‘Hidden’ Deficiencies

Here’s another one of my Home Inspector anecdotes that not only demonstrates the value of a good, thorough home inspection, but also the benefit of engaging a competent real estate agent who uses the home inspection report to advocate for repairs to undisclosed deficiencies.

A house I inspected recently had two significant deficiencies that the average homeowner and buyers’ agent could not and would not have seen when they looked at the house and made an offer to purchase.

During my inspection of an otherwise functional gas furnace and water heater in an attic, my trusty “gas sniffer” detected explosive gas that was not obvious to our noses. One or both of the appliances was leaking natural gas or carbon monoxide into the attic. Both gasses are heavier than air, so they were venting out of the soffits to the outside, but that doesn’t make the condition particularly acceptable or safe.

Another “hidden” safety issue was in the main electrical panel on an exterior wall of the house, by the utility meter. A lot of buyers wouldn’t even realize there was a panel outside, since most of their breakers are in a sub-panel in the garage. In this case, the main panel had been exposed to moisture infiltration and showed heavy corrosion to the main wires and several two-pole (240V) breakers, as well as a grounding busbar that was not only oxidized, but had deteriorated so badly that it was dangling loosely in the cabinet.

It’s my job to point out these kinds of deficiencies, so they don’t become an unpleasant, unexpected housewarming gift after the buyers move in. It’s the buyers’ agent, though, who understands the tactics and possesses the negotiating skills to assure these deficiencies are understood to be the sellers’ responsibility to rectify before closing.

That’s exactly what happened in this case. As I understand it, the sellers wound up engaging the gas company and a plumber, who located and repaired the gas leak in the attic. They also hired an electrician who resolved the electrical issues in the main panel. There was a resulting delay in closing, but for a good cause, in my humble opinion. This was a very satisfactory outcome.

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About Eric Schult

I am a licensed, professional Home Inspector (NC LIC.# 3579) - doing business as OZ Home Inspections, LLC - in the greater Fort Bragg region of south central North Carolina.
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