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Inspection question

Posted by rainlan (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 28, 10 at 21:01

Hi,

We have an accepted offer on a small townhouse we love. But today's inspection showed some problems. Can you guys tell me if these few are bad please?

-Seller won't sign disclosure. Is this bad? Should I insist she sign?

-The house apparently has 50 AMPS electricity. It's built 6 years ago, and is 1800+600, so this seems wrong, right? Should be a lot higher. Is this easy to remedy and how to do it?

-Similarly, electricity board is overloaded. (I think the term is junction box). Inspector said probably need to split into another box to prevent possible fires, and to meet code.

-The hot water in the spare bathroom doesn't run at a good speed/volume. The listing agent says it's probably calcium deposits from lack of use.

-There were some small things like possible water spots, doors that won't latch, possible "settling" of the house, but we love it, so we think as long as above are fixed, it's not an issue. Are we stupid for thinking so? Hoping to draw on your combined wisdom quick, before we continue with either the most exciting purchase, or commit to the dumbest mistake of our lives.

Thank you


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Inspection question

If the seller won't even sign a disclosure, I'd be very worried. Disclosures are often not much good in terms of leverage as often the seller just says they don't know in answer to a lot of questions, but still... I've never heard of anyone having 50 amps. 100 amps is the 'old' only semi-adequate standard, and 200 amps are the norm now. To change over, you'll have to spend a LOT of money on electricians! Who built in 50 amps only 6 yrs ago?? The listing agent has no real idea what's wrong with the hot water unless he's also a licensed plumber. Get one in before anything else. Possible water spots may not be small, not if they mean there's a serious problem. And maybe a structural engineer needs to take a look at the non-latching doors, which could also indicate huge problems - not necessarily, but maybe you want to rethink how much you 'love' this house. It's business, nothing more, and there are lots of houses out there these days.


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RE: Inspection question

The amps is very easy to check. Look in the main circuit box for the main shutoff, it probably reads 150 but if not there will be a number on there and probably not 50. Adding a sub panel next to the main panel is no big deal.


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RE: Inspection question

Converting a whole house from 100 (never mind 50) amps to 200 amps is a big deal and is definitely more than adding a sub panel.


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RE: Inspection question

Regardless of anything else, I would never buy a home if the seller refuses to sign a disclosure.


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RE: Inspection question

It is not the disclosure that you sign before listing the house. We asked her questions in the house inspection - that's the question I meant.

And the house appeared to be 50 AMP, if I understand inspector correctly. The builder was called since selling agent has a good relationship with builder, and the builder thinks the house had 100 AMP. Something must have gone wrong in the middle.

This is a row of townhouses....


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RE: Inspection question

You have not clearly explained what sort of disclosure the seller refuses to sign. Some real estate companies and/or lawyers go nuts writing disclosure forms. The last time I sold property, I refused to sign a disclosure that the closing agent put in front of me. It was garbage. The buyer bought the property without it.

I agree that converting a less than 200 amp service to 200 amps is not trivial or inexpensive. I also doubt that the property has a 50 or 100 amp service. If it does, run. The minimum I would consider acceptable is 150 amps.

Are you sure the inspector is up to snuff? What you are reporting about the his statements regarding the electrical panel and how to meet code makes me wonder.


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RE: Inspection question

Something is VERY wrong with that 50 amp number.

There is no way a house could get away with a service that small under the NEC.

I would almost be willing to bet money it is 150 amps, and for a smaller house without a lot of large loads (like heat, water heater, A/C, stove, oven, clothes dryer, etc.) might be adequate.

Depending on local rules/laws a power upgrade can be reasonable (under $3,000 or so) or painful.
You rarely 'add a sub-panel' (unless you have an outside main disconnect) but simply remove and replace the existing main panel.

In some places the POCO is required to upgrade their lines without charge, ion others they get to bill the property owner.


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RE: Inspection question

I didn't know how to phrase things, but here it is in the inspector's words (but with some boring stuff left out):

-Seller's disclosure questioner form provided by Able Home Inspection was not completed.

