Radon Gas True Story (Don’t shoot the messenger)
Lawsuits And Apologies (Foundation repairs)
Nitpicky About Fire Hazards (Facts about home fires)
Choosing An Inspector (Agent referred inspector horror story)
New House Headache (Mold problem)
E-mail Correspondence (Between an agent and home inspector)
I have talked to realtors in the past trying to get my business going but have found some resistance, in my ignorance I was thinking that maybe inspectors and realtors could get along and work together….was I ever wrong! I will tell you what has just happened to me recently. A realtor woman called me and wanted to know if I could do a Radon test, I told her yes I would be glad to do it. Well first off I live in a small town Ponca City, Ok about 30,000 population and we have one big company here Conoco Inc. The realtor wanted me to inspect this particular house for a home buyer who was relocating here with Conoco from Colorado.
After doing a 48 hour test using a Femto Tech 510 Radon Monitor, the printout from the monitor showed an average reading of 48.5 pCi/L. The EPA standard says that you should never exceed 4 pCi/L also the lady living in the house had lung cancer! I immediately called the buyer who just arrived in town and told him the results, he in turn called the realtor, she called me and proceeded to yell at me. She was furious that I dared call the buyer with the results instead of calling her, she was demanding the report and wanted to know if she could come over right away and get it! I told her I was just finishing another report for a home inspection and have not put the report together yet and when I did my client would get it. She told me she paid me! I said yes but that the money really came from the relocating company with Conoco Inc. and was for the buyer (client).
I told her that he was my client and that the report belonged to him first. She kept yelling and finally threatened that she would not use me again, I tried to defend myself and told her that all my training and books say that my reports go to my client. This went on for about 10 minutes then she hung up on me, this really upset me to say the least. I have had problems with a few other realtors but not this bad, so bottom line realtors really turn me off, I suppose there are a few good ones out there.
I have always worked in the best interest of the home buying client and no longer solicit real estate agents.
My client, two real estate brokers, and the owner of a foundation repair company met me as I got out of my truck. The Realtors told me the foundation repairs had just been completed, if I had any questions the contractor was there to answer them, and that I shouldn’t worry about any cracks in the slab because they would be patched before the end of the day. My standard answer for this type of situation is “I’ll just take a quick look anyway” and that satisfied them for the moment.
This house had style and that’s about all I could say for it. Style, however, certainly didn’t make up for the amateurish, slip shod and downright terrible manner in which this place was thrown together. Just about everything was wrong and the just completed foundation repairs struck me as matching the rest of the home perfectly. Several hours later I finished my inspection my fidgety client asked me to review my findings with the Realtors and contractor present.
As expected, no one liked what I had to say, including my client. The Realtors told him he should hire another inspector, the contractor told me he was going to call his lawyer, and my client told me he wasn’t happy about the commotion I had caused with the Realtors. I figured oh well, you can’t win ‘em all and made out my report which set forth everything I had just explained to them, including my comments on the foundation repair job. The client had his report, I had my check and I made up my mind to forget the whole affair as soon as possible.
Some three months later I received a phone call from this client. He started off by apologizing for arguing about my inspection and explained that before I arrived at the job both brokers had told him that I had a bad reputation and generally caused a lot of needless trouble. He said he was sorry he had listened to them instead of me, and informed me that his attorney had filed a lawsuit that morning against both brokers, the foundation repair contractor and an engineer the brokers had told him to call for a “good” inspection report.
Naturally I asked him what had happened and he said “everything.” He had closed on the home a week after my inspection and then had the entire interior redone; paint, tile, wallpaper – the works. Within two weeks the walls started to crack, the roof leaked, doors wouldn’t open or close, the plumbing system was giving him fits, the one inch crack in the living room slab had doubled in size and so on and so on. He said everyone involved with the sale of that home was being sued except me, and he thanked me for being so honest and straightforward with him – even though he didn’t listen until it was too late.
Funny thing – I never heard anything from the brokers, contractor or engineer and never got a referral from any of them either. Of course I’ve had numerous referrals from this client.
Many Realtors have consistently criticized me over the years as being “Too nit picky” about small, insignificant items such as poor wiring, fire stops and window sizing that really didn’t mean very much. Well, if residential structures never caught fire and if no one was ever injured or killed in those fires, these critics could have a point.
In our real world fires do occur and “small, insignificant items” simply can not be ignored. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) recently furnished some pertinent information. Between the years of 1989 and 1993 the NFPA conducted an exhaustive, highly detailed survey of home structure fires, and the following results speak for themselves. During the four years included in the survey period a total of 466,300 home fires in the U.S. were reported which resulted in 3,860 civilian deaths, 20,810 civilian injuries and $4,378,200,000.00 in property damage.
The NFPA broke down the causes of these fires into various general categories.
Misc. equipment caused 44,000 fires, 240 deaths and 1,700 injuries.
Heating equipment caused 85,400 fires, 540 deaths and 2,180 injuries.
Electrical systems caused 39,600 fires, 370 deaths and 1,490 injuries.
Cooking equipment caused 101,200 fires, 320 deaths and 5,060 injuries.
Incendiary or suspicious caused 57,900 fires, 680 deaths and 2,310 injuries.
Open flame (such as fireplaces) caused 22,200 fires, 130 deaths and 770 injuries.
Appliances, tools & air conditioning caused 31,200 fires, 110 deaths and 1,080 injuries.
Children playing caused 22,400 fires, 390 deaths and 2,530 injuries. Exposure to another fire caused 17,500 fires, 40 deaths and 180 injuries. Other heat sources caused 10,000 fires, 130 deaths and 770 injuries. Natural causes were attributed to 8,700 fires, 20 deaths and 160 injuries.
