How to Prepare Your Clients for their Home Inspection


Have your clients ever had a bad experience with their home inspection? Or are you working with new home buyers who are unsure about what a home inspection entails? Home inspections can sometimes be a fear-inducing part of the home inspection process for all parties involved. If undisclosed problems with the house arise during the inspection, it can cause conflict and confusion between buyers and sellers. Giving your client additional information about the home inspection process and what to expect can reduce any anxiety and help everything go more smoothly. 


1. Tell your clients to expect problems to arise during the inspection. We have yet to do an inspection on a home, old or new, that is in perfect condition with no defects or safety hazards. Even if the city inspector already viewed the property, professional home inspections are much more thorough, and critical to making an informed decision about a sale. Many problems we identify are inexpensive and simple to fix, and even the most fear-inducing home inspection finds (like a cracked foundation) don’t have to ruin a deal.


2. Inform them about the scope of the inspection. Make sure your client is aware that a home inspection is a visual inspection, and won’t reveal every single issue with the home, especially when it comes to things that could be hidden behind walls. It will, however, reveal larger structural issues and safety hazards, and give you general (but thorough) description of the state the property is in. Showing your clients an actual inspection report can give them a better idea of what goes into the inspection and how to read the report. We have a sample home inspection report here that you could show clients who are first-time home buyers or are unsure about what to expect.


3. Encourage your clients to attend at least part of the inspection. Buyers aren’t always sure whether they should attend the inspection, and while they don’t have to be present for the inspection, it can be very beneficial if they are available. If your clients have a busy schedule, advise them to come for part of the inspection, or about an hour to an hour and a half after the inspection begins. This will give the inspector time to get a solid start while leaving time to talk about any issues or safety hazards he finds. It’s a really good idea that you as an agent attend the inspection when your client does to show them that you support them and can ask any questions that the buyer didn’t think of. Just don’t try to interpret the inspectors’ findings in your own words, because you could potentially be liable for conveying any false information to the buyer. 


4. Tell your client to read the inspection report. This may be a no-brainer to you, but some people see this as unnecessary and skip reading the report. Remind your clients to read the inspection report all the way through, and not to simply depend on you to look over it. It’s better to catch something on the report early and ask the inspector about it than to wait until it turns into a bigger problem. Some people might find home inspection reports to be difficult to read, and may go to their agent to help clarify things. If you don’t understand something or have questions, don’t make assumptions and always call the office or the inspector first. 


Home inspections can bring up undisclosed problems with the house, which may cause confusion and panic in a deal. Especially when working with first-time home buyers, preparing your clients for the inspection ahead of time can prevent miscommunication and conflict. You’ll look like a pro guiding your clients through the inspection, and they’ll remember you for the capable and knowledgeable real estate agent that you are. 

Don’t Leave Your Listing Out in the Cold!


We may still be in denial about it, but cold weather is officially here. While summer has its own host of home maintenance problems, like greater pest and termite activity, cold temperatures and harsh weather can cause a myriad of issues as well. Whether you have a listing that won’t seem to sell, or a vacation home in Florida calling your name, remember to winterize the home before leaving it unoccupied for prolonged periods of time.



Why is winterizing your home or listing so important?


First and foremost, you can prevent disasters from occurring and leaving lasting damage.


There are 3 main parts of the home that should be paid close attention when winter is approaching: doors, windows, and pipes. Doors and windows allow air to leak even when they’re closed, and the energy lost can be significant when the temperature is low.


Freezing temperatures and accumulated snow and ice can damage both the exterior and interior of the home. Any stagnant water in the pipes can freeze and expand, potentially causing the pipe to burst. This can cause massive moisture damage depending on the size of the leak, and the longer the home is unoccupied, the more likely a leak can go unnoticed.


If you are planning on leaving a home unoccupied for a few weeks or more, consider having a professional winterize the home. Our inspectors have years of experience, and can accurately and efficiently winterize your home or listing. Professional winterizations take the hassle and worry out of trying to winterize and de-winterize everything yourself.


Cornerstone Winterizations include:


  1. Air compressors blow water out of pipes. This ensures that water won’t freeze and cause the pipes to burst.
  2. Antifreeze is placed in all the drain traps.
  3. Water heater is drained and shut off.
  4. Heat is turned down to save energy (and money).


