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ZIPLEVEL Foundation Elevations – Helpful or Hype?

We are frequently asked if we utilize ZIPLEVELs for providing foundation elevations as part of the inspection. We have spent a good deal of time researching their use, and this is what we learned about the usefulness of this tool and why we choose not to offer this service:
 

What is Required When Reporting Foundation Performance

 
It’s important to start by discussing what is required of a home inspector regarding the reporting on the performance of the foundation.

All home inspectors in Texas are licensed and regulated by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and are required to follow the TREC Standards of Practice (Standards). In accordance with the Standards, the inspector is required to “render an opinion as to the performance of the foundation” and “generally report present and visible indications used to render the opinion of adverse performance such as: binding, out-of-square, non-latching doors; framing or frieze board separations; sloping floors; window, wall, floor, or ceiling cracks or separations; and rotating, buckling, cracking, or deflecting masonry cladding.”

The following is specifically NOT REQUIRED in the Standards:

  • “Use of specialized equipment including elevation determining devices”, i.e., ZIPLEVEL.

The TREC requires inspectors to base their opinion of performance on the visible condition of the structure, specifically regarding the indicators of adverse performance noted above using their knowledge and experience in understanding the movement of foundations.

While inspectors are not prohibited from going beyond the Standards and using “specialized equipment”, and there are times when it is prudent to exceed them, the problem arises when the inspection process is exposed to legal issues when the home inspectors’ actions may be infringing on the practice of engineering for which they may not be licensed.

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE) issued a Policy Advisory stating that so long as the TREC inspector stayed within the TREC Standards, they would not be in violation of the Texas Engineering Practice Act. Here is the Analysis and Conclusion of the Policy Advisory:

“Analyzing the cause of a condition, recommendations for repair, or providing any other expert engineering
opinion associated with a foundation, including the foundations systems and components, would be considered the practice of engineering per the Act §1001.003(c)(1) and could warrant disciplinary action from the Texas Board of Professional Engineers if conducted by an individual unlicensed as a Professional Engineer (PE). We conclude that a TREC licensed inspector who conducts a visual real estate inspection in conformance with the TREC Standards of Practice does not engage in the practice of engineering.”

For this reason alone, the foundation inspection may not be a time where it is prudent to exceed the Standards of a visual inspection.
 

ZIPLEVEL Claims Made by Home Inspectors

 
Home inspectors that offer foundation elevations often advertise that this type of inspection will provide more information than other inspectors are able to. Here a few samples of the claims made:

  • “Don’t mess around with a visual inspection of your home’s foundation; get your foundation measured. We utilize the latest technology, the Zip Level Pro-2000…. We want you to move in with “peace of mind” knowing for a fact that your foundation is in great condition.”
  • “Foundation worries? If you live in Texas, the answer is probably yes. Before you call in an expensive structural engineer or foundation repair company, we can perform a Foundation Elevation, an inexpensive, thorough way to get the information you need.”
  • “These measurements will show you if, where, and/or to what degree it is out of level. If you are buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to get this level of detail, particularly in North Texas where movement is almost a given. Knowing whether (and how much) work is needed will affect your decision making about the price of the home and/or whether or not to purchase it.”

The problem with these claims is that:

  • The home inspector is required to perform a visual inspection as they can’t form the required opinion regarding the performance of the foundation without it.
  • The most inexpensive, thorough way to get the information you need is the visual review looking for the indications of adverse performance.
  • No foundation is completely “level” when it is constructed and foundations in expansive clay soil areas of Texas will move. These foundations are designed for movement, and some movement is expected. Certainly, some houses suffer from too much movement. However, many – if not most – are undergoing normal foundation movement created by expansive clay soils.
  • Knowing whether a foundation is “out of level” cannot tell you if the foundation has experienced differential movement without having a second set of measurements taken in the past for comparison. Determining if a foundation has ever moved or deflected (adverse performance) is best evaluated by looking at the criteria required by the TREC. Additionally, it would be problematic if a home inspector gives an opinion as to “whether (and how much) work is needed” as this would violate the Texas Engineering Practice Act unless they are also licensed as a Professional Engineer.

