I must say that 38 hours later I am still hopping mad at the recent purchaser of a 1944 home who bank-rolled the renovation of the home to place it once again upon the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) market to take advantage of some poor unsuspecting souls. Does it matter most to me that he completely renovated the basement that featured enlarged window wells in the two bedrooms to allow egress, yet create negative grading that turns them into the fonts of living water that still seeps into the home? Oh I can’t prove this due to the fresh paint and carpet that removed all the visible evidences from prospective buyers, but I know that it is an ongoing issue. How? I just know. Or does it matter that the bedroom (and I use that term loosely), that has access to the naturally aspirated gas fired water heater and 90% efficient furnace inside the bedroom closet, is completely unsafe as a sleeping room?
Yes, the current owner is a lawyer, and he makes lots of money acquiring properties, rehabbing them, and then reselling them quickly for a handsome profit . “Let’s not use real estate agents so that we can save money and avoid their commissions,“ he says. Please don’t think Mr. Attorney’s hands have calluses earned from performing hard renovation work. He may have them from writing so many checks to others, but he obviously prides himself on cutting corners in an effort to maximize his profits. In all fairness, he may not even know the corners he is cutting, but since he is playing the role of his own General Contractor, then he should learn what he needs to know to make a home safe and ready to be resold. Am I infuriated that the person he has performing his electrical work used to work at the County Fair painting lipstick on pigs? Sure Mr. Wannabe Sparky can create a neat and organized subpanel that might impress a newbie Home Inspector, but to the seasoned inspector it was really just a fire and electrocution hazard in waiting, due to electrical ignorance on the part of the person who got paid for its installation. That’s right, the subpanel installer just painted another County Fair pig with liberal amounts of ruby red lipstick.
But who cares? That was yesterday and life goes onward. So why does this leave me thinking about the home that I have already inspected, collected the fees, cashed the check, completed the report, and moved on with my life. Well I think it has to do with the fact that I am still sore completely across my chest in a rainbow pattern that runs from my right hand, up my arm, across my chestal chi-chi’s, and then down my left arm. It is an odd pain that I shouldn’t have to be feeling, but I still do. And that is thanks to Mr. Attorney who loves to write checks to beautify homes in order to put them back on the market in an unsafe condition to potentially harm an unsuspecting public. “Caveat Emptor!.. Caveat Emptor!!... CAVEAT EMPTOR!!!”
BUYER BEWARE – SO WHAT HAPPENED?
“Really,” you ask, “So what happened?” Well picture me walking through the basement Mother-in-law apartment kitchen with my clients after my inspection process had been completed. I wanted to show them an interesting condition that you don’t get to see every day. I plugged in my cheapo 3-prong GFCI outlet tester and used it on the outlet immediately to the left of the kitchen sink to make my point. “Now before I push this, listen closely,” I said. Then we heard the tripping pop of a GFCI somewhere to the far right of the sink. “Please reset the GFCI,” I asked. My clients scanned to the right saw nothing but plain 3-prong outlets on the right side of the sink. “Where?” asked my married husband and wife clients. “Oh, it must be back here.” And with that I pulled out the electric range, where a gas range was once installed, and you could see over the back edge of the range a GFCI outlet with a missing plastic trim plate. I wanted to show them how insipid it was to have the reset GFCI located behind the range.
“This is where the counter outlets get reset,” I said.
And with that I took my left hand and placed it on the top back edge of the range to help support me as I leaned over the unit. I kind of fell forward and I quickly placed my right hand on the rear wall so that I was supported with both hands. Then with my right hand touching part of the exposed GFCI metal securing frame, I attempted to push the reset button on the GFCI. I must have held the button in for about 1.5 seconds and somehow, some way, the 110 volts shot like a rainbow up my arm, across my chest, and back down through my other arm. My clients looked at me as I jumped back. They had no clue as to what they were witnessing.
“Are you okay?” the husband asked.
“I think I just took a huge jolt of electricity. Is my hair standing up?” I asked. With that they both giggled because it was obvious that my hair always stands up. I just stood there in a daze.
“Are you okay?” they asked again.
“Just give me a couple of moments... Let’s see, I am not going to faint... I think I am thinking clearly... But I do feel very strange as I can feel the arc of passage that the electricity flowed through from my right hand all the way across to the left” I said.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” they asked.
“I don’t know. We’ll just have to see” I said.
And with that, I kind of pushed the range back into position, and gave them the explanation of the stupidity of the situation and I led them to the recently added miswired basement subpanel that confirmed my condemnation of the person who created these electrical hazards.
WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF A BUILDING PERMIT
Yes, I am hopping mad right now as to the electrical work performed without the benefit of building permit. And I am equally mad that the work was performed without the necessary electrical knowledge. I am also very thankful me heart is still beating a normal rhythm, and grateful that I have the health to write-up this account of my misfortune.
It is discomforting for me to read online descriptions of the Utah electrical marketplace that say in essence, “In Utah a homeowner can do any work they want on their own home. They must be the owner of the property, and not a renter. If a homeowner wants to wire their entire home without any knowledge of electrical wiring practices or code, then that is permissible. They must still pull a permit and comply with the adopted codes. As an inspector, it is a whole lot of fun to inspect a home wired by someone who got their electrical knowledge form reading a ‘Home Depot: Wiring 1-2-3’ book.:-)” Personally, I really like the portion that says, “They must still pull a permit and comply with the adopted codes,” but I think that is the part that gets completely overlooked.