Our winterizations are guaranteed so long as we do BOTH the winterization AND the de-winterization.


Also, if you choose us to winterize your listing and then receive an offer on the home, we offer de-winterizations for less than half the price when performed in addition to the regular home inspection.


Some other things you can do to protect your home:

  • Insulate your pipes, especially in areas like the garage, crawlspace, and basement, where temperatures are typically colder. This can be done relatively easily with foam pipes. You can read more about how to do this here.
  • Add more insulation to your attic. Attic insulation is most effective around 10-14 inches thick. Measure your insulation with a ruler to determine whether you need more. By adding the proper amount of insulation, you can typically save anywhere from 10 to 50 percent on your energy bill each month!
  • Weatherstrip windows and doors. Even if the home will be occupied during the winter, weatherstripping doors and windows that you don’t use often can keep a lot of heat inside the home and do wonders for your energy bills. There are several different types of weatherstripping to choose from. Check out this list from the Department of Energy here for a comparative chart before you get started.
  • Check up on your furnace and change the filter if necessary. Furnace filters should be changed about once every month during colder months to get the most life out of the furnace.



4 Tips for Winterizing Your Home

10 Rainy Day Home Maintenance Tasks


Rainy days are a great excuse to stay home, curl up on the couch, and dive into a good book or your new favorite Netflix series. However, if you’re restless with nothing to do, there are many home maintenance tasks that can be performed during inclement weather. Investing time and care into your home is investing in yourself, and not every maintenance task takes all day! Get ahead of repairs by doing some of these 10 home maintenance tasks, all of which take less than an hour.

  1. Check for leaks around the interior of the home. Rainy days are the best time to look out for cracks and any signs of moisture inside the house. Pay close attention to where the ceiling meets the walls, and also where the gutter is located, as these are some of the first places moisture damage will appear. Make sure to seal any cracks or problem areas to prevent further damage.
  2. Inspect your gutters and clean them if necessary. If gutters are clogged with leaves and other debris, they can cause moisture to build up and possibly damage the home. If water damage is visible, use a mix of bleach and water to remove the stain. You can find out more about how to do that here.
  3. Clean your trash can – trash cans are dirty by nature, but the longer you leave it, the more bacteria will grow. Don’t let trash cans get too gross. Make sure to wash trash bins with hot water and antibacterial soap about once a month, or more if it smells particularly unpleasant. Here’s an article that explains how to clean your kitchen trash can.  Also, don’t forget about the larger, city owned trash bin you keep in your garage! Bacteria and strange odors can attract pests into your garage or home, so if you find yourself cringing every time you open the lid, you might want to consider There are commercial trash can cleaners that can efficiently clean bins with a power washing truck, and they take around 2 minutes to completely clean the bin. This service is definitely worth your time and money if you’ve been dealing for some time with a smelly garbage bin or garage.
  4. Clean pet food and water bowls – same principle as cleaning your trash can regularly. Bacteria and grime can build up and be consumed directly by your pets. Food and water bowls should be scrubbed with antibacterial soap using hot water for the best results.
  5. Clean and unclog your garbage diposal. Your garbage disposal is another area of the home that can harbor bad bacteria and grime, and clogs can easily form from any build up. You can read here about an easy way to clean your garbage disposal without any additional tools.
  6. Purge your fridge of expired and rotten food. People tend to keep food that they know they won’t eat, just to not waste food. If your leftovers haven’t been eaten within a week of when they were made, it’s probably time to let them go.
  7. Flip your mattress either vertically or horizontally. This can extend the life of your mattress and prevent it from sagging where you usually sleep. It’s a small step that many people neglect to do, but could make you feel like you’re sleeping on a brand-new bed again and extend the mattress’ life by years.
  8. Test your GFCI outlets by plugging in a small appliance and pressing the test button. If the ground fault circuit interrupter is working properly, all power will be cut off to the small appliance and it should stop working. When you press the reset button, power should return and the appliance should resume functioning as normal.
  9. Un-clog sink and shower drains where you notice water draining more slowly than normal, or if there are any unwanted odors present. Click here for a list of ten simple ways to unclog drains.
  10. Clean your coffee maker or Keurig. Can you remember the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? You can read about cleaning your coffee maker with vinegar here, and here if you have a Keurig.