-Main disconnect2: 50 amp circuit breaker. Located: On the outside next to the meter.

-Total number of branch circuits observed connected to panels: 28 (120 volt circuits) 2 (240 volt circuits)

Main Panel:----------------------- More circuits connected to panel than it was designed for.

FYI- It has come to the attention of the Inspector, that previous clients have been informed by their
homeowner's insurance companies, that they would have to upgrade their 60 or lower amp electrical service
to at least a 100 amp service in order to obtain a homeowner's insurance policy.
Several circuit breakers had two circuits connected to them. Double tapping can lead to loose connections
that can overheat. The breakers will also be more prone to tripping from overloads. It is recommended that
this be corrected by an electrician. (A sub panel or a larger main panel needs to be installed, however, there
may be a complication in doing so, due to the 50 amp service provided to the unit.)
-------------------------

A few other minor things wrong that we will not require to get fixed, really really like this house. Have a few pictures of what he meant, but don't know how to upload so you can see.

Is fixing the AMP supply to 100 very expensive?

Thank you


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RE: Inspection question

Why is the home inspector asking the sellers to disclose anything? The home inspector is supposed to make personal observations of the home and assess its condition base upon his own knowledge and experience, not on what the homeowner says or doesn't say.

I'm not surprised the seller refused to complete the disclosure form. It may also have contained a release of liability statement, which could have been the real reason the home inspector wanted it completed.

I find it hard to believe any townhouse built six years ago in the US or Canada would have been approved by the building authorities with only a 50 amp service. I've not seen anything less than 60 amps just for temporary service in years, let alone 50 amps for a residence.

Where is this property located?


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RE: Inspection question

MA. Is it bad if I give out exact details of property?

Could inspector be wrong?

I uploaded a picture to imageshack.

Leaning towards walking atm...this is a GREAT town that we're trying to buy in. Never thought we would be able to buy in this town, and on the outside this property is gorgeous. I would just like to know how much to fix, and if she fixes these main issues I don't want to let this property go.

Thank you for your input.

Here is a link that might be useful: picture link


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RE: Inspection question

Well, that's certainly a 50 amp breaker. Can you also upload a picture showing the whole box and a little bit of its surroundings, so that there is more context for what we are seeing?


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RE: Inspection question

I didn't take the picture the inspector did, sorry. If I return to the house I'll try to take another picture.

It is a row of townhouses. This one is the end unit, so all the boxes were located here. All are identical. Each of these boxes had a unit number written next to it.

I was wondering, do you think it likely there's a 2nd electrical supply source that the inspector hasn't found yet? Maybe on the other end unit?

We turned on central a/c and many lights. Fridge was on. Nothing short circuited.

But 50 AMPS is insufficient electricity supply to meet code, is how I understand it.


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RE: Inspection question

rainlan: "The builder was called since selling agent has a good relationship with builder, and the builder thinks the house had 100 AMP. Something must have gone wrong in the middle."

That in itself is a major red flag.The builder "THINKS" the house had 100 AMP?? He doesn't know? That statement in itself leads me to believe that the HI is indeed correct. And, the selling REA being cozy with the builder is not helping the credibility of either.

If that house does indeed have only 50 AMP service, the fact that it has a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) makes the entire house is suspect, because someone must have paid off the code official, or somehow avoided getting an electrical inspection. This is possible because certain states will allow a builder to continue the construction if the inspector can't make it to the building to inspect within a certain time frame.

Simple solution; contact a licensed electrician and have him take a look at the electrical panel. If he confirms the HI findings, run from this home, because who knows what else was done in a cut corners manner that was not visible at the time of inspection that could cause expense and safety problems down the line.

BTW, The whole HI disclosure form is very weird. I would not sign one either. The seller is NOT the HI's client...you are...why is he asking the seller to do anyhting??

You really need to clarify the point of that disclosure, and if it is even allowed for an HI to do that in MA, before judging the owner's refusal.


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RE: Inspection question

I would just go look elsewhere. You don't need to start out with this kind of thing!