I have not confirmed it, but in my shocking scenario I believe we have an attorney owner who is NOT doing the work himself. Instead, I believe he is writing checks to his handy dandy renovation team. If you pay money for electrical work such as adding circuits and subpanels, then you must be a licensed electrician and a building permit must be completed for the work that is performed. Now I am typecasting because I have never met the owner. He may be a fine man. He may have the best of intentions. I did get to meet his father, who opened the vacant home for me, and he was very kind. All I know is that the seller is an attorney, by profession, and I learned that he has been nickel and diming my buyer clients for every needed finishing detail they have requested thus far. For example, the buyers requested smoke detectors be put in the home, and the seller agreed as long as he could add the installation price to the amount of the offer on the home. And this continued for each added item needing repair before my arrival. To me, that piques my ears, and puts me on dirty rotten scoundrel alert.
BE BOLD BUT NOT OVERBEARING
I wonder how Mr. Attorney is going to take the portion of my inspection report summary that I created especially for this home inspection report? It currently reads...
BUILDING PERMITS: This home has seen major upgrades in the last couple of months, and I see no evidence that building permits were pulled and completed for the work performed. Here are the details from the Orem City website as of 11/08/2013...
Do I Need a Building Permit?
Any person who remodels, repairs (with some exceptions), constructs, moves, demolishes, enlarges or changes the use of a building or causes electrical, plumbing, heating or air conditioning work to be done, or plans to apply stucco, siding or to re-roof, needs to apply for a building permit with the City of Orem Building Safety Division. For examples of which types of work need and do not need permits, click on the following link. “What Needs a Permit?”... http://orem.org/index.php/building-safety/building-safety-division
The big issues in this home include the basement added subpanel and circuits, the gas appliance service closet in the bedroom with the exterior door but no carbon monoxide detector, all of the outlets throughout the home with 3 prongs (the majority of which have open grounds, as well as the addition of the basement window wells and windows, after they enlarged openings for bedroom egress. It is best to open these major “Can Of Worms” with the city building department before you take possession of the home, especially since this work looks to have been done during the current owner’s ownership of the home.
WE DON’T WANT “THE MONEY PIT”
During my inspection walkthrough, my buyer clients kept telling me that they did not want to buy the proverbial ‘Money Pit.’ Money pits come in many different forms and are different for each buyer. What is a money pit for one buyer may be the perfect fit for another buyer. So much has to do with the buyer’s expectations, finances, and their abilities to make any needed repairs. I remember inspecting another Orem home with very low basement ceilings and electrical issues everywhere. By the time I my buyer arrived for the walkthrough, I was certain that the conditions of the home would most likely kill the deal. When I opened the front door, my 5’8 client and his 5’2 fiancé showed up and I asked him what his home repair skills were and he said that he was a full time licensed electrician... Absolutely incredible! This home was the perfect fit for my vertically challenge, yet highly electrically skilled clients. And that is really what a home inspection is about! We provide a service that helps determine if the home a good fit for my clients. Like I said earlier, there is a perfect buyer for every home, and it all comes down to the selling price, the scope of needed repairs/upgrades, the desire and ability to get the work done, and an adequate budget that does not put the prospective buyer deep into the red with their investment. If all of that works, then go forth and consummate the deal.
But yesterday my clients were really expecting a home that was renovated to a high level of completion. And many parts of the home looked really good. It was obvious that lots of money and time was dumped into the renovations. But it was as though the renovation team was really good at the first 90% and then did not even see the remaining 10% work that still needed to be done. And that was just from a non-technical prospective buyer‘s pre-inspection point of view. What was scary to me was all the issues that the renovation team did not even realize were issues and address. You know, the behind the scenes issues that are way beyond most buyer’s ability to assess. I am referring to the deeper issues that our non-technical clients rely so heavily upon us for our professional opinion, and are willing to pay good money for our expertise. When they call us, most don’t realize that we are really hired to validate their initial decision to purchase the home. Don’t think that means we are supposed to talk pretty about the home so that our clients will buy it. Instead, we either validate or render weak and invalidate their desire to buy the home. We provide the truth that can set them free. We give them the facts, in a way that they can more fully comprehend the scope of the issues needing repair/completion and ultimately determine if they, as buyers, are a good fit for the home. This is the reason that Home Inspectors are often referred to as “Deal Killers!” Yes, the deal often dies when the prospective buyer realizes that the conditions of the home were not in harmony with their initial expectations.
It is a true art form in presenting our findings to our clients. Some inspectors are very good at it and they remain successful for years. Others are too harsh and they are ultimately shunned by those that help this type of referral business flourish. And others are too sweet, and their sugar coated findings are designed to not rock the boat. The overly sweet findings typically get them into trouble because buyers end up testifying under oath to the Judge, “If I had only known of these conditions I would have never bought the home!” Yes, mastering the art form of conveying bad issues to our clients is the key to long term success as an inspector, and accepting the cattle brand of a deal killer is just part of the job. I have a developed a very thick skin over the years and feel that I present the inspection findings as good as anybody and my clients appreciate my straight shooting style.
THE HOUSE KILLED THE DEAL
So why doesn’t the house ever get blamed for killing the deal? How come the long term water entry, rot, mold, and termites don’t ever get the blame for killing the deal? And in this particular case, when the buyer’s home inspector takes a jolt of unexpected electricity right before their eyes, then why doesn’t the hazardous electrical system get the blame for killing the deal? I can just hear the seller now as he attempts to blame the horrible inspector instead of taking ownership for the issues and getting them repaired, on his dime. In this case, I am not the deal killer. Instead, I was almost killed by the deal and I am still hopping mad!!!
What do you recommend I do from here?... Should I report the home into the city building department? Should I prepare to be sued by an angry seller who will be infuriated with my report? Should I go to the hospital and be checked out? Or should I just take a chill pill and just let the dust settle?... TO BE CONTINUED... See the follow-up at http://michaeldleavitt.com/mdl/bloggers/entry/flipper-alert-email-to-building-official
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE IN MY SIZE 15 SHOES?