Summer 2021 COVID-19 UpdatePosted by Nicole on August 12th, 2021

With vaccination rates continuing to slowly climb but the delta variant in full force, here is an update on my current COVID-19 protocols. I will continue to modify my policies as the situation evolves. I am taking into consideration daily infection numbers/hospitalizations, new/more contagious variants of the disease, and state/CDC recommendations… but my own comfort level will take precedence. I also invite you to check-in with your own comfort level and revert to more strict requirements for our inspection if you feel the need!

Until further notice, the following safety policies ensure everyone’s safety. These policies are subject to change, so check this page or ping me for the most current policy.

*Masks (must cover nose and mouth) and a minimum of 6 feet of distance from me will be required for everyone at the inspection, even if fully vaccinated.

*For homes that are larger than 1000 square feet: A real estate agent and no more than two buyers (+children) can be indoors with me at inspections, but no other family members/friends/occupants indoors, please. (That’s a maximum of three adults other than me indoors.)

*For homes less than 1000 square feet, I prefer two or less adults indoors with me.

*A slideshow/review of the home inspection will be done virtually. This works best given the limitations of distancing and masking.

*Contactless contract signing and payment will be done online (via DocuSign & Square). Normally I send these 1-4 days before our inspection. Receipt of both are required in order to receive the final report.

*I prefer to open doors and windows (weather permitting) while I’m inspecting the interior.

*For safety and in order to remain focused, I do not allow anyone to follow me during an inspection, but I’m happy to answer questions when I’m finished inspecting and/or during the slideshow.

I still offer generous discounts for apartment-style condos in order to keep the cost reasonable. Additional mileage fees apply to some outer suburbs. For my latest pricing, call or text me: 503-913-1281.

Tips for Staying Cool In a Heat WavePosted by Nicole on August 11th, 2021

Another heat wave is here! I’m guessing this will become more regular as time goes on, so here are a few quick tips to help you stay cool!

1. Change (or clean, if reusable) your HVAC air filter(s). A clogged or dirty filter reduces air flow and can force the system to work harder, causing unnecessary wear.

2. Close your curtains/shades starting early in the morning to reduce solar gain. If you don’t have curtains/shades, use blankets or towels. This will help even if you have blinds because the gaps between the blinds allow heat to enter the living space.

3. Set your thermostat at a reasonable temperature. In reality, a cooling system can only cool to about 20 degrees below the exterior temperature… so, with 100+ temperatures in Portland’s forecast, setting your thermostat at 80-85 later in the day is ideal. Setting the thermostat lower than that causes the system to work harder for no additional results, wasting energy and $$!

4. If you don’t have A/C, consider staying with a friend or at a hotel (preferably a hotel with a pool 😊). Or find a cooling center. Free rides to cooling centers are available by calling 211.

5. Remember: Fans cool PEOPLE, not rooms. When you’re not in a room, turn the fan off! At night (if it cools down enough), open windows on opposing sides of the home and set up fans to cross-ventilate by bringing in cooler air from outside and pushing it through the home to the windows at the other side.

6. Drink lots of water! Hydrated bodies sweat, which is your body’s natural way of cooling itself!

Love and ThanksPosted by Nicole on April 25th, 2020

I want to thank you all my clients and fellow colleagues for being patient during this strange time we’re in. I miss all the faces of real estate agents and eager new clients. I joked with an agent this week (but it is true) that her dog was the only being I’ve touched in weeks. 🙁

Major disruptions to our process have thrown me off, and I’m sure they have you too. I truly appreciate the trust you continue put in me and the very hard work you put into each home. The extra work & energy that this requires as well as the extra time spent on on each job with this new process has been COMPLETELY exhausting for me. It’s WAY more work than normal and by the weekend, my brain and body can barely function… so thanks again for remaining flexible with receiving reports later than normal, with scheduling and with the extra phone calls and Zoom meetings. It’s certainly not ideal and may not be as seamless as my original routine, but just know that my main goal is still that the buyers feel comfortable with the home moving forward.

With that, a reminder that agents and buyers can ALWAYS contact me with questions ANYTIME- after our inspection review, anytime during the homebuying process, and even after moving in. I know each home that I inspect quite well, so I’m a great, ongoing resource for answers!

I’m SO grateful for all the people I’m connected with in this business, even more so right now. I can’t wait to actually see you and perhaps even give you a hug when it’s safe!

We’re all in this together and I’m here for you.
Sending so much love,

Time for a nap

COVID-19 Update from Home GnomePosted by Nicole on March 18th, 2020

Yes, I’m still inspecting and testing for radon! I’m doing everything I can to prevent the spread of the virus while still providing services as best I can.