Besides the fact that there are no required certifications or training needed to use a ZIPLEVEL, our greatest concern is that rather than providing peace of mind, foundation elevations might create unrealistic or uninformed expectations from the inspection while not providing any additional risk reduction.​
 

ZIPLEVEL Disclaimers

 
We also found that when home inspectors offer ZIPLEVEL foundation elevations they often include disclaimers that state something like the following:

  • “Elevation measurements can be useful but should not be relied on as a definitive statement of foundation condition.
  • “It should be noted that foundations may reveal some unevenness due to workmanship (as built). Therefore, measurements do not necessarily represent the actual degree of deflection from differential movement of the foundation…. these deviations/slopes are not, by themselves, a measurement of foundation movement.”

These disclaimers are in stark contrast to the claims made and it could be argued that if the elevation measurements should not be relied upon, what’s the point of using the ZIPLEVEL?
 

Are Foundation Elevations Useful for Home Inspections

 
A one-time reading of the elevations of a foundation cannot determine if the foundation has moved differentially. “Movement” is a function of time. Taking the elevations of the foundation during a home inspection can only define the configuration of the foundation at the time of the inspection. Documenting foundation “movement” is not possible without the “as built” elevations to compare with because errors in original construction may indicate movement where movement did not occur.

Without comparable measurements taken at the same locations at different points in time to determine movement, the performance of a foundation can only be determined during a home inspection by observing the performance of the structure. A foundation that is performing adversely will negatively affect the structural integrity of the home thus allowing the inspector to see the indicators. If a foundation is performing as expected, there will be no indications of adverse performance regardless of what the elevation readings are.

Unless you’re willing to pay the price, built into the inspection fee or otherwise, to have a benchmark for future elevation comparisons then real estate transactions are not the time to perform foundation elevations.

This month we had the opportunity to chat with Richard Kunkel, an accomplished Realtor in Grand Prairie, TX and valued Realtor partner of The Home Inspectors. Richard has been doing investments for 15 plus years and has been a licensed Realtor for 3 years now. Richard shared with us why he went into real estate, advice for new Realtors and home buyers, and why he chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

I chose to work in real estate to help families find their dream home. Born and raised in the area has helped me use my experience to help my clients find the perfect home.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

My favorite thing about being a Realtor is helping families realize the American Dream and seeing the smile on their face.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

Cars and Exercise

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

Never burn bridges and respect others.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Speak with a trusted Realtor and a Loan Officer.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

The top notch professionalism and their willingness to always help out.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

The personal interaction and level of details.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

If you want top notch home inspections with a personal touch you are in the right place!

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

This month Courtney Gregory with The Kimberly Davis Group at Keller Williams Plano is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Courtney has been an agent since 2017 and she has partnered with The Home Inspectors since she started in real estate. Courtney shared with us why she went into real estate, advice for new Realtors and home buyers, and why she chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

I started purchasing real estate in my early 20s, so I’ve learned a ton about being a home owner/real estate investor. I wanted to share my knowledge and wisdom with others and help them build their own generational wealth.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

Being a realtor resource to others, while they make one of their most important financial decisions, is my favorite thing about being a Realtor.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

I love to travel the world with my husband and kids, run long distances, and try new foods.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

Success is simple, not easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. To truly become successful in this industry, you must do the actions that build your skills daily and intentionally. Failing forward is a must. In my opinion, these are the cornerstones to building wisdom and stability in this industry.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Do not buy or sell on your own. With so many changes in the housing market, an experienced agent can be extremely useful resource. They specialize in real estate, and there is power in repetition. Using a realtor will save you money, time and frustration in the long run.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

I have always appreciated The Home Inspectors for their knowledgeable inspectors and investment in technology and tools that make my job easier when assisting my clients.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

The Home Inspectors will always follow up with my clients (post-inspection) to make sure they completely understand the results of the services they purchased. It helps them to confidently make decisions during the repair negotiation process.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

I believe The Home Inspectors are a reputable partner and would recommend them to anyone, even my family, for their home inspector needs.