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RE: Inspection question

But 50 AMPS is insufficient electricity supply to meet code, is how I understand it.

You can't run a house on 50 amps, code or not, unless there is another electrical service supplying things like the AC, and you are heating and cooking with gas.

I once looked at townhouse style condo development, which had electric baseboard heat. The baseboard heaters were all on a common supply, which was paid for monthly by all the owners. The bill was simply divided evenly among all the units. Needless to say, with no individual incentive to conserve heat, the per unit monthly "share" was incredibly high.

That was one to run from. Yours may be similar.


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RE: Inspection question

I would run the other way.

This place is so sub-standard it is frightening.

Have you looked around thoroughly and made sure there is not another panel?

A 50 amp sub-panel would not be uncommon, but a 50 amp main service is a bad joke.


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RE: Inspection question

Was there an individual meter for the unit? Perhaps the entire place is on one meter for HVAC and outdoor power, while there is one 50 amp sub-panel for lights and outlets (and I suppose a dryer) for each individual unit.

It's too bad the home inspector did not take a more comprehensive photo.


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RE: Inspection question

I think 50 AMP is not considered sufficient even without powering an HVAC unit.


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RE: Inspection question

Hi,

I really like it, and it looked perfect. The last I heard was that the builder is very sure it is 100. He thinks the switch says 50, but that's because the wrong switch was used. They'll take a look and update me soon.

So from what I've read, it's not just the SWITCH (the thing in the photo) that needs to be suitable for 100amps, but the wiring needs to be 100 amps too, so I need to get them to check that.

Other than that, the overburdened circuit box is an easier fix, right? This house is very new and I must emphasise this...looks awesome on the outside. :) That's why we're trying to make an extra effort to get it.

I don't know if I want to pay for electrician fees and whatever though. Hoping seller will pay for some stuff. And re:disclosure, yeah if i were a seller I won't want to sign any either. But don't most sellers sign them?


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Electrician

rainlan: "But don't most sellers sign them?"

It depends on state law. In NJ disclosure is not required. In NY you can buy your way out of disclosure for $500.00.

And again, the real issue is why the HI is asking the sellers to sign the disclosure. That is highly unusual, to put it mildly as HI's are by profession not involved in this part of the transaction.

That said, it would be foolish at this point to not get an independent verification of the electrical service.

Do yourself and your family a huge favor: do not take the builder's word for anything....

The very fact that the circuit box is overburdened is a MAJOR red flag. It is also illegal in that it violates code.
Last but not least, it is UNSAFE. The builder is responsible for allowing the home to be sold with inadequate electrical service...how do you know what else is wrong that can't be seen...such as the wiring in the walls?

I am amazed that anyone would be willing to spend at minimum a few hundred grand on a home, but would not part with a mere fraction of that cost in a fee for an electrician to verify that all is as it should be, as this is a very serious safety concern in terms of fire.

Many electricians will provide free estimates...or charge a nominal fee.


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RE: Inspection question

You're considering a townhouse that was tossed up at the top of the market in a zip code that you wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

That's exactly what the builder was planning on- naive first time buyers who don't know better, but have stars in their eyes from the address.

There's no way any competent electrician would just "use the wrong switch" as the builder was claiming- they should have four of those for a standard house, and if they don't know that, what else don't they know about electrical work/code?


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RE: Inspection question

Even if you really really like the house/location, and you buy it with major/minor defects like wiring, are you prepared to possibly loose your life/family due a fire? Just a thought.


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RE: Inspection question

"Even if you really really like the house/location, and you buy it with major/minor defects like wiring, are you prepared to possibly loose your life/family due a fire? Just a thought."

An undersized service is no more likely to have a fire than a correctly sized one.

The issue is possible tripping of the main if the loads get high enough (and there is a pretty decent margin in the ratings of the equipment).


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RE: Inspection question

2 x 50 AMPs = 100 AMPs, that's what I see and I'm not an electrician.


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RE: Inspection question

Thanks for the advice and tips. Being a first timer, and having lived in apartments all our lives, we don't know about electrical and most repair work at all so we really needed your feedback.