  • Only one other masked person is allowed inside the home at the same time as me. I require at least 6 feet of distance at all times. Others are welcome to wait outside or join in the slideshow later in the day.
  • I wash my hands and/or use hand sanitizer as often as I can when I’m on an inspection.
  • As always, I wear booties. I also wear gloves inside the home.
  • I use disinfectant wipes on all surfaces I touch to keep both myself and the occupants/sellers safe. I may use disinfectant spray as well.
  • In place of the slideshow on site, I now do a virtual slideshow later the day of the inspection. 
  • I also disinfect my car, all of my tools & equipment (including radon testing equipment) at the end of and/or before my inspections/radon tests.
  • I am not currently inspecting fixers, bank-owned, cash only or distressed properties.

Basically, everything I touch in homes gets disinfected!

As you can imagine, these precautions take a bit of extra time, so for now I am suspending my same-day report delivery guarantee. It’s possible (and even likely) that you’ll receive the report later that same night, but I can’t guarantee it.

Thanks for your patience while the world feels so surreal! If you have any questions about my process or want to discuss further, please contact me. Stay healthy!

[This post was last updated on November 13, 2020. Check back for any changes.]

How Detailed Should Your Home Inspector Be?Posted by Nicole on February 9th, 2020

If you’ve had an inspection with me, you’ll notice that my reports are quite detailed. I inspect and report on each home as if I were buying it myself- what would I want to know before I make the largest purchase I’ve ever made? I’ve been told by many real estate agents that my reports are the most detailed and thorough they’ve seen. I am a Type A personality, so this doesn’t surprise me (I take it as a compliment). What does surprise me is how many important details other inspectors seem to miss or not even report on. I’m saying this from personal experience- I had two home inspections before becoming a home inspector myself. I’ve also seen reports for the exact same property that I inspected, making it easy to compare my report to another inspection company’s report. Although I’m obviously biased, the things that are missing from the other reports are too important to ignore. 

For instance: I test as well as check the manufacture dates on every single smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm whenever possible. Why? BECAUSE ALARMS SAVE LIVES! Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are required both by law and by your lender to be installed in a real estate transaction. Knowing that the sensors on these alarms become less sensitive over time, don’t you, as a buyer, want your home to be as safe as possible? 10 years is the life of a smoke alarm; 5-7 years for carbon monoxide alarms. Alarms that are any older need to be replaced. I am adamant in my inspections about this. Furthermore, this simple thing is probably the easiest and most affordable requirement to fulfill in a real estate transaction, having (potentially) the largest safety factor. It’s a no-brainer.

Case in point: I recently inspected a newly constructed home- nobody has lived there yet… the paint was probably still drying. Any normal person would assume that all the smoke & carbon monoxide alarms are brand new, right? WRONG. Two of the six smoke alarms in this home were 13 years old– they’d been reused from another home when they should have been disposed of three years ago. Now, if I had assumed all the alarms were new because the home is new, I’m putting my clients’ safety at risk. This is just one example of the level of detail that I take a little bit of extra time to verify so that your home is SAFE.

Now… it’s possible that my inspections take a tad longer than the “average” inspector, but I guarantee that it’s worth it. Does that little bit of extra detail really make a difference? I believe it can mean the difference between (excuse the scare tactics- see above) life and death… and, well, that’s also a no-brainer. Don’t you agree?

The following are excerpts of inspection reports from the exact same house- one from a competitor and then Home Gnome’s report.

Competitor’s report- Heating System
Home Gnome Inspections’ report- Heating System

Getting Ready for Cold WeatherPosted by Nicole on January 13th, 2020

Here are some quick tips on getting your home ready for cold weather!Foundation vent plug

Install insulation blocks or close foundation vents (if you have a crawlspace). These polystyrene plugs fit into the screened openings at your foundation. If your vents have little flaps on them, just close the flap to help keep cold temperatures out. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to open the vents/remove the plugs once the threat of freezing has passed- you do NOT want to suffocate your crawlspace!

faucet protector

Winterize hose faucets.  Disconnect all your garden hoses and turn off interior valves (usually located at interior side of wall near hose faucet or under a nearby sink) for all hose faucets. Then, turn the faucet back on temporarily in order to remove the remaining water in the pipe. Once the water in the pipes has been bled out, install styrofoam faucet covers on the hose faucets.

Supply piping insulation

Insulate exposed supply piping in your attic, crawlspace and garage. Supply piping is the smaller size piping that carries water to the plumbing fixtures in your home. Freezing temps can cause pipes to burst since water is in these pipes all the time.

Be sure your furnace filter has been changed recently. An inefficient furnace wastes energy, restricts air movement and causes unnecessary wear on your furnace.

Weatherstrip doors & insulate single pane windows. Install sweeps at bottom of doors, weatherstripping at sides & top of doors. Install insulating shrink film kit to help keep the cold out at single-pane windows.