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

This month Erica Taylor with JP & Associates – Frisco is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Erica has been in business for 6 years and is a valued Realtor partner of The Home Inspectors! Erica shared why she went into real estate, advice for new Realtors and home buyers, and why she chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

After the horrible experience I had with my first realtor, I wanted to make sure that no one else had the same experience I did. Not to mention, at the time, realtors had a bad reputation for being in it for the money. I wanted to change that. I’m a people person and referral and reputation means a lot to me.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

The relationships I build with my clients and vendors.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

I enjoy being outdoors, DIY projects, and hunting with my labs.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

Work smarter not harder. Don’t be afraid to join a team. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Start saving for those dry spells and don’t be afraid of a little sweat equity. Put yourself out there.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Trust your gut and make sure that your realtor is looking out for you and not their paycheck.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

I was referred to them by a colleague. Their report was easy to read, understand, and their inspectors are very knowledgeable and good at helping the client understand what they are reading.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

The reliability of their services and continued excellent customer service.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

They are great to work with and extremely dependable. Even on a moments notice.

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

When do you need to have a home inspected? Most people only think of hiring an inspector when they are buying a home. While a home inspection is an important part of the home buying process, home inspections aren’t just for home buyers. Home inspections are also recommended when selling a home, building a home and as a part of your routine home maintenance plan. Below we cover the different types of home inspection services and why and when they are needed.

Home Buyer Inspection

If you are buying a home, a high quality home inspection can help you identify potential risks, make an informed decision, and will provide you with the education you need in order to move forward in the buying process and negotiate any repairs or price reductions. What many home buyers don’t realize is that getting their potential new home inspected is the buyer’s responsibility — not the seller’s. By allowing the buyer to hire a home inspector, you eliminate any bias or seller’s impact on an inspector. Though paying for a home inspection may seem like a lot for a house that doesn’t belong to you just yet, if you’re thinking of purchasing a home, a home inspection will always be worth the investment.

Home Seller Inspection

If you are preparing to sell your home, it may be wise to order a pre-sale home inspection. The last minute discovery of problems by a prospective buyer’s inspector can lead to delays, added expenses and can even derail a deal altogether. Your best solution as a home seller is to have a thorough inspection done prior to putting the house on the market. This allows you to resolve any issues or adjust the price of your home accordingly before they become a problem in negotiating a deal. Our Home Seller Inspections provide you with a comprehensive analysis of your home’s major systems and components. You’ll walk away knowing the current condition of your home, which will ultimately allow you to be in control of the sale!

New Construction Inspection

Many people assume that just because a house is new that it does not need to be inspected, however, this is far from the truth. The building of a home is complex and involves many different professionals and skilled trades that have the potential to overlook critical items. A New Construction Inspection is performed when a newly built home is ready to move in but before your final walk-thru with the builder. Compared to the cost of the home, the cost of a professional inspection buys significant peace of mind. Have an inspection report in hand for that final walk-thru and have any deficiencies corrected before you head to the closing table!

Builder Warranty Inspection

Newly constructed homes typically carry a one year builder’s warranty. Once this warranty expires and the home begins to age, there’s an increased risk of repairs which will no longer be covered. Our Builder Warranty Inspection is a comprehensive visual evaluation of your home which details any deficiencies that may have arisen during its critical first year. We recommend having this inspection about 30 days prior to the expiration of your builder’s one-year warranty in order to address any problems or defects that the builder may be responsible for.

Home Maintenance Inspection

As all homeowners know, routine maintenance is essential to preserving a properly functioning home much like having annual medical and dental exams or regularly changing the oil in your car. Problems that go unchecked for too long can become costly to repair. Schedule a Home Maintenance Inspection to learn the current condition of your home and what investments you need to make now in order to prevent small issues from becoming major problems. We suggest scheduling a routine maintenance inspection annually or every couple of years. We also recommend having a home inspection done after home renovations or major improvements to make sure everything was done correctly and didn’t cause other issues. Your Home Maintenance Inspection will provide you a comprehensive look at your home’s structural systems, electrical systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, plumbing systems, appliances and optional systems (i.e. pools/spas, sprinkler systems, septic systems). Like with all of our other inspections, we include a FREE Wood Destroying Insect Report (Termite Inspection).

