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VOL. 37 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 17, 2013

How to avoid surprises from home inspection

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Home inspections are one of the most necessary functions performed in the home buying and selling process. A home inspection also can ruin a wonderful day for either the buyer or the seller.

The buyers are in love with their soon-to-be-inhabited home and have boasted to family and co-workers alike of their acquisition. Sellers have visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.

Following the inspection, however, both the buyer and the seller are ready to shoot someone. Buyers usually directs their anger toward the seller – the lying scum – while the seller is usually strapping on the pistols for the home inspector who has conspired with the buyers as they watched from the grassy knoll.

The home inspector is hired by the buyer to crawl under and over the house with microscope in hand in order to determine if any extraneous organisms spawning new generations of wood-eating, corrosion causing, soil moving microbeasts.

Then there are the larger critters, mostly vermin, that use the attics and crawl spaces for functions rarely found outside biology books. And the aviaries are about, with their Nilistic viri and other diseases. In houses built prior to 1978, there is the lead-based paint awaiting human consumption so that it can destroy the minds of our children.

And mold and asbestos and moisture and leaks and creaks and creeks and things that go bump in night and daylight. How in the world were these buyers duped into buying this petri dish?

Of course, no homeowner is going to live in a toxin-filled home, especially with children, so while most home inspectors choose their words carefully, there are several inspectors with Quentin Tarantino-like personalities who aren’t happy until the squeamish scream and others fear for their lives.

Some inspectors use the word mold as a generic term covering any of a number of life forms growing in the fungi kingdom, such as molds and yeasts and other fungi. Not all mold is harmful. There are more than 20,000 types, and according to some sources, only four are lethal.

Inspectors must provide a complete summary of the results of their labor. They cannot miss the minutest detail lest they hear the explosion of gavel striking wood. They are messengers, and they should not be executed.

An inspection report should be read as a mystery novel based on fact. In the end, all of the characters survive. It also is important that the buyer and seller realize that everything can be mitigated, remediated, repaired or replaced. It’s all about the money, and money only.

All too often, a seller is insulted by a buyer seeking the services of a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, a brick mason, a roofer, an HVAC person, a gutter company, a window company along with a host of amateur industrial hygienists.

There are a number of deficiencies that almost all houses possess and almost all homeowners cite. Before selling a home, owners should repair these and save some money.

  • Exposed electrical connections. These connections should be housed in a junction box. A junction box costs 59 cents. An electrician will charge by the hour to provide the connection residence in the box.
  • The insulation has settled and lost some of its volume. Remember reading that breakfast cereal is sold by weight and not by volume and some settling of the contents may have occurred during shipping. In short, little Johnny shouldn’t blow a gasket when he opens his Cheerios only to find the box half empty, never half full in this example. The same thing happens with insulation when installed on planets such that have gravity. For example, earth.
  • Most water heaters aren’t 18 inches off of the ground. The reason for this is that is more difficult to install the device 18 inches off of the ground than to properly place the unit on a stand.
  • Double-paned windows lose their seal. Repairing them is from $50 to $100 per pane. Not too painful.
  • Downspouts are important as water is the most violent, destructive force in nature. Yet, downspouts are seldom used properly, when present at all.
  • Basements in this area leak. Don’t put dry stuff down there unless it is OK for said dry stuff to get wet. And then, here comes the fungus.
  • Some of your circuit breakers are double tapped. The electrician needed one more slot and did not feel an entirely new box was warranted.
  • GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) outlets in the “wet” areas such as kitchen, utility room, or bathrooms. These gadgets keep people from being electrocuted from dropping an electrically charged accessory into the bathtub as they, the humans, bathe. It can make for a very hot tub.

By the way, sellers should check the bulbs in all features. Some inspectors determine that the fixture is faulty when, in fact, it’s a dead bulb.

Some homes in the area have common ailments that are harmful to the structure. As some know, a joist is a piece of lumber that provides support for flooring in an attic.

All too often an HVAC contractor running ductwork through a basement or even an attic fill find a joist obstructing the path for said ductwork and cut a plug out of the joist.

This compromises the structural integrity of the joist.

Suppose there was an 8-foot board that was 2 inches wide by 8 inches long, and someone cut 6 inches out of it and then dropped a house on it. That could spell the end of the ruby slippers. Plumbers have been guilty of the same crime while running pipe.

If there is a silver lining to the rainclouds of May 2010, they provided the litmus test for flooding.

If a house did not flood then, they should be safe for another 500 years, unless you subscribe to Al Gore’s research, in which case you’re pretty much screwed anyway as the water formally known as an iceberg is headed your way.

In that case, ask for repair money and use it for fine dining or a trip to Iceland.

Richard Courtney is a partner with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney and Associates and can be reached at richard@richardcourtney.com.

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