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