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Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Posted by bustergordon (My Page) on
Thu, May 13, 10 at 21:40

We've gotten the home inspection report for the house that we're buying. To be honest, I'm overwhelmed and not sure how to interpret stuff. The home was built in 2003, and the report is 44 pages of seems to be alarming stuff. I'm not sure whether I should be worried, or whether the inspector was just very very detailed. We've been informed by the seller's agent that the sellers will not be fixing anything nor giving us a credit on anything, because they are losing money on the deal. I'm left with trying to figure out whether we should continue on with this or not.

The problems fall into a few main buckets, and here are the highlights:

* Electrical - all of the breaker boxes are missing the covers. It's not clear that the right types of fuses have been used - it says something about them not being AFCI combination fuses. I have no idea what that means. The wiring is exposed in the attic. My dad is concerned that perhaps the wiring in the house is not sufficient, which is why the breaker covers are missing - things are always being tripped, so maybe they've rip the covers off for ease.

* Plumbing - there are 2 water heaters combined together in the attic, with no pan. The water heaters have no drain pipes or sediment traps, and the vent is broken and held on with duct tape. There's corrosion damage indicating leaking. Water heaters are improperly strapped.

* Framing - framing is notched in places and in need of plates for shoring, and not strapped (we live in Southern California, so we're earthquake prone).

* Roofing - the various vents seem to have improper roof cladding, which could lead to leaking, and the roof needs flashing

* Fireplaces - neither is built to code, and both require substantial repairs (one is wood framed, so we need to cut into the wall and remove the wood from the fireplace area and has too small a tube, so we need to make the fire box smaller, and the other one needs to be completely replaced).

With all of this, I'm not sure whether I have the world's worst built house, or whether this is pretty standard, and I've got the world's most thorough inspector. I've got no context! Can anyone help? I'm also completely unaware of how much stuff costs to repair, so any guidance would be totally appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Run, run away and let the seller keep it. It would be a major mistake to buy something like this.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I'd pass. One bad system is doable, ALL bad systems -- electrical, heating, framing, etc. is beyond my comfort zone. These sound like issues you'd find in a very old home, but since it was built in 2003 I'm guessing it was built by amateurs during a building boom.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I would first speak to the inspector (offer to pay him for a sit-down 1/2 hr) and go over these things so that you have a better understanding of what they imply and what the fixes might entail. Of course you're confused (who wouldn't be!) but at least knowing what's what will help enormously to make decisions. Once you understand the issues, then you can be rational about either walking away, deciding to ask for a big drop in the price (because you DON'T want the sellers to get the fixes done themselves... you want to decide who does them) or living with some of the problems and getting them done over time. But talk to the inspector first.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I agree with 'idrive65'.....these problems sound like an older home not 2003!!! I wouldn't buy it either!!


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I agree with larke, I'd review the inspection, some matters may be minor, meaning not too much money to fix. I find it best to attend the inspection, the inspector can explain verbally what some of the items mean, sometimes all the pages make it sound worse than reality.
Of course, I don't know how much you like this house and if you feel the price is worth it. You've only given us a small snapshot.
Have you checked to see the permits, what city or county is this house in? Is there any remodeling on the house, was it a custom build or a development?


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Your sellers are living in a dream world. NO ONE will buy a house with these kinds of issues (assuming they know of them) without a price reduction. It sucks to be them, but they will have to move on their price or they will not sell. I second (or third) Larke's advice. Personally, I'd pass. Who needs the hassle?


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

OP, do you have a buyer's agent who is helping you navigate the process of house hunting? As you probably know, the seller's agent has an obligation to look out only for the seller, not potential buyers. Also, yes, schedule an appointment to discuss the report with the inspector. S/he may be willing to say things in person that might add perspective to what's written in the inspection report. It seems hiring a real estate attorney is common practice in some states and a rarity in others, but I got great advice from my attorney while house hunting. Best of luck.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Home inspections are done for a reason, to catch things like this. The fact that this house is 7 years old and they have found all these issues makes me wonder what the inspector can't see. Since they can't open up walls, who knows if proper insulation was added, if the drain pipes in the bathroom are run correctly, if the ductwork is hooked up properly. Since the inspector noted pretty much everything that he could see wrong, I would have no faith at all in this property.
As was stated before, the seller really has two options. First, they can say no and hope for a buyer who doesn't get a home inspection, or two drop the price. A lot. However, if you decide to pass on this, I do believe (at least in NJ, not sure about California) the selling agent must make potential buyers aware of anything damaging that is found in a home inspection report. So, any future buyers would have the benefit of having your inspection report. If you really, REALLY like this house, it may not be too bad with a substantial price reduction. Provided that you get a qualified person to rectify all of the issues your inspector found.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

The fact that these problems exist in a 7 year old home sends up a big red flag to me and I'd be pretty worried about buying the home. However, I would disect each issue on the report, issue by issue, to determine how serious each issue is and the cost to repair each.