Door sweepV-seal weatherstripWindow insulating kit

Bonus tip: Now’s a great time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as check the dates on them... especially if you have a fireplace that creates carbon monoxide. Smoke alarms should be less than 10 years old and carbon monoxide alarms should be less than 5 years old. The sensors become worn and less sensitive as time goes on. Replacement is needed if these alarms are too old! Manufacture dates are printed on the back or side of alarms. If you can’t find a date (it’s usually tiny), it’s probably outdated and should be replaced.

How Important Is Attic Ventilation in the Winter?Posted by Nicole on February 26th, 2019

Many homeowners believe that ventilation is only important in the summer, but it is just as important in the winter! Did you know that the primary cause of ice dams is lack of ventilation, not necessarily lack of insulation?

Ice dams are barriers that occur near the gutters and eaves of the roof, causing water/ice to back up under the shingles at the drip edge. The cycle begins with heat being trapped in the attic (lack of exhaust ventilation) which traps heat in the upper attic near the ridge. This condition melts the snow/ice at the top portion of the roof and prevents the snow/ice from melting near the bottom of the roof (at eaves/overhangs). The melted snow/ice then runs down the roof and collects at the eaves where it freezes/refreezes, creating an ice dam.

Large snow events are rare in Portland, but severe ice damming can cause the shingles, roof sheathing, rafter/truss tails and top plate to be damaged. If not fixed, the damage can cause mold and mildew.

Although adding more insulation can slow down the heat transfer from the interior living space, the heat transfer will still occur and, without appropriate ventilation to take that warm air away, the ice dam will occur.

It is important to note that your attic should be very close to the exterior temperature! A well-ventilated, well-balanced ventilation system ideally keeps the top of the roof and the bottom side of the roof close to equal temperatures, eliminating the conditions required to form an ice dam.

Call me if you’d like an evaluation of the ventilation and insulation in your attic! Building science is my passion.

Ice dam

Diagram courtesy of Connell Insurance.

The Alhambra CondominiumsPosted by Nicole on June 12th, 2016

See Inside My Favorite Condo Building in Portland

The Alhambra, located at NW Irving St. and NW 20th Ave., has been my very favorite condo building in all of Portland since the first week I moved here… I used to go out of my way to walk by because I love this building so much.

The owners of 6 (of the 8) units were gracious enough to open their homes to a small tour on Friday evening, courtesy of the Architectural Heritage Center. I was fortunate enough to be able to see inside these amazing condos that I’ve been drooling over for years! See my entire album from the tour here.

My favorite kitchen at the Alhambra condosSemi-private balconies at the Alhambra

Affordable Disaster Supply KitPosted by Nicole on January 28th, 2016

Join Us in Gathering a Budget-Friendly Disaster Supply Kit!

We’re slowly gathering items for a 3-day disaster supply kit. Join us as we get items in small increments for a complete bin of emergency supplies. Each phase will be posted with a photo, a list of items, the cost of the items and an emergency tip or action item. Join us in this process so you can be ready when disaster strikes! Here are the first two phases:


-Large container for storing your kit – we chose a clear, 66 quart bin with latching lid (clear – so you don’t have to guess what’s inside!) $9
– 1 gallon of water 89 cents Disaster supply kit, phase one
– Flashlight $10
– Whistle $1
– Permanent marker $2
– Dietary supplements/electrolyte replacements $8
– 2 Ready-to-eat tuna packets $3 ($1.49 each)
– Can of beans $1
– Manual can opener $5

Total spent this phase: Approximately $40. Don’t be alarmed- this is the most expensive phase!

Phase One tip: Put food you would normally eat in your disaster kit. Your body will be stressed after an emergency so it’s best to eat things that your system is accustomed to.


Disaster supply kit, phase two

Disaster supply kit, phase two

– Toilet paper, 2 rolls $1.50
– Another gallon of water 89 cents
– Upset stomach meds $5
– Roll of antacids $1
– Hand sanitizer $2.49
– Hydrogen peroxide $1
– Isopropyl alcohol $1.25
– Tissues 89 cents
– Pain reliever $6 (Or free! See tip below.)

Total spent this phase: Approximately $20.

Phase Two tip: When you run across useful disaster kit items that are Buy One Get One Free at the store, buy one for your home, then get one FREE for your emergency supply kit!

Follow along on Home Gnome’s Facebook page for the next phases!

Five for Friday with Paris Group Realty!Posted by Nicole on January 15th, 2016

I was honored to be the guest on Five for Friday, a weekly blog post from Paris Group Realty. Paris Group is a wonderful group of amazing women who are sharp as tacks! Each Friday, they ask 5 questions of a person who works in the realm of homes. You won’t believe what I say about mold & mildew! Read the interview here.