The seller is going to fix the electrical and plumbing problems :D I assume that means it won't have any possible problems...so we're going to go ahead and get mortgage and everything!


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RE: Inspection question

"2 x 50 AMPs = 100 AMPs, that's what I see and I'm not an electrician."

Good thing because you are completely wrong.

That is a 120/240 V 50 amp service.

You can only pull 50 amps of current. Period.


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RE: Inspection question

The seller is going to fix the electrical and plumbing problems :D

Rainlan, PLEASE require that the seller obtains all permits and final approvals from the code officials of town/city for any work that is performed.

If the town/city does not require permits and inspections, PLEASE have an independent electrician and plumber check the work to make certain that it was all done properly.

Good luck.


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RE: Inspection question

"Good thing because you are completely wrong.

That is a 120/240 V 50 amp service.

You can only pull 50 amps of current. Period."

I'm glad you corrected me. I thought it was 110V per breaker. At 240V, 2 ganged 50 Amp breakers are 50 amps. What do I know? I advise to consult an electrician.


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RE: Inspection question

While you could pull two 120 V circuits at 50 amps each, that is NOT a 100 amp service. You are only getting 50 amps.

High ampacity breakers can be made up.

There are cases were four 100 map breakers are used to create a 200 amp, 240 V disconnect.

The breakers are NOT the same as separate 100 amp breakers though.

They are specially designed to make sure they share the current equally to get to rated capacity for the assembly.

I think the builder is full of BS.

No one purchases cut out boxes and then installs a panel board in them for residential work.

You would pay more on labor for assembly and the cost of the separate parts.

Two hundred amp main panels are often almost exactly the same price as 100 amp main panels.

The volume of 200 amp main panel is huge, not so much for 100 amp mains panels.


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RE: Inspection question

Yes, you are making the dumbest mistake of your lives.


The listing agent says it's probably calcium deposits from lack of use.

selling agent has a good relationship with builder

the builder thinks the house had 100 AMP

the builder is very sure it is 100. He thinks the switch says 50, but that's because the wrong switch was used.

There were some small things like possible water spots, doors that won't latch, possible "settling" of the house,

The seller is going to fix the electrical and plumbing problems :D I assume that means it won't have any possible problems

How many red flags do you need?!! You state 5 times how GREAT this house is and how much you love it. THAT is the problem. You are so smitten with this house that you are ignoring HUGE indicators that it is NOT a good buy.

You are trusting people that have only one thing in mind: to sell the house. They may seem "nice", but they really don't care about you, and appear to be telling you things that you desperately want to hear, and you are accepting their explanations on (misguided) faith.

I have been looking for a house off and on for several years. I found MY DREAM HOME about a month ago. I have always wanted to live in a Mid Century Modern home, and found one that was INCREDIBLE! Amazing architecture, fabulous location, a price I could comfortably afford, right size...I was so excited I couldn't stand it!

After the contract was accepted, several things happened that were odd. Something didn't seem 'right' about how the seller and her agent were behaving. Nothing I could put into words, but there was *something* nagging at me. Things proceeded and I spent over $400 on the inspection The house needed about $10K worth of work. I figured she might agree to pay half, but I was already at top dollar for the market. But I really, really, really adored this house. My family saw it and said "That's YOUR house!". I had the money to pay for it, even over market price.

Despite my absolute love for this house, I LISTENED to my gut, and did NOT ignore the red flags, subtle as they were. I had discovered $10K of needed work through the inspection. A few things that were "sort of" on the disclosure, and two that were not. What ELSE was wrong with the house that hadn't been found? I canceled the contract. It was a VERY sad day for me. There really was no other house with all of the attributes of this one. It was a simply spectacular example of Mid Century Modern that I could actually afford, and in the greatest location.

I know I made the right decision.

I am now under contract for a house that is not in my desired location, (longer commute), has some elements of the architectural style I like, (but could never be considered Mid Century Modern), and is about 300sf smaller than I want. But the house is in excellent shape, especially for its age. It's obviously been well taken care of, and the sellers noted things in the disclosure that were really not necessary legally, but good to know. I am still getting my usual inspections, which include general, termite, and I will also spend an additional $150 for a plumbing company to run a camera through the pipes, since they are old and could have issues that are only shown with this service.

