I get a lot of interesting phone calls, some with valid questions that need explanations. This particular call was interesting to say the least, but with a different intent. This call was from the listing agent of a property I inspected a few days ago. The purpose of her call was to try to get out of making a repair asked for by my clients. I could hardly understand her, but it went like this:
"Jay, I Mumbledeefum, and I listing agent at (address). You licensed electricity?" I think I understood the last part.
I am a licensed home inspector. I am not a licensed electrician. Why do you ask?
"You say too low voltage in basement of listing. Report say less than 100 volts on basement circuit (she is reading slowly). How you know that?"
I have a device to check that. It is a little computer. (I check the electricity in outlets with a device that simulates an 80% load on a circuit. I can set it to check 15 or 20amp circuits. It puts a load on the line to see how the outlet, and circuit, responds. It checks for 6 different things, including voltage. It only goes down to a setting that says "< 100" which is too low. For all I know this circuit was producing 46 volts!) The circuit should produce 120 volts or near to that. Your basement did not. For all I know it is only producing 50 volts.
"I never hear of computer. I call inspector who never hear of computer. He say all inspector need check is polarity. He say you need be licensed electricity to check for more. He check only polarity. You should not do more."
Ma'am, I don't know who you are speaking with, if anybody, but I can and do check for more than polarity. Just checking for polarity does not give much information. And my association's Standard Operating Procedures do not say that all an inspector should check for is polarity. And I can exceed the SOP at any time. So, the inspector you use just checks for polarity? That can be done with a $5 detector bought at any hardware store. He needs better equipment. You need a better home inspector. (Yes, that was an intentional slam...)
She's silent but undaunted and moves on. "You report has dark color for some thing, not dark other thing. Voltage low not dark, so no problem. We will ignore this."
My report has lethal, dangerous, things that affect long-term habitability and such in bold. Low voltage, while a problem, is not in bold. It is easily diagnosed and repaired by an electrician. But it is still a problem! I now realize that the purpose of the call is to try to find a reason to get out of having to make a requested repair.
I didn't need a crystal ball to see that!
Low voltage is a problem that usually indicates improper or defective materials or unprofessional work. I remember that my report also suggests that my clients ask for the remodeling permit and final occupancy permit for that work. I think you are trying to find a reason not to fix this. Does your client have the permits they can give to my clients for that basement? Was the basement finished by a licensed electricity?
"You not licensed electricity. That is why I call you. Good bye."
She thinks she has reason to get her clients out of making a repair. So she hung up! Unbelievable!
My recommendation: It is best to find out why something should be done rather than what ways can be used to get out of doing something identified on a home inspection report or requested by a buyer. Call the inspector!
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560