When you're armed with the knowledge of how much each repair will cost and the seriousness of each then do an analysis of all the other factors that we do not know. For example, maybe the price you've paid for the house already reflects the fact that multiple repairs need to be done. If so, then you may not have much room to renogiate. However, if you're paying a fair market price, some of those issues you've stated are safety issues and the seller would have a difficult time selling the home to anyone else without first fixing them. Also as pointed out above, once the seller is aware of an issue, in many states he would have to disclose it to other potential buyers. It's in his/her best interest to work with you and reneegotiate or fix the issues. Good luck.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

On a house built so recently this is a very BAD report.

You do need to learn a few things though.

If you have a "breaker box" no fuses are involved.
Any house that new uses circuit breakers, not fuses
(and there is no such thing as a "AFCI combination" fuse.

Arc Fault Circuit Breakers may not have been required when the house was built depending on the exact code in effect in the jurisdiction.

Not every place adopts the latest code revisions as soon as they are issued.

"vent is broken and held on with duct tape" is an immediate fire hazard and does not sound right.

I would give this a pass.
The fact the seller is losing money is not your problem.
They purchased a dump (or made it into a dump) and prices have declined.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

1) Electrical sounds fine. AFCI breakers are required in the new code (as of last year I believe.) They were not required before then and basically every home in america is "missing" them.

2) Sounds like someone did a hack job on the installation. If you are putting them in the attic, you obviously want someplace for water to go in the event of a leak or rupture. This is probably a $500-$1,000 problem.

3) Framing is allowed to be notched in many circumstances. The key is the location and the depth of the notch. It may or may not be an issue. The strapping is likely required by local code, so that would have to be fixed.

4) Flashing is a pretty cheap fix. Under $1,000 probably unless all the boots around the pipes are bad. Then it could be a couple k.

5) Fireplaces - this is the potentially huge dollar problem. Once you start ripping them apart, that could run into the tens of thousands depending on what they find. That would be the deal breaker for me unless I was getting a real low price on the home.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I'm with bill on this, the fireplace seems like the only significant problem that you'd have to talk to the inspector for clarification on how significant.

the other problems listed really sound like things that fall under, codes changed and house doesn't meet new code(not a problem) to someone "fixed" the waterheater and didn't do a good job.

I'm not saying these aren't problems, but as bill noted, some sound a lot worse than they are. These should really should have been covered on the day of the inspection with you to actually show you what the problems are and not for you to find and wonder about in your report.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

what billl said.

Most inspections do sound overwhelming;
inspectors have to list every single item to protect themselves legally-

If the light in the vent-a-hood doesn't light up when you flip the switch, the inspector has to write it in the report;
he cannot try changing the light bulb.

I wish you the best.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Thanks everyone. Here's some context...

My husband went to the inspection, and the inspector's verbal summary at the end was that the home is in very good shape for as large as it is (3800 sq ft), with some things that he thought needed to be taken care of right away (ie: water heater, framing strapping, etc.). He did not in any way give my husband the impression that there was anything seriously wrong, which is why we were so surprised to get a report of 40+ pages of safety hazards.

bill - I think you're right on the water heaters. My dad's suggestion is to go tankless since they are in the attic, as we'll have fewer problems and less likelihood of serious flooding with a tankless water heater up there. Does that sound right?

The fireplaces are a big ticket item. I attended the fireplace inspection and the inspector said it's likely $7-10K to replace one and $3-4K to fix the other. We are going to try to insist on a purchase price credit from the sellers, but they are holding firm that they are losing money and the house is as-is. We'll see how far we get.

We do have an agent, but she doesn't know what most of this is, and because the sellers have communicated that they will not fix anything, we are put in the position of trying to decide whether to walk away or not.

I'm going to try to call the inspector to see if he will explain things to me better - I think that's a good idea.

Thanks everyone.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Tankless water heaters are great. However, you want to put them as close to the main places you use hot water. The farther you pipe the water, the less of benefit you get from the whole tankless idea. Also, it will certainly be much more expensive to buy tankless than to repair the existing. It might be a good investment for you in the longrun, but there are upfront costs to consider.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

IMO, unless this house is really amazing in some respect in terms of price, location or features, run.