Please reconsider the huge mistake you are about to make. Don't let your love for this house and its location cloud your judgment. You will have to live with this mistake for a long time. With the way the seller's agent has behaved, what other issues have they not disclosed or glossed over?

And by the way, "small water spots" are NOT a small issue. The house I live in now has leaked, no, it has *flooded* in one room, (a garage that was made into a family room), since 2 months after I bought it. There was one small indication of water, noted by the inspector, but I didn't really pay attention to it. BIG MISTAKE. The seller didn't disclose the problem, and it would have been impossible for the house not to leak during his ownership. I contacted several attorneys about suing, but was told by all of them that it would be VERY hard to prove without solid evidence, which according to the rules of the court, I didn't have. And if I lost I'd have to pay HIS attorney's fees too. The cost to fix the problem was too much money to pour into this house, so I've lived with it for 4 1/2 years. Thankfully I am not allergic to mold, because I know that room has a lot of it under the floor and in the walls.

My saving grace is that they are tearing down the houses on my street to put up bigger ones, so I was able to sell to one of the builders "as is". I am VERY VERY lucky, because I wouldn't have been able to sell this house to a buyer.

I know this was long, but I truly believe you are making a huge mistake with this property. You are so in love with it that your judgment is severely clouded. I would look at any option you have to get out of this contract.


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RE: Inspection question

Rain... you should not have the sellers fix anything, but instead find out on your own, using contractors you know are reputable, how much everything will cost. When sellers 'fix' things, you have no idea of what you'll get and from the sound of the problems, you don't want any of it (they're going to use the very cheapest workers they can find, at best). You are not obligated to use their people. You're going headfirst down the rabbit hole and I wish you would get a grip. BTW, the inspector would have found another electrical panel if there had been one - no question, unless he's so incompetent and/or drunk that you should start over anyhow.


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RE: Inspection question

Walk away and the seller always has to disclose by law.


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RE: Inspection question

"Walk away and the seller always has to disclose by law."

that may be true where you are.... but is certianly not universal.

In my area the disclosure form is NEVER filled out. 99% of the lawyers will tell you not to do it.


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RE: Inspection question

No disclosure? I thought that was required in every state. I would never consider a home without the seller signing a disclosure sheet. You can hide a lot of damage with a coat of paint etc...


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RE: Inspection question

I wanted to post a follow up. Really appreciate all your comments. We are going forward, closing in a few days, heh. Were apprehensive of course, since I know you are objective and probably steering me right. However, what I've discovered is:

-We'll ask for documentation of the fixes requested.

-The builder came by to check electricity. He is very sure it is 100 AMP. Said 50 AMP because the panel cover was the wrong one. So they switched the panel cover. I think we'll get documentation that this fix is all it takes.

-The utilities panel has been fixed. We'll get documentation soon.

-Plumbing for hot water in 2nd bathroom not fixed last I checked, but we did ask for documentation.

Overall I do like this house a lot, as you probably can tell. Thing is, we've been searching for a house of our own for a long long time, and prices in this neighbourhood has always been much more than we can afford till this one came onto the market...this one is merely a stretch, and not an "impossible". And if all the problems are fixed, it's really beautiful and I can see us living there for 10 years :o

I think with documentation we should be safe. Thanks for the feedback, I may have to ask more in the future.


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RE: Inspection question

"No disclosure? I thought that was required in every state. I would never consider a home without the seller signing a disclosure sheet. You can hide a lot of damage with a coat of paint etc..."

Depending in the state the disclosure may not be worth the paper it is printed on.

In a number of states the only recourse for failing to disclose is a civil lawsuit.

Unless you have costs running upwards of $10,000 to $20,000 it is just not worth pursuing.

Remember you will have to PROVE by a 'preponderance of the evidence' that the seller new something and failed to disclose it.

It is actually rather hard to do.


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