By eliminating those fires caused by items which were not an actual integral part of the home, we get an idea of just how dangerous some homes can really be. The fires attributed solely to heating, cooking and other equipment, electrical systems and appliances, and open flames as their cause accounted for a total of 323,600 fires, 1,700 deaths, 12,280 injuries and $2,397,900,000.00 in property damage. Granted, these are U.S. totals which represent a four year period of time, but I hardly think they or their respective causes can be classed as either “small” or “insignificant”. Whether I’m criticized or not, I think I’ll stay “nit picky”.
Quick answer — plenty! Here’s a worst-case scenario. I received a call in 1998 from a first-time buyer who had just closed escrow on a house in San Francisco. His agent had steered him to a favored inspector. The buyer paid for the inspection, accepted the report, and bought the house. But then he had second thoughts about whether the inspection report was accurate. He was right to be dubious.
The house was an 1890s Victorian on a steep hillside. It had been extensively remodeled. A concrete retaining wall at the front of the house made it look like the house had a modern foundation. Living space had been added on the basement level. There were decks overlooking the city, with patio doors from the living room and bedrooms. A dream house? Maybe. The first inspection “report” was just a checklist, with major items noted as either serviceable or needing repair. Nearly everything was noted as “serviceable,” including the foundation. Apparently, the inspector didn’t bother to look, or maybe he looked the other way.
As soon as I drove up, I could see that the remodeling was substandard. The new stairs from the street to the house were irregular and did not have handrails. The deck railings had large openings that a child could easily fall through.Starting up the stairs, I noticed the old, rusty gas pipe protruding from the soil. This was the main gas supply to the house. A break in the pipe would result in a major leak, and possibly a fire or explosion. Next to the gas pipe was the sewer pipe (parts of sewers are often exposed on steep hills). It was an old, 3-inch pipe. As I approached the house, I saw that the newer part of the pipe, where it passed through the front wall, was the 4-inch size. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that connecting a large drain to a smaller one below will create full employment for Roto-Rooter.
When I reached the house itself, I saw that the front retaining wall was crooked, leaning, and contained wood left from the concrete forms. Wood embedded in concrete is a great pathway for termites to enter a house. The wall was fairly new, all right, but it definitely had not been installed by a professional. Worse, it turned out that the new “foundation” consisted of concrete poured over the old basement floor, and over the bottom of the wall framing. Whoever installed it didn’t even bother to get it level, and there were no bolts to connect the walls to the concrete. This is a big deal in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the chance of a major earthquake has been estimated at about 50% within 30 years. In a strong quake, the house could slide down the hill if it is not properly anchored.
The “serviceable” roof had holes big enough to put your fist through. Parts of the roof framing were badly damaged by decay. There were gaps in the exterior that would let water into the walls. The old electrical panel was loose and hazardous, and circuits for the kitchen did not work. There was no sign of a drainage system to keep water out of the basement bedroom. I could go on, but you get the idea. None of this was mentioned in the previous report.
Needless to say, my client was less than thrilled when he found out his new house was a money pit. He went straight to his attorney, of course, and filed suit against the first inspector, the real estate company, and the sellers. The last I heard, he was finally getting a settlement after 2 years of litigation. Whether it will cover the full cost of repairs is anyone’s guess.
Just think of the trouble this buyer would have saved by calling a reputable, independent inspector before closing escrow! Even the real estate agents and the sellers would have been better served. They might have had to accept a lower price, or find another buyer, but they would have saved a considerable amount in legal fees, not to mention time and aggravation.
Recently I inspected a new home that was only 4 months old. The owners said that the master bedroom and bath had a musty odor and that mildew was growing on the walls in the bathroom. The owner said it started about two weeks after they moved in. They have both been sick with asthma and what they thought was the flu.
I found 3 major problems:
1. No bathroom ventilation exhausts fan had been installed.
2. The whirlpool tub drain was not fully connected to the drain, and water had been standing under the tub. The connection to the drain was off by over 3 inches to the left!
3. Mold growth was found under the wallpaper and on the supporting frame for the whirlpool tub. (Testing by a mold specialist revealed that the mold was of the Stachybotrys mold family. This is a mold that produces toxic spores.) Normally this would have been taken care of under the builder’s warranty, but the builder had gone out of business (bankruptcy) and no one was around to help! The new home owners ended up spending $11,400 in repairs and cleaning and much more in medical bills due to the mold that initially came from the faulty and improper installation of the tub and ventilation.
I got this email today from the listing agent of the inspection I did this past friday.
To: HomeScope Property Inspections
“You see, I am at this very minute trying to re-sale a property that was already under contract but due to your suggestions for improvement in your inspection report has caused major renegotiations on my part. Sir, my job is already tough enough without inspectors creating additional problems. Your inspection report should stick to the terms of the contract and not exceed those terms with SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT. These only cause additional problems with the buyer asking for these SUGGESTIONS be completed as repairs. I hope to never need your services again.”
Dear real estate agent,
The items found in the inspection were relatively minor. Items we report on include things that may need repair, things that the new owner should consider doing as improvements, and safety issues. If your deal is having problems, it is caused by the condition of the property, of which I only report on. I would assume that you prefer a home inspector to sugar coat the defects in order to make the sales process go more smoothly. Sorry, but we are not part of the sales team. We report in an unbiased manner on the condition of the home. We get paid to tell the truth, for the benefit of our clients, not the listing agent.
If you would like to point out any examples of anything that we reported that were not accurate, please let me know.