Home Horrors: Lessons from home inspectors

June 1, 2011 | Comments Off on Home Horrors: Lessons from home inspectors

By Karen Aho of MSN Real Estate

Home horrors: Lessons from home inspectors (© Comstock Images/agefotostock)

Once again, here’s another story about the potential “horrors” of not havinh a thorough home inspection.

The Chicago couple did as homebuyers sometimes do and opted to pass on a home inspection.

They had a longtime tradesman in the family and figured he could spot any serious flaws. Plus, the home had so many upgrades, what could go wrong?

After buying the house, though, they faced repeated problems with the furnace, one of the upgraded items. It would toggle on and off, or moisture would fill the flue. A repairman would come and they would shell out another $400 or $700.

Finally, the couple called home inspector Jack McGraw, who recognized the source of the problem immediately. That new furnace, presumably installed by a professional, did not come with the new chimney liner it required.

A fuel-efficient furnace does not burn as hot as older models. For exhaust to make it to the top of the chimney, a narrow flue is required. Otherwise condensation can occur, causing various kinds of moisture-related damage.

“If they’d had a home inspector, he would have caught that and recommended they put in a chimney liner,” McGraw says.

The real irony: That family member in the trades worked in the heating field.

Home inspectors see a home the way no one else does. They don’t care how the kitchen will feel for entertaining or whether the bathroom tiles will impress guests. Their judgment is not clouded by emotion.

Nor do they have any interest in whether the home sells, as long as they’re not pals with the seller’s real-estate agent. To the contrary, they are financially motivated to find flaws — to avoid liability should something go wrong.

As you’re walking through your next dream house, keep in mind the following lessons from the pros. At the end, we also provide some advice on finding a reputable home inspector, not the guy who simply took a test and printed a card.

Just because you’re dry doesn’t mean the roof isn’t leaking
More than once, Utah home inspector Kurt Salomon has crawled across the rafters in an unfinished attic — the eager homebuyers waiting below — only to find a children’s wading pool strategically placed to catch drips from the roof.

“I say, ‘What’s a kiddie pool doing up here? I know the kids aren’t swimming up here,'” Salomon says. The owners would have painted over water stains in the rooms below, and neglected to tell anyone the roof needed to be replaced.

“There’s supposed to be disclosure, but people have this phenomenon called, ‘Oh, I forgot,'” Salomon says. “It happens every day.”

Most roof leaks don’t leave clues as large or as bright as a plastic wading pool, and it’s not always easy to crawl over insulation and find water-discoloration marks via flashlight. “That’s the dirty work of a home inspector,” Salomon says. “And it’s a trained eye, versus an untrained eye.”

The money saved in these cases: at least $8,000 for a roof replacement, plus additional thousands to repair water damage to the walls below.

Everyone may think the house is on a slab, but thinking so doesn’t make it so
When home inspector Andy Kasznay arrived at the small Connecticut house, he found a young, single mom enamored. Indeed, the house had fantastic curb appeal, with a well-appointed interior. The woman had put every penny toward the purchase.

As Kasznay walked through the one-story ranch-style house, though, he noted a spongy feel to the floor. It wasn’t enough give for anyone else to notice, but Kasznay had been told the house sat on a slab, and this didn’t feel like a slab.

Kasznay went outside and circled the house until he discovered a window well accessing a crawl space under the house. Wriggling his way down, he found “horrific conditions”: water pooling around the house had flowed down into an open sewer drain; mold infested the joists supporting the house.

“I could take a handful of floor joist with my hand because that’s how deteriorated the moisture had made this bottom deck to the floor,” Kasznay says. Calling the buyer over, he told her, “This is a house you don’t want to purchase; you can’t afford it.”

The owners, sitting inside watching television, had also been unaware of the condition, he says.

“This is an example of what appeared to be a very nice, pristine house that had very serious structural flaws,” he says. Had the woman bought it, “she would have ended up with a building lot, and the liability of tearing down the house,” and a $200,000 mortgage, to boot.

Just because the floor is level doesn’t mean it hasn’t sunk half a foot
Kasznay noticed a spongy feel in another Connecticut home, this one a grand 10,000 square feet. Once again, neither the current owners nor the real-estate agent had noticed anything odd.

Noting the slightly soft feel, however, Kasznay eyed the baseboards. They should have been level with the floor, but here the floor sat 4 inches lower. Crawling around in the basement, Kasznay found mold had deteriorated the supports. This house was literally hanging from its rafters, “like a parachute,” he says.

“One of these days, a couple of people would be standing in the middle of the floor and they’d go down through the floor,” he says. “It’s a scary thing.”

Source: www.MSNRealEstate.com


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