Home Appraisals vs. Home Inspections

When you buy a used car, do you take it for a test drive around town? Do you ask about maintenance and any recall notices? Of course you do! You may even take it to your mechanic for a once-over, to make sure the vehicle is in good shape and safe to drive.

So, who do you call when you’re buying a “used house”?

Think about it like this: you are getting a home that has been lived in, and possibly modified, by one or more families over the years. Most buyers ask about basic things, like the age of the roof and the appliances, but what about the things you can’t see? Electrical wiring, and plumbing are hidden in the walls. You can usually see the HVAC system, but what about the ductwork? Are there any additions or remodels, and were they done by a licensed contractor, or a by handy spouse or neighbor? All of these may have hidden issues that could lead to expensive repairs.

“But I have an appraisal. Isn’t that good enough?”

The appraiser works for the bank to determine the value of the house and property on which it sits. They look at the “features” of the house – things like the size and number of rooms, and cosmetic updates in the kitchen and bathrooms. Is there a detached or attached garage? Are there outdoor living spaces like decks or pools? They take this information and compare it to the other houses in the neighborhood, to generate a fair market price. They may note obvious things that would detract from the value, but they don’t look for those hidden conditions that may exist. Their report often reads like the real estate listing – “4 bedrooms, 2 baths, updated kitchen and bathrooms with granite countertops, 2-car garage” – and will include measurements or square footage, and photos of each room.

A licensed home inspector works for you, the buyer. They have been trained and certified on the systems of the house, and they know how to look for potential problems. While the appraiser may view the roof from the street, an inspector is going to check the roof thoroughly, from above and below. (Many inspectors even use drones to take pictures or video of the roof.) They will start with the outside, checking things like the condition of the foundation, windows, siding, exterior lighting and outlets, etc. Inside, they inspect the conditions of each room, looking for any damage to the walls or floors. Do the windows function properly? Are the outlets and lights in good working order? Does the heat or air conditioning function well? They check the plumbing in the kitchen and bathrooms, flushing toilets and running water at each tap. They may use an infrared camera or other device to check for water damage in the walls. In the attic, they may inspect ductwork or look for signs of water damage to the underside of the roof decking. In the crawlspace, they’ll check plumbing, ductwork, floor joists and systems.

This type of thorough inspection generates a detailed report, usually broken out by room or area, of what’s okay, what is recommended for further review by a licensed contractor, and what needs to be repaired immediately. While some of the recommended items may not be a deal-breaker, it is very important to know about issues that could hit you hard in the wallet once you own the home.

While placing a section of gutter under a leaking drain is certainly inventive, it’s not a solution to the problem.

Checking moisture levels in the attic.

Water damaged wood in the crawlspace.

Water damaged insulation in the crawlspace.

If you have any concerns about the property you’re considering, hire a certified home inspector. The peace of mind is invaluable. Ask us for a referral!

Photos courtesy of Chris Polantz, Redtail Building Services

Popcorn Ceilings: Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em?

A popcorn ceiling is defined as a spray-on or paint-on treatment, which has a rough, bumpy texture and is used to hide imperfections, absorb sound, and reduce echoes, especially in rooms with high or vaulted ceilings. Popular in the 70s and 80s, popcorn ceilings have recently been revived in new construction. There are several pros and cons to this:


  • Texturing hides flaws and imperfections in the ceiling
  • Deadens noise and reduces echoes in large rooms
  • Can cost less than a smooth ceiling, because less prep is required


  • Hard to clean – cobwebs, dust and dirt attach to the rough surface and are difficult to remove without damaging the texture
  • Hard to repair and, in older homes, may contain asbestos
  • Not recommended for kitchens or bathrooms as the moisture in these rooms can cause the texture to become loose and fall off



We were recently called in to remove popcorn ceilings from several rooms in a Newport News townhome. The client loved her home, but she hated the ceilings. The popcorn texture was even in the closets and on the garage ceiling!
Luckily, because the home was built in 2001, asbestos was not a concern. The popcorn texture was scraped off, any areas of imperfection were smoothed out, and new paint colors went on the ceilings and walls of these rooms.
In the living room, the client wanted to add crown molding. Because the ceilings are so high, we went with 9-5/8” molding, which created a great focal point in the room. New ceiling fans replaced the original builder’s models in the living room and bedroom, and the lighting was updated in the foyer, dining room, hallway, and bedroom. (Check out that chandelier in the dining room!) The stairway railings and posts were repaired, and they received a fresh coat of white paint.

Removing the popcorn ceiling, adding new crown molding and paint, and updating the lighting made a huge difference in this beautiful townhome.


Navigating Disaster Claims and Repairs – What to Expect

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Excerpt: In your typical home improvement project, things move along pretty quickly. The homeowner and the contractor meet to discuss the project, agree on a scope of work and a price, and set a start date. Permits are pulled, materials are ordered, and work commences. The homeowner pays a percentage up front, to cover materials, and makes progress payments until the work has been completed. When disaster strikes – a tree falling on the house, a flood, a fire, etc. – this process can get complicated in a hurry: The homeowner contacts their insurance agent, who files a claim on their behalf,…

Room Addition and Screened Porch in Yorktown

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Excerpt: Mike and Karen have a lovely home in Yorktown, but they wanted more of an open floorplan downstairs. After consulting with our engineer, we were able to remove 2 exterior walls, create a new living space between the kitchen and a bedroom, and add a fabulous screened porch, with a covered area for grilling. These before and after pictures tell the story. We started with the concept drawing. The client initially considered copper for the roof of the addition, but decided on architectural-style asphalt shingles. Before: The small deck on the back of the house, between the kitchen and a bedroom…

Kitchen Remodel in Hampton

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Excerpt: Kitchen Remodel in Hampton We love repeat clients! In the Spring of 2018, we were asked to update the exterior of this home in Hampton. A former rental property, the siding and trim were showing their age. The homeowner asked us to replace these, and to remove a failing back porch. The new exterior looks great, and it will give the homeowner a carefree exterior for years to come. Check it out here: https://www.jimhicks.com/remodels/siding-and-trim-update/ We were delighted to hear from Janet and her sister Francine when it came time to remodel the kitchen and family room. While the basic layout of the kitchen worked,…