HI's by practice are required to note safety hazards. As this home has way more than its share, especially for the age, since there are so many homes on the market, there is no reason to settle for one that was built and/or maintained so poorly.

Last but not least, realize that tankless water heaters have many pros...but they are an issue with high energy efficient washers. Such washers typically use as little water as possible...and in the event of a hot wash, the water they use is not enough to trigger the water heater. Therefore you can purchase an additional heating unit that can be installed near the washer, but IMO, not worth the hassle AND the additional cost...as gas tankless HWH's also have spotty consistency in the heat of the water, and generally take about 22 years to recoup the high cost of the product plus installation.

IMO, do thorough research on tankless HWHs' before you buy this house...and then decide if tankless is for you...as that in itself may be the deal killer.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

HI's by practice are required to note safety hazards. As this home has way more than its share, especially for the age, since there are so many homes on the market, there is no reason to settle for one that was built and/or maintained so poorly.

In my local market there are not "so many houses on the market" if I were buying today, my choices would be limited as compared to the heyday when everyone was making their move. Location is important to me, I enjoy living in a very small circle of my city, the OP may have the same limited choices, this house may have other features that tip the scales to keep working on this one. As the inspector noted the house is in "very good shape". I'm not as quick as others to say "run".

As to tankless, I'm considering one (or two) for the same reasons, mine is on my third floor of an all hardwood floor house, I'd go tankless for the same reason and it gives me more kitchen closet space. I'm not expecting cost savings.

Did a separate fireplace inspector inspect the fireplace and give you the price? You could have a contractor give you an actual bid that might help you.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I'm with those who said skip this house. You might expect a really old home to have things that don't meet current code, etc, but a newer house should not have this many things that need immediate and expensive correction. Unfortunately, way too many newer homes are poorly built. Houses built during a boom are particularly notorious for shoddy work, as they were built even faster than normal, and by even more unskilled workers than usual. I'd run screaming after getting a home inspection report like that. After all, that's what you pay an inspector for, to find the things that are red flags and/or that would help you negotiate a lower price if called for. Could be the money you spent on the inspector would be wasted if you ignore serious problems that he uncovers. And that's just what he can SEE. If they got this many things wrong during construction what else is hiding behind the walls, concretet, etc?


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I agree with Sylvia..

1.Home inspectors need to cover themselves - thus the 44 page report. I always look at the inspection report as a homeowners manual on how to maintain the home.

2. That being said IMHO - Home inspectors should not be quoting prices. For instance: The fireplace problem should be addressed by a fireplace expert/mason who will inspect the fireplaces and give you a quote as to the extent of the repairs and to bring it up to code.

3. This would be my approach for the hot water heaters and attic rafters as well. Ask experts in these areas to come evaluate your opotions and give you an idea as to cost. I have personally seen the damage done by hot water heaters in attics that rust out and there is no pan underneath...it is not pretty!

If the sellers are not budging - you have to make the deciaion whether to move on or not. Good luck!


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Coming from Southern CA and my DH being a retired building official for Los Angeles county, PLEASE take this list to your building department, and talk to the office manager or senior building inspector.I see alot of red flags here, and it could be some of the building was done without permits. Big problems. Some cities are more lenient that the county is. Also, CA has some of the strictest disclosure laws around, especially is a earthquake zone.


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RE: Just got home inspection......I'm overwhelmed

DH is wondering if this is a short sale. or a house going into forclosuer and you are not being told all the fact. DH said strapping on water heaters are required and pans too. He also said that maybe the homeowner/builder did some things without permits. Please check with your building dept. He also saw some dangers.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

There is a faint whiff of something very wrong with that report. Unless AFCI breakers were required when the house was built, they should not have been mentioned in the report.

A home built in 2003 should not have ANY fuses. The use of that term erroneously is a red flag against the inspectors. If the report uses the term fuses for circuit breakers, I would discard it altogether and hire someone else to do an inspection.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Coming from Southern CA and my DH being a retired building official for Los Angeles county, PLEASE take this list to your building department, and talk to the office manager or senior building inspector.I see alot of red flags here, and it could be some of the building was done without permits. Big problems. Some cities are more lenient that the county is. Also, CA has some of the strictest disclosure laws around, especially is a earthquake zone.
I would not recommend this, talking with the building department can open a huge can of worms that is impossible to close. Your agent can pick up the permit info for you.
A local licensed contractor will review the report's validity and give you a bid so you can decide how to proceed.
The building department can't bid the job, which is important for your decision.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

creek side: "Unless AFCI breakers were required when the house was built, they should not have been mentioned in the report."

