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Handymen Should Not Do Electrical Installations

Truly, handymen should not do electrical installations.  This is an older house, from the late 60s, with one light fixture location for the kitchen and nothing for an eating area nearby.  It has been rented for some time.  The owners are in the Middle East and there is no property manager.  They have had a realtor friend handling the tenant turnover and upkeep for some time.

My buyers are not in town either.  They are also on the other side of the world doing the same thing as the sellers.  The buyers and the sellers met each other through an in-house buy/sell/rent listing service.  The buyers contacted me.

THE BUYERS DO NOT HAVE A REALTOR. 

Their philosophy is that the house comes equipped with a realtor who has, for some time, taken care of it.  Why should they go to the "trouble" of finding their own?  And the renters will stay!  How great is that?

That's not my business.  But the home inspection was.

The realtor said she would meet me at the property and let me in.  I insisted that we arrange a time when she is able to be with me the whole time.  My comfort with being in houses alone is zero and that she would need to be there.  Apparently she has never heard such nonsense before, but we made the arrangement nonetheless.

The outside of the house is a mess. 

There are lots of things to do.
There are lots of things to fix.
There are lots of things let go.
There are lots of ongoing problems.

I CAN SEE WHERE THIS ONE IS GOING.

The entry way spills into the kitchen and I noticed something immediately.

The kitchen light fixture is new.
The kitchen light fixture is huge.
The kitchen light fixture is hot.
The kitchen light fixture is charring the ceiling above EACH light!

IT IS A VERY LONG, U-SHAPED FIXTURE AND THERE ARE FIFTEEN LIGHT BULBS!

The lights are on, apparently for some time that day.  They are halogen lights.  They get really hot!

"Do you know how hot those lights get?"

"My handyman says they get hotter than normal bulbs, about 150F.  And that they might heat up the kitchen.  But it solves the lighting problem for these rooms."

"Well, they get a bit hotter than that."  Putting my infrared thermometer onto a couple of bulbs I say, "This one is 387F and this one is 382F.  They get extremely hot. Who recommended that you put in this fixture with this number of lights?"

"Oh, my handyman.  I have been using him for a long time.  He does everything!"

"Is he an electrician?  Did he determine if the breaker or wall switch can handle this much load?  If the older wiring is recommended for this fixture?  Older wiring was not made to handle this kind of fixture or the temperatures it generates.  Can you feel how hot the switch is too?  The instructions will usually explain what electrical needs the fixture demands.  What is the maximum number of bulbs this fixture is intended to handle?  Did the instructions say you can install (approximating now) 30' or so of track and fifteen bulbs?  And on one switch?"

"I don't know.  He never called me to say there was a problem."

"Have you ever noticed the charring above each fixture?  (She said not until just now...)  I am not an electrician, but I would recommend that you have one look at this installation immediately.  And in the mean time not using this fixture much.  That's just my opinion.  As the property manager, you want to be sure things are done properly."

From there we progressed into a very long inspection.  With long explanations on the report.  And one or two photos (cough).  There are a couple of things to do...  oh, like jacking up the brick chimney which is coming loose from the house.  Things like that.  And a TRIPLE tap in the electrical panel box!  Black AND white!  How cool is that!!??  Double taps happen now and then, but triple taps are like finding a four-leaf clover!  I was real impressed with the quality of "help" doing work in this house over the years!

Truly, though, I felt badly for these poor absentee owners.

My recommendation:   get your own representation when you buy a house!  If you own a house, get a good property manager!  And certainly, certainly, when you buy a house get a home inspection.  You might save yourself a million headaches.  And some cash too!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 41 commentsJay Markanich • June 09 2012 03:38AM

Comments

Yikes! As you well know, electricity is not something to be messed with, it can be deadly. Every buyer needs representation, buying a home is serious business.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) almost 7 years ago

Scary stuff Jay.  Anytime electric is involved I always get someone qualified.  Electricity is too dangerous to mess around with.

Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) almost 7 years ago

Good morning Jay not good not good at all.  I know enough to know I don't know enough about electricity and I leave that one to  the experts.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) almost 7 years ago

Very good advice for home buyers and more good reasons to have a professional home inspection.

Have an outstanding weekend with your camera in hand.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) almost 7 years ago

Oh gosh, that looks really dangerous.  For sure handymen should not be doing electrical (nor plumbing for that matter).  These are 2 areas that read need specials, probably moreso than almost any other interior job.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 7 years ago

I can just imagine some made in china #16 alum wire feeding those fixtures. . 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) almost 7 years ago

Wow, that will make you cringe. I'll stick to a licensed professional to handle my electrical needs.

Posted by Captain Wayne - Rowlett Real Estate School, Rowlett Real Estate School / Owner and Instructor (REcampus Fully Accredited Florida ONLINE & Classroom Training in Destin, Pensacola Florida) almost 7 years ago

It is Joe.  Sometimes trust can be misplaced and that benefits nobody.

J&R - it makes sense to have a professional in each trade when you are managing a house.

James - apparently this handy man did not have your good sense.

There are many reasons Roy, and I always have my camera!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Debbie - once a handy man in an office park turned off an entire bank of offices because he did something he should not have.  The park manager was off that day, and, well, Murphy made the scene.

Fernando - who knows!  That might not be far from the truth!

Wayne - sure made me cringe.  I did not want those lights on the entire time I was there.  No way was that one going to be blamed on me!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Wow those fixtures are hot, but LEDs? LEDs are much cooler than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Must be some other type of bulb in there. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I suppose your first indication of the amount of "service" the property manager was giving her clients was when she called attending the inspection "nonsense".  Yikes!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 7 years ago

Yikes Jim!  They are halogens!  I was saying to the lady that LEDs would have been better and instead put that in the post!  Change made soonly...