Whether you’re looking to buy a home, getting ready for a sale or building a home, The Home Inspectors is here for you every step of the way. We want to help you make confident, informed decisions about your home. Download a few of our FREE resources, schedule your home inspection online or get in touch with one of our experts.

This month Jay Newton with Ebby Halliday Realtors is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Jay has been in Real Estate for 12 years and has been a valued partner of The Home Inspectors for 10+ years! Jay shared his background, advice for new Realtors and home buyers, and why he chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

It’s the best job there is! Helping people gives me such great pleasure.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

It’s a people business and I Love it!

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

Golf, Soccer, Fishing, Travel and time with my family.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

I’m not for everyone and everyone is not for me. Find clients that are a fit with you.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Be ready as a buyer with your financing. Be ready as a Seller with the right agent, Jay Newton 🙂

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

The Home Inspectors are thorough, easy to work with, and client friendly!

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

I can reach out to any inspector via their cell and get quick responses returned.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

Give them a chance!

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

This month Jay Wicker with Ebby Halliday Realtors is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Jay has been buying and selling real estate since 2012 and just earned his Broker’s license this year. His office is in Plano, but he grew up in Dallas and has lived in this area all his life and considers his territory to be regional.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

I was looking for a career and not just a job. My wife had been in the title business since 2007 and she strongly encouraged me to get my license. I have known several agents who have enjoyed success later in life and knew that I could make a good living in real estate.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

I particularly enjoy the problem solving nature of the business. I enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together and seeing everything work out through the normal ups and downs of searching for a home and seeing a contract through to closing.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

Church music. I have either been a part time music minister or totally immersed in my home church’s music program for all of my life.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

Show up at your office and make yourself available and ask questions. I’ve seen too many agents falter because they don’t have the support of other more experienced agents around them. Also, expect to work. Residential real estate is not easy.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Be ready. Make sure you have your financing in order before you look at homes. Whether the market is crazy busy or if it’s a slow time, if you find your dream home, you don’t want to have to wait on your lender before you make an offer.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

I was referred to you by several agents in my office many years ago and have recommended The Home Inspectors to my clients ever since. You are thorough, but your inspectors present the information in a way that doesn’t scare the buyers. That was what I was told by the agents who recommended you at the beginning and it is still true today.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

Toss up: both the ease of online scheduling and the summary page we receive with the major inspection items.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

The Home Inspectors are professional and highly recommended.

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

If one of our licensed inspectors performs an inspection on your home, you receive a lifetime subscription to HomeBinder ($300+ value). Below we’ll cover what’s included with your online home binder and the many benefits of having a HomeBinder.com account.

What is HomeBinder?

Your Homebinder.com account gives you access to copies of all your reports, inspection photos, educational videos which are site-specific to each home, and more! Homebinder.com also helps you manage and stay on top of all things related to your home!

Already Personalized with Your Information

You will get a personalized link via email from HomeBinder within 1 business day after your home inspection. Information, such as inspection reports, inspection photos & videos as well as additional resources and maintenance reminders, will already have been uploaded to your binder. All of your information is safe, private, and only accessible to you.

How HomeBinder Helps You

  • Schedule Maintenance Reminders

    We already set up 10 maintenance reminders for you, but you have the ability to add additional reminders as well. Stay on top of your home’s recurring maintenance needs like replacing air filters and servicing HVAC equipment.

  • Store Contractor Information

    Always remember the handymen who work on your home so you know who to call for repairs.

  • Organize Home Projects

    Store photos, paint colors, and project costs for easy repairs and tax deductions at the time of sale.

  • Start a Home Inventory

    Be prepared for a fire or theft with an easy to update repository that makes insurance and tax claims and breeze.

  • Utilize Your Electronic File Cabinet

    Upload important paperwork, reports and receipts to the cloud for safekeeping and easy access.