Moisture damage is a very common find in our home inspection reports. What better way to combat the rainy day blues (and moisture damage) than by investing time into the health of your home and appliances? Comment below if you did any of these tasks recently, and let us know how it went!

Going Deeper with Sewer Cam Inspections


Sewer lines and piping lie mostly beneath the ground, and when something’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Water and sewer lines can often be neglected or ignored for years, that is, until water begins backing up and leaking into the home. If you’re thinking about purchasing an older home, a sewer line inspection is one of the most important inspections to have before closing. Cornerstone offers sewer camera inspections as an additional service whether or not you need a full home inspection. Depending on the closing contract, the seller may be responsible for repairing any clogged or damaged sewer lines. Failing sewer lines are common, and a sewer cam inspection is the best way to catch any clogs or blockages.


When should you consider a sewer cam inspection?

 Always, if the home is 20 years or older. If the home is new, find out whether the sewer lines and piping are new as well. Sometimes a brand new or newly-renovated home is build atop old sewer lines. This is especially important in older communities where pipes can be 50+ years old, more so than new subdivisions. If you are selling a home, you should consider getting a sewer inspection. You could be liable for fixing the piping if the buyer finds problems before you do. Also, pipes that are new or in good condition are a desirable selling point in a hot market.




When do sewer lines fail?

One of the most common reasons is tree root intrusion. Tree roots grow larger over time, and the wood can expand or shrink depending on how much moisture is present in the soil. Roots grow towards water, so if there is a crack in the sewer lines, roots can grow into the piping almost immediately. Tree roots cause things like hair and grease to build up and clog pipes, which could cause water to back up and come out at the sump pump or elsewhere. Also, natural ground movement can impact sewer lines as well, particularly in areas where earthquakes are common. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about that much in Indiana, but tree roots and old piping are still fairly common issues.




How does a sewer camera inspection work?

A small camera attached to a long cord is inserted into the homes piping through the clean-out and is pushed as far as possible up to 100 ft. (or the length of the cord). The inspector can see the condition of the pipes in real time, but also reviews the video afterwards to make sure nothing was missed. Sewer camera inspections are fast, simple, and non-invasive, and are certainly worth your time as a home buyer. You can view a video of one of our inspectors performing a sewer cam inspection here. Our sewer inspections are fast and thorough, and will give you peace of mind before moving your family into an older home. 



Purchasing a sewer cam inspection now may seem expensive, but compared to the cost of replacing a failing sewer line, it’s an inspection you can’t afford to skip. The cost to repair a main sewer line is an average of $2,444. Ordering a sewer cam inspection prior to closing can save you thousands of dollars in repair and damage fees, as well as the hassle and stress that accompanies a failing sewer line.




Will Inspectors Break Into A Sealed Attic?


The attic is one of the most significant areas in any home, and a really important component of the home inspection report. The attic is where most of a home’s insulation is located, and can make a substantial difference in your energy usage (9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are reportedly under-insulated). While it’s super important to check the insulation in attics, many attics are sealed or caulked at the time of the home inspection. Nearly every inspector has encountered sealed attics and subsequently can’t complete that part of the inspection.


New build homes often have access to the attic sealed off. This can make the inspection more difficult, as home inspectors can’t break the seal unless given permission to do so by the seller. If no one is present at the inspection, and access is sealed, a re-inspection is necessary to complete the attic inspection.  


Most inspectors will break the seal themselves when given the O.K. by the seller. You can see a video of how inspectors break the attic seal here. However, if attic access needs to be cut open, it cuts into an inspector’s time and can leave them rushing through the rest of the inspection. Some inspectors won’t break attics themselves for that reason. The seller or listing agent might not be aware that the attic has been sealed. It’s important for all parties to communicate so access is available to the inspector and he or she won’t need to perform a re-inspection.


Inspectors try to avoid re-inspections as much as their clients do. It’s best not to assume access to the attic is readily available. If you are purchasing new construction, don’t forget to ask your agent about the attic’s accessibility before ordering a home inspection. Double checking the status of the attic is a quick extra step that could save you time, money and hassle later.