Coming back later - there change made!  How often do you see triple taps?  Not very often here.

She said the word "nonsense" when I asked her to be with me during the inspection Kathryn!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, There is an old saying that covers this "penny wise and pound foolish".

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Jay, if the charred ceiling isn't a hint that a fire could be brewing, I don't know what is. I'm sure the light fixture has a statement on it stating the maximum wattage allowed. Stringing them together is another issue.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA almost 7 years ago

Tom - this was a foolish installation, in my opinion.

Mike - often times those stickers get removed by the installer!  Extraneous you know...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Just a matter of time before the light fixture started a fire.  Electricity is something where I always say call in the expert.  A licensed and insured electrician not joe blow from the yellow pages.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) almost 7 years ago

Cindy - but what if the licensed electrician is named Joe Blow?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago
Holy cow. My husband is a handyman and never does electrical or plumbing work. Even for our own house, we hire an electrician. That lighting fiasco sounds like a fire waiting to happen.
Posted by Karen Crowson, Your Agent for Change (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

That is the smart thing to do Karen.  He is obviously full of good sense!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I have had this experience first hand....Some things require professional attention...the post makes the case well

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 7 years ago

Handymen are just that and specialty rennovation and specialists rarely get themselves confused.

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 7 years ago

Those little sooty black spots above those lamps are downright scary.  I was married to an electrician, who is the father of most of my children.  I am reasonably handy considering I'm blonde and I'm a gal.  During the years of our marriage I picked up a lot of clues about electricity.  Recently when I went to change out the outlets in my home to white from almond, I knew all I needed to do was turn off the power at the panel box, and connect the white wire to silver, and the black one to the gold, etc., BUT still I had a healthy fear of doing so.  Finally, I called up my ex, who lives around the corner, and said, "John, do you remember that I didn't ask for alimony?"  Gratefully, we are on really good terms, and he replaced them for me.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) almost 7 years ago

Very Scary Jay, Fires that start inside walls in overheated switches, wiring etc. aren't detected until it's to late. I would not want to live in that house.

Posted by Wayne Jackson, North Idaho Realtor, Serving Coeur dnullAlene and Hayden Lake (Lakeshore Realty 208-714-4109) almost 7 years ago

I saw a light fixture one time that had 6-100 watt bulbs. It was so hot the pop corn came off above it, Since these types of bulbs put out more heat then they do light it becomes a heater on the ceiling. 

Also I will take your triple tap and raise you one.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) almost 7 years ago

Jay,

 Your postings are informative as well as alarming. Professionals should always be used for anything pertaining to real estae. From inspecting, financing selling or buying.

 Thanks for the information.

Posted by Robert Amato (Bob Amato of Empire Home Mortgage Inc) almost 7 years ago

Jay, it sounds like you're going to open a few eyes with your detailed report. Some real tell-tale signs, like the black markes on the ceiling from the overhead light. Good clues something needs to be fixed.

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 AdrianWillanger-broker.com) almost 7 years ago

Jay, Nothing like a roster oven on your ceiling. I like Rob's quad tap. Maybe we should have a contest for the most wires under a lug ; ). Only hots count, no neutrals, thems the rule I make em up ; )

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Oh, who knows . . . maybe they want the place to burn down.  Not having your own agent is the most illogical.  I'm glad they had enough logic to bring you in!!  And Holy Liability Batman if that place did catch fire and burn when the property manager/real estate agent had her 'handyman' put in those lighting fixtures. 

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 7 years ago

Why would any homeowner not use a licensed electrician to install lights? For that matter, why would a property manager? I'm just shaking my head looking at the scorched ceiling in your photo. Just genius. Thanks for your post today,

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) almost 7 years ago

Jay, in general I cannot believe we have not had more problems with these hot halogen bulbs that we have to date---perhaps it is a fire waiting to happen

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 7 years ago

Thanks Richie.  This is a big problem just waiting to happen.

Wallace - this realtor thinks that this handyman can do anything!

Myrl - good that you got him to do that work!  And that you have the kind of relationship that can make it happen!

Wayne - I did not want those lights on the whole time I was in the house!  Didn't want anything happening later to be blamed on me.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I agree Rob.  And great photo!  That is proof that unicorns do exist!  I don't remember ever seeing a quad, but maybe.  Wait, is that a sasquatch out my window?!

Thank you, Bob, for your kind words.  And I agree with the rest!

Adrian - scorching over every single bulb!  And nobody noticed?

Don - whites are bad enough and I see lots of triples black and white, but I don't remember seeing a quad.  Maybe, but I don't remember.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Carla - I didn't want to say it, but she is in potential jeopardy here!  Hopefully nothing dramatic will go wrong.

Pamela - I think it is just easy to make one phone call to the guy who can do "anything."

Charlie - I agree!  Those puppies are hot!  I was also worried about the wiring connected to it.  Maybe one day all the halogens will get the same memo and all go at once!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Property manager has no idea how lucky she was not to have had an electrical fire. Saving a few bucks by hiring a handyman is not always a good idea, but what do I know?

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) almost 7 years ago

I think this was an accident waiting to happen Sue.  They were very lucky in my opinion.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

When you have marks on the ceiling above a light you have to know there is an issue. This is a no brainer. Makes you wonder what else was done that doesn't make sense.  

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) almost 7 years ago

Bill - it was a no brainer to me, but not to the folks in the house or taking "care" of it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- house we moved into (provided by employer) one time had a triple tap, and multiple double taps.  It took me a while to get them to have it fixed.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Steven - must have been an older house.  Those often come with a mish mash of electrical stuff!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

jay, you mean that elegant darkening around the electrical fixtures is not there for decorative effect?

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 7 years ago

It is decorative, Chris, in a manner of speaking!  But not in a good, staging sort of way.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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