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Should A Home Inspector Have To Move Things To Be Able To Inspect Thoroughly?

Should a home inspector have to move things to be able to inspect properly?

The gate was locked and I had not been able to see the back yard of this house.

We started inside and began looking around.

It occurred to me that the panel box was not where it usually is in a townhouse - at one rear corner or the other.

I could not find it!

The basement room in the center of the house was the seller's office.

From the door the panel box was WELL HIDDEN by a map on the wall, a desk with a computer, with a filing cabinet and shelf beside the desk.

On top of that, the cover of the panel box had been painted over multiple times, which glues it to the wall and makes it hard to get off.  

Taking the cover off can damage the wall.  But worse, and this is MY EXPERIENCE, taking it off can be dangerous.  The home inspector can think that his knife has cut everything off around the cover and has not.  The cover can snap back trying to take it off the wall and bad things can result.

But in this house, I would have had to clear off a desk that was IN USE, and move it, or move the shelf and filing cabinet, to get to the box.  They were full of things, heavy, and moving them would have been difficult at best.

Again, in my experience, when I get involved in doing things that are outside the norm, or try to be a Good Samaritan and repair something to see if it works, Murphy springs to life and bites me in the shiny hiney!

So what is Cool Hand Jay  to do?  What would Cool Hand Jay  do?

He passed.  I said that if I am back in the area before closing and the seller cuts the panel cover off the wall I would be amenable to coming back to inspect the box.  Better - ask the seller to have an electrician examine the box.  Yes, that would have another fee involved.

My recommendation:  houses should be made ready for a home inspection.  Something like this was obviously beyond the seller's thinking.  A lot of sellers don't know that the panel box has to be accessible and its accessibility is probably beyond the normal To Do List of the agent who is trying to prepare a seller for a home inspection. 

 

BUT, SHOULD A HOME INSPECTOR HAVE TO MOVE THINGS
TO BE ABLE TO INSPECT THOROUGHLY?

 

 

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 43 commentsJay Markanich • May 04 2016 03:59AM

Comments

A home inspector should not have had to move a working desk and equipment, then dangerously try to open a sealed box, in order to do the inspection. That's crazy - what if a circuit needed to be reset? Why would anyone think it's okay to paint an electrical box closed? Geez.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) almost 3 years ago

Good morning Jay,

I ask all seller's if this is what is seen to have whatever open for an inspector and no you did the right thing!

Make yourself an astonishing day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 3 years ago

Kat - I see more box covers painted and/or caulked than covers that are not.  If it is glued shut I don't fool with the cover.

Raymond - obviously this did not occur to anyone in this house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Good morning Jay. The seller deserves to pay what ever it costs to have the electric inspected. A little courtesy goes a long way or costs you! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) almost 3 years ago

My opinion EXACTLY, Wayne.  My client should not have the cost.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

No, but I usually end up moving something, shift something, climbing over something...

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 3 years ago

I will do that when it's easy or safe, Fred.  But this one was too much.  And the sealed cover added another layer to the problem.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Oh the many things we can learn from our inspectors! It's important for us as the reps for our sellers to tell them right in the beginning that most likely there will be an inspection and to prep accordingly. 

No shiny hiney!!

Posted by Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate, "Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905 (John L Scott Market Center) almost 3 years ago

I had to go back and inspect a blocked panel last week, I send a list of items that should be accesible in my appointment confirmation emails to the listing agents.I know how you feel.

Posted by Brian Persons, Certified Master Inspector (Brian Persons Front Range Home Inspections) almost 3 years ago

I have to tell you Gayle, Murphy really likes a shiny hiney.  Chomp, chomp.

Brian - and usually, when I do that, it is at my expense and time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

This is part of the listing agent's job in preparing the seller.  No only does the house need to be ready for showing, we need to remind the seller of the access needed for inspections.  While a seller is getting ready to move, inspectors need to be able to do their job.  Any locked gates or electrical panels (in Az our electrical panels are outside the house and often owners have them locked) need to be unlocked or the key labeled and available for the inspector.  How frustrating for a buyer when the inspector can't inspect the whole house.  They don't know if there is a problem or just lack of access.

Posted by Shirley Coomer, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az (Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living) almost 3 years ago

At least it doesn't appear that the seller was intentionally trying to hide something Jay.

Your offer to come back for a reinspection is generous but would require an extension of the home inspection contingency. Otherwise, if you find anything in need of repair, it could get tricky to get it repaired.

I like your suggestion of asking the seller to have it inspected by a licensed electrician. That way the seller won't be messing around with the panel door. It would be my recommendation to the buyer as well.

Posted by Andrea Bedard, M.A.; REALTOR® Silver Spring, MD and beyond (Thompson Company, REALTORS®) almost 3 years ago

Sellers should be counseled on how to have the home ready for the buyer's home inspection. The investigation by an electrician in the situation you described is a good one!

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) almost 3 years ago

Shirley - I was unable to get into the back yard because the gate was locked and the fence 8' high.

Andrea - my thinking that they should put the onus onto the seller is the better idea.  This house was out of my normal area, and my getting back would be a task.

Jeff - I agree!  I suggested in the post that perhaps the panel box wasn't on the list of things to get ready.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Jay Markanich how many homes are ready for inspection? I remember my first inspection where furniture covered the carpet - and was torn at the end when the buyers moved in.

Home inspector would not dream of that anyways....

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) almost 3 years ago

All of our panels are outside the home usually on the garage side. No digging around to find them out here. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) almost 3 years ago

I have had inspectors cut the paint around the cover to access the panel, and I've had inspectors who've refused.

I totally understand both choices.  When the box is painted shut, I always make a call to the listing agent to get permission to cut it free, and stress that it could damage the paint.

But, clearly, the box needs to be reachable, accessible (and of course findable).

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) almost 3 years ago

I am sure sometimes it is necessary, but hopefully you don't have to deal with too many obstacles to do the job.  Ulitimately it is the owner/seller's responsibility to provide good access. 

Posted by Rob Arnold, Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F (Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc.) almost 3 years ago

Praful - I had a post once about a mattress placed to cover termite damage.

http://activerain.com/blogsview/4441199/pay-no-attention-to-the-termites-under-the-mattress

It's placement didn't fool me.

Sometimes that is true here too, Nicole, but on older houses.  And almost always they are a mess with rust and damage.

I will cut it Alan if the paint is not thick.  But blocked to boot is too much.

Sometimes Rob.  Every now and then we call the listing agent for permission.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Jay, I think it's important that we point out to our sellers the clause in our boiler-plate contracts talking about making stuff accessible for the home inspection.  Some listing agent should have done a better job.  

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 3 years ago

Don't tell anybody, Pat, but the seller "used to be" a realtor and does not have one for the sale.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

It's amazing that peolple try to hide deficiencies from home inspectors.  After reading your posts for over a year, I sure better. 

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) almost 3 years ago

Stephen - years ago a company went after me because some sellers had piled dozens of boxes against a badly cracked foundation wall and I did not see it.

Fortunately I had a photo where the boxes were visible in the background.  My lawyer showed them legal precedent for what the courts were calling "artful concealment," and I was off the hook.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Hi Jay - I agree with you.  You may open a box of unintended consequences.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) almost 3 years ago

I tell my clients that home inspectors conduct their inspections similar to police -- in plain site.  If they can't find it, get to it, access it . . . it aint' gonna be inspected.  I try to ensure, beforehand, that seller moves stuff, otherwise they may be responsible for my client's re-inspection fee.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) almost 3 years ago

My home inspector won't move things. So we request up front a checklist. If the seller doesn't perform the checklist, they are subject to the re-inspect fee.

Posted by Thomas J. Nelson, Realtor, ePRO, CRS, RCS-D, & Host of Postcards From Success Podcast (Big Block Realty 858.232.8722) almost 3 years ago

Jay - I completely agree with you. Why incur an injury or a liability? If you can't get to it or can't find it, you can't be expected to inspect it.

Posted by Olga Simoncelli, CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management (Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate) almost 3 years ago

And I have, Grant!

And fortunately I don't need a search warrant, Carla.  I'll move a couple of things, but not like in this house!

Thomas - this is pretty common nationwide.  A know many inspectors who have been bitten!

Olga - once I could not find the water heater and knew where it was - buried behind a wall the seller built, for some odd reason.  I walked away, heard a loud crash, and my client said the wall was opened up by magic.  I believed him, and inspected the water heater!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Jay, I agree with your decision not to inspect items when there are obstructions and/or finishes may be damaged.

Here's a tip that I use to avoid these circumstances. As soon as the inspection is booked I will email a link to my website to both realtor and buyer on how to prepare for an inspection (www.ekan.biz/preparation). There's no guarantee that anyone will read or act upon it but at least I've done my part to minimize surprises.

Posted by Eugene Kanciar, Our Experience, Your Peace-of-Mind (EKAN Home Inspection) almost 3 years ago

and then the sellers complain that we take too long :)

Posted by Joshua Frederick, Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio (Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Thanks Eugene.  I know that many realty firms here have instructions on how to prepare for home inspections, but, like you say, there is no guarantee that people will act on it.

Joshua - it might take longer if they would properly stock the fridge...

Says he, with a wink.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

I agree with you. Home owners should make the home ready for the home inspector to inspect things.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) almost 3 years ago

Great points:

Houses should be made ready for a home inspection.  Something like this was obviously beyond the seller's thinking.  A lot of sellers don't know that the panel box has to be accessible and its accessibility is probably beyond the normal To Do List of the agent who is trying to prepare a seller for a home inspection. 

Posted by Sham Reddy, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) almost 3 years ago

As many have stated here in the comments, it's a responsibility of the listing agent to see that the property is ready for inspection. Forcing a re-inspection by failing to make things accessible is a waste of time and money.

Posted by Eric Kodner, CRS, Madeline Island Realty, LaPointe, WI 54850 - (Madeline Island Realty) almost 3 years ago

Same as disclosure for agents...I report what I can see without any extra effort

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) almost 3 years ago

I have to put on my flame and heat resistant goggles to read your post Jay. You are one hot guy (not what you are thinking...)

Posted by Richard Bazinet /MBA, CRS, ABR, Phoenix Scottsdale. Sellers, Buyers & Relocations (WestUSA Realty) almost 3 years ago

Coincidentally, my personal house went under contract and I remembered to clear out beneath the sinks so the inspector could see there were no runs, drips, or leaks. I'd hate for him to wade through the various cleansers and beauty products stored there!

Posted by Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty, 601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell (Front Gate Real Estate) almost 3 years ago

Gita - more information and preparation by the listing agent to the homeowner is a good thing!

Sham - you are right, of course.  Hence the post!

Eric - while it is a hard lesson learned, it doesn't have to be with proper preparation.

Richie - sometimes I go to a lot of extra effort.  But belongings are sometimes precious and I will not move them.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Richard - are you referring to the new avatar?  I was playing around with the thermal camera software and thought that was a fun selfie.  The hottest thing on the image is my nose, a healthy 95.6F.

Pat - that sure makes it easy!  I am usually digging around in there trying to see the floor under the drain!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Perhaps the to do list an agent provides a seller should include "provide access to electrical panel". I have a Do and Don't list for my loan clients which I ask them to initial after reading each item.

Posted by Matt Brady, Lending With Competence And Character (Skyline Home Loans) almost 3 years ago

There are sometimes I go into a house to find the panel box behind a book shelf, and it has apparently been there for years, Matt!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

Hey jay, yep this is something we encounter all the time. No way am I moving furniture or appliances, its just not worth what could happen.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) almost 3 years ago

Eric - I had a panel box behind a leaned door, behind a shelf, behind moving boxes.  I know it was there because the meter was on the wall just outside, but I never saw it!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 3 years ago

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