Category Archives: inspections

WA State Energy Code’s New HVAC Requirement

This week one of our staff went to a WSU Extension Energy Program training in Wenatchee with a focus on duct sealing and testing requirements for the 2009 Washington State Energy Code for HVAC: 503.10.3 Sealing. We have two Energy Star Performance Technicians on staff so this class was more of a refresher course on duct testing but we did benefit from understanding more about the changes to the new HVAC requirements. Basically, the code is in a trial period. Contractors must test the HVAC now but do not have to meet the target rate of allowable leakage during this 120-day testing period. In April 2011 a judicial committee will listen to arguments from all sides and make a decision about the 503.10.3 Sealing WA State Energy Code.

We performed a HVAC leakage test on a home in South Wenatchee. The new construction home performed well. It would have passed the new requirements. It was interesting to note the small leakages that could be easily fixed by mastic. The equipment used for testing the HVAC includes a duct blaster, manometer and blower door which could add up to $5,000. This is a new expense to contractors. There is also discussion about requiring third party testing due to conflict of interest. Should HVAC contractors be able to test their own work?

 Here are a few interesting facts we learned in class this week. Did you know that 40% of a home’s fresh air comes from the crawl space or garage? Thinking about cleaning those spaces right now…aren’t you!? This is also a good time to remind you to open your garage door any time the car is on. A family of four can emit up to 3 gallons of water into a home daily from sweating, showering, cooking, etc. Where do the 12 gallons of water go? Be sure to use your oven and bathroom exhaust fans regularly!

Home Show in Wenatchee: Feb. 11-13th

Home Show Wenatchee Town Toyota CenterEvery year the NCHBA or North Central Home Builders Association produces a spectacular home show in Wenatchee, Washington.  There’s a little something for everyone whether you are interested in remodeling, decorating, building, buying or selling a home…they’ve got all the experts there for your questions!  Here’s some info from their website.  Download this COUPON for $1 off admission:

This year, we have a lot of new things going on and are very excited to “get the Show on the road”! The Kid’s Zone by Lowe’s is going to be fantastic this year. Not only will the kids be able to build their own project with a professional from Lowe’s, they can go on a scavenger hunt with their parents or enjoy FREE ice skating on Friday and Saturday. So, if you have kids that are 12 and under, make sure to take them to the Kids Zone by Lowe’s, located in the Crunch-Pak Hospitality Room on the the main floor of the Town Toyota Center!  Workshops and How-to’s that you WON’T want to miss! Come and see what the Master Gardeners have to demonstrate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the show!   Be one of the first 250 attendees on Saturday and Sunday and receive a special Home Show Entrance Bag! These bags will be filled with small gifts, specials and discount coupons from participating sponsors and vendors! These bags will also come in very handy when you need a place to stow away other information and items you gather!  There will be additional event parking available for attendees across the street at Walla Walla Point Park, both parking lots, as well as at Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. Many thanks to Lowe’s for generously allowing our Home Show attendees to use half of their parking lot for our event!

Wenatchee – Leavenworth Tour of Homes Sept. 16-19

wenatchee home inspectionTomorrow will start the North Central Home Builder Association’s annual Tour of Homes with 8 homes throughout Leavenworth, Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. You’ll get a little bit of everything in Central Washington from a grand home in the heart of the Bavarian-themed ski retreat town to an energy-efficient Energy Star home in the Apple Capital. AMS Inspection Services is a member of the NCHBA and will be helping on the tour so stop by and see us!

Details and Tickets HERE

2010 Real Estate Outlook

I just attended the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Real Estate Outlook breakfast panel discussion on April 22nd. This event provided valuable information and discussed the indicators of the health and direction of the economy…and in effect- the real estate market. The panel included an appraiser, a construction company owner, a mortgage broker, realtor, commercial property manager.

The panel was split on their feelings about the direction of 2010. It was about a 50-50 positive- negative outlook. I’m “the glass is half full” kind of guy so the positive notes inspired me and were really appreciated. Everyone was in agreement that slow growth in the real estate market would be equally healthy and almost inevitable. The big boom from a few years ago isn’t happening again any time soon and for several good reasons. A bubble will always burst. Here’s what I learned from the Wenatchee Valley experts:

The real estate services professional, commented on the slow commercial leasing market. Rents have reduced from $22 per square foot to $12-14 per square foot. Down payments have increased from 25-40%. East Wenatchee is becoming a popular location with several vacancies showing up downtown.

The appraiser indicated that there is a 2-year supply of 500k+ homes and a healthier 1-year supply of 100-200k homes. He agreed that rents are being lowered in order to keep filled. It appears that an occupied space is better than a vacant one, even if it’s not getting its full value.

The contractor remained positive and boasted profits even though he performed below “boom time.” His company modified their target consumer. Now they get more contracts for folks moving into town or retiring and downsizing. They see far less First Time Home Buyers and have yet to sell a home to anyone taking advantage of the 8k home buyer’s credit. I was really surprised to hear this because so many of my realtor friends have been able to help their clients with this credit. This contractor is seeing more buyers paying with cash or financing with great credit and their company offers financing. A true concern for their company is supply costs. With plants closing there is (as Jay explains) an “artificial shortage” that increase the supply costs dramatically, but he also says that if you “provide custom quality at spec house prices, they’ll buy!”

The mortgage expert provided some cold, hard facts to keep us on our toes. Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are pulling the purse strings with tighter requirements. There was a small increase in foreclosures in Chelan County this year but we’ve remained above the state or country average. He suspected that the government policing will decrease growth and concluded that the market is 15% above the long term trend. I asked him for clarification on this. The long term trend is calculated by taking housing appreciation and adding 3% per year. After keying the calculator, in his opinion the market will still decline 15%. Food for thought…Approach with caution or take advantage while you can?

The realtor added more positive spin on the morning. Her introduction: “realtors look forward and appraisers look backward.” With 21 counties in the Northwest Multiple Listings she has seen a 51% increase in pending sales. The March 2010 pending sales were up 35% from March 2009. This is great news! The hottest price range in Chelan County is $250-300k which is also comforting because the Appraiser said there is a 2-year supply of these homes. We need to put them to work! The realtor concluded that she has worked harder than she ever has since her start in 1993. Consumers are making responsible decisions but require a lot of education, hands-on attention, negotiating, meetings and counseling. It’s not coming easy anymore but it is comforting to know that our consumers are making wiser choices.

Well, this was a well-rounded discussion of where the real estate market has come from and where 2010 may take us. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll all approach with caution. We’ve got to get creative in this industry and maybe change tactics a bit, but our consumers are strong and aware. As a home inspector we want our clients to be very active in the services that we provide. Being present on inspections and asking questions is strongly encouraged. It appears that consumers are taking their time to make wise decisions and planning quality investments. That’s good news to me.