What Should I Do if I Can’t Attend My Home Inspection?


You offer was accepted and you just signed a contract to purchase your beautiful new home! Your next step is to order a home inspection – a stress-inducing part of the home-buying process that must be performed in less than 10-14 days. Now, you have less than two weeks to find a time that works for you, your agent, and the seller, not to mention kids, pets, work, et cetera. Every day when our awesome clients call in to schedule a home inspection, we hear one same question more than anything else: “Do I have to be there?”


In a word, no, you don’t need to attend your home inspection in-person. As long as they have access to the house, inspectors can accomplish everything required in the inspection by themselves.


So, what should you do if you can’t attend the home inspection?


1. If you can, attend the very end of the inspection. Sometimes this is more convenient than attending the inspection from the beginning! Inspections typically take an hour and a half to two hours long. For example, if your inspection is scheduled at 9:00AM but this is a bad time for you, consider arriving between 10:30-11:00AM. By arriving towards the end, you still have the opportunity to ask the home inspector any questions you have, and the inspector can show you in-person where potential safety hazards are located. Also, they can point out some things that aren’t typically included in the inspection, but may be helpful to know. If you already know you only want to attend the end of the inspection, make it known when you schedule so that the inspector is aware – their schedules can be busy, and if no one is present they will leave as soon as the inspection is finished.


2. Read the inspection report – don’t just skim it! This should always be done regardless if you were present or not. Inspection reports can be short or long, depending on the condition of the house and the inspectors manner of writing. Pictures are present to help give you the most complete understanding of the inspectors findings, and can help you better understand what was meant in the (sometimes confusing) inspection report. It may take awhile, but it’s worth it to know as much as possible about the property before diving into your potential future investment. To view a sample home inspection report, click here


3. Call/Email the inspector. Home inspectors are happy to share their expertise by answering any questions you have personally. If you aren’t able to catch the very end but still want to talk to the inspector, call the office and request your inspectors phone number. While they may be busy during the week with inspections, they are more than happy to set up a time to discuss the inspection report and any concerns you have. Emailing the inspector works too, especially if you are busy yourself. Inspectors are re-educated every year on the latest industry technology and issues, and they are experts at what they do. If you have any questions regarding the home and inspection report, they are the ones to ask.


Inspectors understand that your schedule is busy, and the time constraint of an inspection contingency period can add additional stress to an already difficult process. Consider attending the last 15 minutes of the inspection, or simply following up with your inspector – you can still glean as much insight into the findings as you’d have being present for the full 2 hours. 

5 Home Inspection Red Flags


If you’re holding your breath during your home inspection, you’re not alone. Real estate agents, buyers, and sellers alike never want to find big ticket items, like the roof or foundation, anywhere on the inspection report. However, even the most intimidating issues are common to inspectors, and when things do come up, it’s important to know that you have options.




1. Standing water: Standing water is a common find during our inspections, usually in the basement or crawlspace. Pooled water is not only an indication of problems in the home, such as leaking pipes or an improperly sloped foundation, but can also lead to other issues, namely mold. Excessive moisture can cause wood rot, threatening the structural integrity of the home. It can also cause mold to grow, which can sometimes produce harmful toxins and decrease the value of the home. Over time, too much moisture in the soil underneath and around the home can cause problems with the foundation as well, so it’s important not to ignore any signs of moisture. The cost to fix this issue varies on what’s causing the water to pool and how long moisture has been present. A misdirected downspout, for example, can introduce lots of water into the home, but is an easy and inexpensive fix.




2. Mold problems: Mold problems can be scary, especially if there will be young children, seniors, or anyone with a compromised immune system living in the home. If you begin to see or smell mold in your home, there’s likely more lurking behind the walls or in other unseen places. We all breathe in small amounts of mold everyday, and not every type of mold produces hazardous toxins, but even non-toxic mold in large amounts can cause allergic symptoms. Mold that produces myotoxins, like black mold, can cause fatal health issues and should be addressed immediately. Mold removal typically costs $1,000-$5,000, and can cost significantly more if the damage is severe (i.e., flooding), so adding a mold inspection on to your regular inspection is always a good idea. Infrared cameras are used by some inspection companies to detect moisture, but they cannot accurately tell you whether or not mold is present. Therefore, a traditional mold inspection is necessary if you have any concerns about mold in the home. If you have allergies or excess moisture, a dehumidifier is a great investment, ranging from $50-400 but potentially saving you thousands in moisture problems.