They have been required as of 2002 in bedrooms. As of 2008, they are required in almost the entire home in new construction, additions, etc.

Regardless, once again HI's are required to site safety hazards. Case in point...an old home usually has very few outlets, and if the electrical has not been upgraded at all, none are three prong. As such, this is not a code violation as it is grandfathered. However, that still does not negate the fact that minimal outlets in today's electronic world means too many extension cords...safety hazard. And...same goes for the absence of three prong outlets.

Home inspections are not code inspections...but a good, thorough HI will site any safety hazard that is observed on the day of inspection.

Better safe than sorry.

Here is a link that might be useful: AFCI Safety


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

"Better safe than sorry."

Yes.

Lets all go broke being safe.

The 'cautionary principle' leads to a lot of bad decisions.

Better safe than sorry, always use larger conductors than the code requires.

Heat is always produced when current flows in a wire.
A larger wire would further reduce the heat generated.

'It's for the children.'


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

brickeyee, it the individuals choice just how 'safe' they wish to make their home.However, the only way they can make an educated decision is to be given the facts.

Surely you don't have a problem with a home-buyer being given factual information..or do you?


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

what did you decide to do about this house???


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

WOW... active seismic zone, and there's FRAMING/strapping issues, in what I assume is a FRAMEd house? Surely, by now, someone has coined a catchy acronym to describe the now-proverbial "So-Cal-nightmare-hacked-together-during-boom-by-illegal-labor-with-no-meaningful-inspections-by-AHJ..." ;')

In most states the current owner would have legal recourse against the builder for 10 YEARS, but it's 40:1 odds this shoddy builder has folded shop and vamoosed, circa 2005-07.

It's not hard to imagine the FOUNDATION/soil preparation was done with similar "quality". If this dubious house is really a contender, it would be cheap insurance to hire a licensed Geotechnical Engineer, who specializes in foundations, to do "the kitchen sink" inspection, including drilling core samples, peeky-peek with a borescope, etc.

Oh yeah. Knowledge is power, not to mention further negotiating leverage, buyer's market and all.

At the very least, determine other homes in the 'hood built by the same hosers, and talk to the owners, especially original owners.

OTOH, I do envy the apparently significant legal liability HIs work under in high-tax CA. Here in corrupt ol' low-tax FL, the HIs are on the hook ONLY for the price of the inspection--at most--I kid you not!


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

"Surely you don't have a problem with a home-buyer being given factual information..or do you?"

Except for all this inspector is doing is CYA and appearing to justify his bill.

When was the last time you found a lamp, TV, or other home electronics that had a 3-wire plug?

Outside of a few computer components that DO need 3-wires for their protection circuits to work very well there are not really that many 3-wire loads in most houses.

There is a difference between providing facts ('non-grounded receptacles found') and scarring folks ('non-grounded receptacles need replacement.'

It should really say 'non-grounded receptacles without GFCI or Arc Fault protection found.'

Telling buyers older copper plumbing MAY have lead solder is not the same as telling them it must be changed or replaced.

Of course they miss the 30+ year old galvanized supply and DWV lines.
This are very likely to need replacement (especially hot water lines).

For folks that want a 'perfect; house, purchase new.
It will be to the latest code revisions, and cost like it.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Brickeyee, I don't see where the OP even mentioned copper plumbing.

That said, you really need to do some research to find out what each state requires by law in terms of defect identification and safety recommendations. Absent legislation, what the the SOP's are of the five largest home inspection professional organizations.

Then comment.

BTW, have you done anything yet to get the VA legislature and Governor to enact legislation that would regulate the HI profession yet?

How did that work out?


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

Good inspection, but those are the problems he can see, just think of what he can't see. Run don't walk. There are other homes.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I was telling DH about this post and he said, "Who would put water heaters in the attic?" We live in PA where everybody has a basement where the water heaters are. Don't they have basements in CA?

I would also walk away from this house. All those problems with a 7-year old house? Hard to believe.


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

"BTW, have you done anything yet to get the VA legislature and Governor to enact legislation that would regulate the HI profession yet? "

I am a PE, why should I bother myself with HIs?

Many seem to actually know very little (seen it in states WITH licensing also), and will do just about everything to disclaim any respectability (by law or contract).


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RE: Just got home inspection...I'm overwhelmed

I'm sure the OP probably has resolved this issue by now (original post in May)....but to comment on Water Heater location.

Not everywhere has basements. Around here water heaters are often in the attic. Sometimes in garage or in the utility room.


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