Enjoy Your Home More, With Less Work

  • Gain peace of mind

    Let HomeBinder reduce the stress and headaches of remembering every home related issue and time frame.

  • Enjoy tailored support

    After we inspect your house, we’re able to populate your binder with recommended home pros and other specific resources to help you best manage it.

  • Prevent costly repairs

    Easily keep up with regular home maintenance, to avoid unexpected issues; spend a little time and money today to save $1000s later.

  • Available on any device

    Have immediate, 24-7, access to all the information on your new home. Rest easy knowing your info is safely stored.

_________________________________________

Additional Resources

In addition to Your HomeBinder Account, we provide you with companies for utilities, security systems, locksmith services, and moving services that we’ve put our stamp of approval on and that offer our inspection customers special offers.

Here are a few other resources The Home Inspectors provide with our home inspections!

Connect ALL your utilities – in one place with Utility Concierge!

Utility Concierge will find the best local services, latest technologies, special promotions and pricing on all services to fit your needs. Your Concierge will present all your options and after you make the services selections, they will send you an itinerary with all of your scheduled installation dates and times. Use their no-cost services to save you time, money, and stress!

FREE Security System with ADT Control (Includes $850 in Equipment)

Your System Includes: 7” touch screen control panel with battery backup, 1 pet-friendly motion detector, 3 door or window sensors, panic buttons, and wireless key-fob remote.

The REKEY Special from MR REKEY LOCKSMITH, America’s Largest Residential Locksmith

For 1 Low, Flat Price You Receive: Service Call, Free Smoke Alarm Check (w/ Real Smoke), Rekey of 6 Locks, 4 Key Copies, Strengthening of Deadbolts and Documentation.

AB Moving & Storage – Texas Moving and Relocation Professionals

AB Moving is a Texas proud and family owned company providing quality moving services for over 20 years with offices in four key metro areas: Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. Low Cost, Flat Rate or Hourly Pricing and Same Day Moves! Offering $25 Off Any Move!

DOWNLOAD OUR GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR HOME INSPECTION!

This month Kevin Goodpaster is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Kevin is a Realtor at Resilient Realty Group PLLC and serves buyers and sellers throughout the DFW Metroplex. He is a 5th generation Texan born and raised in Fort Worth. Kevin is a valued Realtor partner of The Home Inspectors and shared with us his advice for new Realtors and buyers and why he chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

Why did you choose to work in Real Estate?

I enjoy looking at homes and being around people. I like the different schedule and not knowing what the day holds.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

Thankful clients!

What are your hobbies or interests outside of Real Estate?

Outside of Real Estate, I enjoy skiing, dove hunting, and playing golf.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

My advice for new Realtors would be to make connections.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Dive deep into finances and make sure you have a good lender.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

I partnered with The Home Inspectors because of their availability and customer service.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

The Home Inspectors has great communication!

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

The Home Inspectors are straight forward and honest about recommendations.

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

This month Cameron Castaldo is in the Realtor Partner Spotlight. Cameron is a notable Realtor representing the DFW Metroplex and valued Realtor partner of The Home Inspectors. Cameron shared with us his advice for new Realtors and buyers and why he chooses to partner with The Home Inspectors.

What is your favorite thing about being a Realtor?

Helping first time home buyers build their dream.

What is one piece of advice you have for new Realtors entering the industry?

Take care of your clients the best you can and more business will follow.

What is one piece of advice you have for anybody looking to buy or sell a home?

Don’t be afraid to look through all of your options. Check different cities, different types of homes to find what truly fits you best.

Why did you choose to partner with The Home Inspectors?

Y’all are easy to work with, truly care about our clients, and do great inspections.

What’s your favorite thing about our partnership?

I love that y’all call the day after the inspections to see if we have any questions.

What would you tell other Realtors looking to partner with The Home Inspectors?

To take the shot and give it a try. You guys take great care of not only us, but our clients.

DISCOVER WHY REALTORS ACROSS TEXAS ARE CHOOSING
THE HOME INSPECTORS AS THEIR NUMBER ONE REFERRAL!

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