3. Roof problems: A roof can look perfectly normal from the street, but up close, it may not actually be in good condition. When shingles begin cracking, curling, or falling off, the roof is reaching the end of its useful life. Roof problems are notorious for being one of the most expensive thing to fix on a home. An inexpensive roof replacement can cost $15,000, and goes up to $150,000 depending on the size and quality of the roof.



4. Foundation problems: Every single home and building settles over time – it’s when these problems are ignored for long periods of time that they can turn into huge, structural issues. Foundation problems usually occur when soil gains moisture and expands. If the soil beneath the home is not properly compacted while the home is being built, this can cause big problems down the road. Luckily, in Indiana, most of the clays in our soil have limited swelling potential, meaning that soils will not distort the foundation of the house as much as soil in, say, Southern Louisiana. Some homes can last for 25+ years without any work done to the foundation, while others need repairs in less than 5. Some cracks can be filled in easily, while others point to more widespread damage. Each house is different, and a home inspection is an important tool to learn about the ‘health’ of the homes structural integrity.



5. DRYVIT EIFS: When installed properly, an exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS, also known as DRYVIT) can be extremely effective at insulating a home and saving energy. Problems arise when improper installation leaves space for moisture to seep behind the DRYVIT, without any way for it to escape, leading to wood rot problems like the home pictured above. When neglected for a long time, a rotted exterior of the home costs tens of thousands of dollars to repair. Your home inspector will be able to tell you whether the exterior of your home was built with DRYVIT and can test for the presence of moisture. It’s important to know whether or not DRYVIT/EIFS was used, but it certainly does not have to be a deal breaker, for it’s actually superior at insulating the home when installed properly.


Just because some of these problems show up in a home inspection report, doesn’t mean that the home is a bad investment. Remember, a house can’t pass or fail a home inspection. Inspections are a tool designed to give you more information about the functioning of the house, performed by inspectors who have seen thousands of different homes in their career. They are a valuable resource for learning more about the problems present, and can reassure you about their findings. If you are concerned about something in the report and you can’t attend your inspection, call the office (or the inspector directly) and ask them for more information. Inspectors are happy to talk through the issues  with you and let you know whether you need to call in a specialist, or if it’s a simple DIY fix.



4 Reasons You Should (Actually) Read Your Home Inspection Contract

Who reads contracts anymore?


Isn’t it ironic how our society is bombarded with so many different contracts meant to inform us, to the point that we often don’t even take the time to begin to read documents before signing our name?


One document you shouldn’t neglect to read is your home inspection contract. We try to keep our paperwork short, sweet, and complete, so that you have the time in your busy schedule to read the documents over and sign them prior to the inspection.


4 Reasons to (actually) read your home inspection contract:


  1. The contract outlines the scope and purpose of the home inspection. Home inspections are, by nature, fairly limited as they are exclusively visual inspections. Many compare getting a home inspection to getting a physical, with home inspectors being like general practitioners. They can make a complete, thorough evaluation, but will refer you to a specialist if they find something out of their range of knowledge. 
  2. The contract protects you from invasive inspections. We do not tear up walls, floors, or ceilings during the inspection unless we are given special permission by you, the client. This is why it’s also important to ensure that the inspector has readily available access to the attic, basement, and crawlspace before the inspection takes place. Otherwise, we might not be able to fully inspect the home and have to schedule a re-inspection.
  3. The contract explains that the inspection is NOT a code compliance inspection. Home inspectors don’t look specifically for code violations, but instead look for safety hazards and major defects. You shouldn’t be worried, though – inspectors will inform you of anything they find that could be a threat to your safety and well-being, whether it is a code violation or not. Chances are, unless the home is new, there is at least a code violation or two somewhere. 
  4. The contract ensures that you know you are using a licensed home inspector. Prior to 2005, you did not have to have a nationally accredited license to charge people for inspecting their home in Indiana. Thankfully, that’s now illegal, and you can know for sure that your inspector has been properly trained and educated according to state guidelines.


