or bath vent is incorrectly installed to air into the attic which causes steam and vapors to be trapped in the attic and create soggy moldy insulation.
- The kitchen stove requires an anti-trip bracket secured at the back of the stove to prevent it from tipping over while you are pulling the Thanksgiving turkey out to serve your family. It costs $5-$8 and saves dinners from sliding onto the floor, pulling the gas line out of whack, and general hysteria. Not part of TIH, but buyers will call it.
- DIY plumbing; it’s a tip-off when P traps under the sinks or toilets are glued together with different materials. Minneapolis allows the homeowner to do their own plumbing repairs if it doesn’t involve gas. However, not all the DIY projects are done correctly, and it can lead to plumbing failure so you have to call a real plumber.
- Adding a new dryer but leaving the old gas shut off valve. A new dryer requires a new shut off valve installation. The entire assembly must meet code, gas shut off and vent.
- DIY homeowners think that they add electricity by double-tapping the electric panel. Double-tapping overloads the panel and can cause a short circuit, fire, and lines to implode. TIH is a visual inspection, but buyer inspection opens the panel and will call for it to be corrected. Swapping out a 2 prong socket for a 3 prong without grounding outlets can cause electrical fires, risk of shock, short circuit appliances. Adding a saddle clamp at the water supply is an illegal clamp, it will always leak. Some things are best left to plumbers or electricians.
A TIH inspection isn’t the same as a buyer’s inspection. While a TIH inspector reviews the structure, he will make comments but rarely call for Required Repair. He may mention cracks or water seepage, but will not call for a correction. A home inspector for the buyer has different criteria. If there are structural issues including bowing walls, or major cracks in the foundation, either a buyer’s home inspector or an appraiser could call for a structural engineer to evaluate the foundation.
As you might imagine, not all inspectors are equal, every report is an opinion of the findings. Inspectors aren’t licensed but they are certified. The most comprehensive training, American Home Inspectors Training, ASHI, requires 250 supervised inspections, two national tests. They are also required to complete 18 continuing education credits annually. You can count on Luis to do a thorough job, and explain any issues that come up: Luis Alcaraz, 612 743 8228, firstname.lastname@example.org. I only recommend professionals that I’ve had good experience with over the years, and who treat my clients like family.
If you are selling/buying a home in Minneapolis give me a call at (612) 384-1360 for expert advice from a 20+ year real estate veteran who knows that your move is life-changing. I move you home.