Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The House of Tears

We all love a good story. This one is true and occurred long enough ago that I finally feel comfortable sharing. Nothing is more unsettling for me than having a female of any age cry because of something I did. Unfortunately with women, sometimes this is simply impossible to prevent. Such was the case at the house of tears.

Anytime I book an inspection on a very old house I never know what to expect. On arriving at this home I was advised by their agent that the young couple intending to purchase this home were excited because it was their dream to have a small cottage on a track of land with room for their horses. This site came with a large barn making it even more appealing. They had found their dream and were in love with everything. The Realtor made it crystal clear that “they” were hoping for the best from my inspection. I knew with the age of this home I was on the hot seat and it didn’t take long for the temperature to rise.

As usual, I started my inspection on the first floor. This home was a story and a half over a center dug out cellar open to crawl space surrounding it with exception of a stair down from the rear exterior. The second floor had a small finished area but for the most part was unfinished attic. As we were working our way through the first floor with the clients and Realtor following along Bob, the pest control inspector, arrived. We exchanged greetings and as usually I said “if you find anything of interest let me know and please clean the spider webs from the crawl space.”

Bob headed for the cellar but shortly came back through the door asking us to go into the first floor bedroom. Bob said “Chris, press your thumb on the floor right here on the right side of the bed” I knew I was in trouble when my thumb went through the wood floor up to the last knuckle. I overheard my clients take a deep breath as they looked at me with a wide eyed glare. The agent was not amused at Bob’s escapade or my participation. “Follow me to the cellar.” This was an unusual request. Bob usually simply explained what he had found. We didn’t go on a tour.

As we entered the exterior cellar stair Bob turned and said “don’t be alarmed at the snake skins.” The female client and her agent stopped in their tracks as Bob said “I have only found five little black snakes so far.” They decided the cellar was not of interest to them as they backed up into the yard. Bob, the male client and I continued down the stair observing numerous shed snake skins hanging along the side of the stair and others as we entered the cellar. I also observed major termite damage and old rags stuffed in holes in areas of the floor system everywhere I looked.

Bob walked forward to the edge of the cellar dirt wall facing the front area of the crawl space saying “I saw the five small black snakes over there in the front right corner but I think, based on the size and number of skins, there are several large ones somewhere I haven’t seen. Now the male client had heard enough and headed up the stair to join the ladies in the yard as Bob stated “you know that’s not my concern, take a look at all this termite damage”. Knowing that snakes move away from people Bob and I looked closer at the extensive structural termite damage and then joined the others in the yard.

As inspectors, we are limited to stating the facts of our observations and are never supposed to express our opinion of whether a client should purchase a home. As I explained in detail the extent of the damage we observed the lady began to cry. The more I talked the more she sobbed. Then as I finished she looked into my eyes through her tears and asked “should we purchase this home?” As I began explaining that the decision was between her and her husband, Bob and I both took great care not to verbally express our opinion as in unison we clearly shook our heads to the right and left expressing our real opinion. She began uncontrollable sobs. We were both destroyed and at a loss of how to proceed. I immediately offered to stop the inspection and write a letter addressing the extensive termite damage which would give them an out from their contract and reduce the charge for my time.

Gaining control of herself the lady inquired “what about the snakes?” I said that I would mention the snakes as well but thinking about all of the rags I observed stuffed in holes in the floor system I suggested that we look in the attic before leaving the property. Surprisingly, she not only agreed but followed. Opening the door between the finished and unfinished attic space we observed a very large baited wire cage in the center of the floor. What is that for she inquired? “You don’t want to know” was my reply. Any guess at what they were trying to catch?

That night my phone rings and it’s the occupant/owner of the home who inherited it from her grandmother. “I heard what you found here today, what should I do?” Before I caught myself I said “a bulldozer might be in order.” She was not amused as I could then tell she was in tears as well. I explained that the damage was so extensive that repair cost would probably exceed the value of the home. I then said “I bet you don’t have mice”. “How did you know that?” Next day the home was taken off the market.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Radon Testing

Check out my new article on Radon Testing by clicking on the link. This is a great resource for Relators to send their clients for learning about Radon issues related to buying or selling a home. This is also a good resource for general knowledge about radon in your home.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Difference of Perspective – “The House from Hell”

All too often there is what I like to refer to as “the house from hell”, not that it is so old or bad but that the issues are either voluminous or complex. I come home from the inspection and comment to my wife “another house from hell”. The inspection and report on this type of property tends to be lengthy. The particular house could be new or hundreds of years old, small or large, beautiful or not particularly so. The house may be a gift from the Gods that any buyer would be crazy not to purchase at the contracted price. However, the volume and detail of my report may not reflect that in the eyes of all beholders. Such is a fascination to me.

From one perspective the seller and their Realtor are freaked out at the report ready to take a contract out for my demise. They can’t possibly comprehend how the condition of any house, especially theirs, could necessitate a 70 to 100 plus page report from any rascal of a home inspector. I may get a call from either or both complaining that I went completely overboard with my inspection and report. I will later hear how the Realtor is bad mouthing me all over town. Never recommend this nut case, he doesn’t know what he is doing and trashed my listing. You better hope he never inspects one of your listings! I am lucky the deal closed.

Then there is the call from my client raving about how great I am, how comprehensive my inspection and report and how surprised and pleased they are at the detail of my inspection and the ease of understanding the explanations and photographs in my report. Can they offer me a recommendation for future clients and be assured they will tell their acquaintances about me when they are purchasing a home. Then is the best of all sounds to my ears of how much more comfortable they are about their purchase after walking through the house with me and reading my report.

Same house, same report, different perspectives. Which is the reaction I should strive for? Is it both? Can you possibly have one without the other? I don’t think so. Such is the unstable ground upon which quality home inspectors must tread. We present the facts as best we are able with the knowledge available to us. How those facts are perceived by the reader completely depends on their perspective. One perceives a curse, another blessing. At face value they are simply the facts with a bright light shining on them. The difference between home inspectors is the direction and intensity of the light. I am of the opinion that clients who contract with me expect focused intense light and that I shouldn’t conduct inspections for the pleasure of listing agents, their sellers or for that matter the buyers agent who may have recommended me.

My greatest pleasure comes from the call from the seller of the last house I just “trashed” asking if I can work the inspection of the house they are purchasing quickly into my schedule. Such is a “Eureka” moment. Even better the listing agent of the house I “trashed” needs an inspection for their child, relative or themselves. Need I say more? It’s all about perspective.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Change in report "Summary Statement"

Effective March 1st , 2009, the following modification to the “required” summary statement will be mandatory on all written inspection reports in the State of North Carolina.

“This summary is not the entire report. The full report may include additional information of interest or concern to the client. It is strongly recommended that the client promptly read the complete report. For information regarding the negotiability of any item in this report under a real estate purchase contract, contact your North Carolina real estate agent or an attorney.”

I have had a similar statement in my reports for 10 years and modified mine months ago on learning of this proposal.