Not all contracts should be treated like an iTunes agreement! Reading and signing the contract prior to the inspection is an invaluable step that should take no more than ten minutes of your time. As always, your inspector will be happy to answer any additional questions you have about the scope of the inspection and what they’ll be looking for. Knowing what to expect during your home inspection by reading the contract puts you in the best position to make an educated decision about your potential investment. 


How Long Will Your Appliances Last?

The ages of your fridge, washer/dryer, HVAC units, etc. aren’t at the front of your mind during day-to-day life. However, when something breaks or you decide to sell your home, the age and condition of these appliances make a difference. To make things easier, we listed the expectancy of various appliances around the home and how much they cost to replace.


AC: 15-20 years and $5,230 according to Angie’s List, but top of the line air conditioning unit can cost up to $10,000.


Dishwasher: A good dishwasher should last 9-16 years worth of dishes and cost $600-$1,000 to replace.


Washing machine: Washing machines tend to last 8-16 years and cost between $600-$1,400 to replace, depending on how nice the model is.


Dryer: Dryers have a similar cost and lifespan as washers: 11-18 years and $600-$1,400.


Furnace: Furnaces are expensive to replace at an average of $3,880, but should last the home for a significant amount of time: about 15-20 years.


Water Heater: A water heater tank lasts for 8-12 years and costs $889 to replace, while a tankless heater can last up to 20 years for $3,000.


Range: An electric stove will last roughly 15 years, and a gas stove range tends to last slightly longer at 19 years. Electric ranges run cheaper at about $500 to replace, while gas stoves are more expensive with an average of $600-$1000.


Fridge: Your refrigerator should last an average of 14 years, with a replacement cost of between $600 and $1,500.


Roof: Roofs are notorious for being expensive fixes. They should last 20-30 years when properly installed, and the replacement price is highly variable between $7,000 to $50,00 depending on roof size, materials, and labor.

Radon: Carcinogenic and Commonplace in Indy

Physical health is extremely important to our well-being, and many of us have several routines or behaviors we do often to stay healthy. Smoking tobacco is becoming less and less popular as more people are educated about its effects on respiratory health, and nearly everyone today knows that cigarettes and tobacco use are  harmful to the body.


Smoking may be the number one cause of lung cancer in the U.S., but the second leading cause is a silent killer that’s not at the forefront of our consciousness the same way smoking is – and that’s radon. If you don’t smoke for your health, but your house is contaminated with radon, you might experience lung damage similar to smoking anyway – and its all completely preventable.


The EPA recommends always getting a radon test whether you are buying or selling your home. Radon is a odorless, colorless, and cancer causing, radioactive gas. It is a naturally occurring byproduct of the breakdown of uranium in soil, and it’s rampant in central Indiana. It’s found mostly in basements and the lower levels of the home, but it doesn’t discriminate; you can find radon gas in every home regardless of the homes features or location. No matter how new the house is, or whether or not there is a basement, there can still be deadly levels of radon present.


With proper testing, you can get the results of the radon levels in your home in as little as 48 hours. Anything over 4 pCi/L is considered dangerous, and steps should be taken immediately to remove radon from the home. The EPA claims the risk of getting cancer from radon exposure at this amount is 5 times more likely than dying in a car accident.



Even homes that have extremely high amounts of radon can be reduced to a normal, healthy level. Hire a certified radon technician to avoid testing mistakes or inaccurate readings. Let the test sit undisturbed at the lowest level of the home (either the basement or crawlspace) for at least 48 hours. Keep all doors and windows closed, only opening doors for normal entry and exit, during the entire span of the test. If a reading of more than 4 pCi/L is found, you should contact a radon-reduction specialist to remove the radon and have a radon mitigation system installed. Even if you have a mitigation system, you should still have your radon tested every few years to ensure the system still functions properly. 


Especially if you live in a high-risk area, it’s important to have a raised awareness about the dangers of radon and the preventative measures that can be taken. You should absolutely have your radon tested every few years if you live in or around Central Indiana, where there are higher-than-average radon measurements. No matter how young, old, or healthy you are, and whether you smoke a pack a day or have never touched a cigarette, each person living around high levels of radon is at risk for lung cancer. 



Info from: