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Preparing Your House for a Home Inspection: An Interview of Nick Jette of Premier House Inspection

By Nick Jette

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I stumbled across the career path of a home inspector a few years back when a Real Estate appraiser was at our home during the process of refinancing our mortgage. The appraiser appreciated the craftsmanship we put into the on-going remodeling project we call home and said something along the lines of "You have an eye for detail, have you thought about becoming a contractor?" After chatting for about 10 minutes, we came to the conclusion that I was meant to be a home inspector. The thought hadn't really crossed my mind, although we had our home inspected when we bought it five years prior, and the inspector (Peter Drougas ? Drougas Inspections, LLC) did an excellent job. My wife was completely supportive and (literally) a few days later, I enrolled in the summer-long home inspector training course through a local college and left my job in management in order to do so. That fall, I started Premier Home Inspection Services, LLC and haven't looked back. I get to look at houses all day and teach people about their homes in the process. I feel it's the best job in the world!

Our mission is to provide the most professional and comprehensive inspection available in the communities we serve. Honesty and integrity are first and foremost in everything we do. We pledge to provide outstanding customer service and perform quality work that is second to none.

What key areas of a house should someone examine prior to having a home inspection? (e.g. stairs, electrical outlets, fire-code regulations)

Your family's safety is the most important part of owning a home. Ultimately, you are the only one responsible for your family's safety and there are many items throughout the home that require regular maintenance to help ensure the systems within your home are operating safely. I have found that smoke detectors are the most frequently over-looked devices in a home. Over 50% of the homes I inspect have one or more missing or inoperable smoke detectors! There is no excuse. We have all had that annoying low-battery chirp at 2AM when we forget to the change the batteries every six months. It's a five minute project (or less!) to replace the battery. Additionally, smoke detectors only have a serviceable life of 10 years, which goes by really fast! If your detectors are older than 10 years (many have a date of manufacture sticker on the back side), it's time to change them. Smoke detectors are a relatively easy, low-cost DIY project. New models available have built-in Lithium-Ion batteries that don't need replacing in their 10-year life span. Additionally, if your home has wood, gas or oil burning appliances, you should have a carbon monoxide detector as well. The lives of your family members depend on it. Go replace your batteries or your detectors right now ? you can finish this article later. 11 lives were lost in NH last winter (2012/2013) in homes that did not have working smoke and/or carbon monoxide alarms. These tragedies were preventable.

Non-professional wiring is the second most common safety issue I find. While wiring may seem straight-forward to many, particularly with the help of friends and online resources, it is a complex system. My good friend Evan Jones (Owner of Evan Jones Master Electrician) has on the back of his van, "Wiring is not a hobby? hire an electrician!" I couldn't have said it better myself.

I'm sure you've noticed one slot is larger than the other in most modern receptacles. It's that way for a reason to ensure electrical appliances are properly grounded for your safety. In over 1/3 of the homes I inspect, I find reverse polarity outlets ? meaning they are wired backwards. As a homeowner, you may never know if an outlet is wired improperly until there is an electrical problem. So unless you know what you are doing, for your safety and mine, please do not attempt electrical repairs yourself!

It's not a bad idea to invest in an outlet tester (less than $10 at your local hardware store) and check your outlets for correct wiring. Also, replace any missing or broken outlet or switch covers as you go through the house.

Another commonly over-looked maintenance item is your home's heating system. Regardless of heating with wood, oil or gas, the chimney (or vent) needs to be inspected annually. This inspection is part of the annual maintenance a qualified technician should be performing on your gas- or oil-fired furnace or boiler. Not only does your technician clean and tune-up the system for efficiency, he is checking to make sure there are no Carbon Monoxide leaks or areas of concern in the appliance's ventilation system that could allow harmful by-products of combustion to enter your home.

If you heat with wood, and there's nothing that warms you to the bone like wood heat, your chimney should be cleaned and inspected annually (if not more frequently) prior to each heating season. Mid-to-late summer is a perfect time to schedule with your trusted chimney sweep! And now is a good time to re-read that section on smoke detectors.

What does a home inspector look for during a home inspection?

As a home inspector, it is my job to make sure you have a solid understanding of the condition of the structure and the systems within that make up your home. First and foremost we are looking for immediate safety concerns, such as missing smoke detectors, improper electrical wiring, broken glass, decks and railings that are not properly secured to the home's structure, unsafe chimneys and vents, etc? We do not focus on normal wear & tear items such as thumb tack holes in the walls, nor do we evaluate systems such as your cable or internet that do not have to do with the safety of your home.

I like to use the analogy of a home inspector acting as a general practitioner for your home. I'm looking for signs and symptoms that larger problems could be present that may not be readily visible to the untrained eye. The problems may be safety related, or they may just translate into large dollar signs. As an inspector, I am not an electrician, structural engineer, or an HVAC technician. Just like your doctor may recommend further evaluation by a specialist, I may do the same if something isn't working as it should.

What is the best piece of advice you can give someone who is about to have a home inspection?

As an inspector, I represent the house. I work for you, but ultimately represent the home. Please understand I do NOT work for anyone else involved in the Real Estate transaction. In fact, everything that has to do with the inspection is your information to do what you want with. No one else sees any information on the inspection report (unless you share it with them). I have nothing to sell you - It is my duty to provide you with an educated and unbiased opinion as to the health and condition of the systems that make up a home.

If you are in need of an inspection, make sure you are working with an inspector you feel comfortable with. Spend some time talking with your prospective inspector on the phone ? does he or she answer your questions to your satisfaction? Ask about the inspector's credentials? Are they part of a national organization? For example, I am a Certified Home Inspector through the National Association of Home Inspectors ( www.NACHI.org). That means I am held to a higher Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics than the State of NH's requires. And in order to retain that certification, I am required to complete many hours of coursework and re-certify annually. If you have a special circumstance, such as a log home or mobile/manufactured home, make sure your inspector is familiar with those building practices. Many inspectors hold additional certifications specifically for those types of buildings.

How do you suggest a homeowner prepares for a home inspection, if at all?

If you are selling your home, and the buyer has scheduled an inspection, make sure the inspector has safe access to as much of the home as possible. That includes the electrical panel, attic access, and the heating system. Don't try to hide any known problems. We've seen it all? from a fresh coat of paint (not even dry!) covering mold to stacks of boxes against a big crack in the foundation. If it looks like you don't want us to see something, we're going to look even harder. And please mow the lawn and/or shovel the walkways and steps, depending on the season!

If you are the buyer and getting ready for your first home inspection, particularly if you are a first-time buyer, come to the inspection in comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes that you don't mind getting a little dirty. Don't worry, I'm not going to have you climbing ladders and walking on the roof, but I am excited to be able to teach you about how your home works and what to expect in the weeks, months and years ahead! The inspection is a perfect opportunity to spend a couple hours in the home where you can go room-by-room opening doors, windows and cabinets, take measurements and start planning out how all of your stuff is going to fit in your new home.

Home inspections are not just for home buyers. While that is the largest source of work for an inspector, we are also available for home sellers to get a professional's opinion before putting your home on the market. Having an inspection performed before hand helps you sell with confidence. Not only can a pre-listing inspection help sell your home faster, it helps justify your asking price.

Not buying or selling? No problem! We offer home maintenance inspections to current homeowners that just want to learn more about how the house works, or if you are overwhelmed with so much 'stuff' that needs done, we can help you prioritize the list so it is more manageable and you know what to tackle first. Sometimes being accountable to someone else is the biggest help of all! If you are in need of a professional's help (such as plumbing and heating) we are more than happy to pass along the contact info for trusted professionals that I work with on a regular basis. Please know I will only pass along the names of those I know and trust to work on my own home.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

If readers would like more information or have questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to call, email or check us out online. Our blogs and newsletters are full of helpful tips for new homeowners and those that are seasoned veterans!

Phone: (603)767-1241

Email: Nick@PremierHouseInspection.com

Web: www.PremierHouseInspection.com

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About The Author

Born and raised in New Hampshire, Nick received his bachelor's degree in education...

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