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Is A Home Inspector Required To Inspect (Test) A Washing Machine?

Is a home inspector required to inspect (test) a washing machine?

No, there is no "requirement," but a home inspector can test anything he wants to or that the client wants tested.

Does that surprise you?

Isn't the home inspector hired to examine systems and components?  Yes, but there are limits.

The home inspection associations agree - there is no "requirement" to inspect some things.  Clothes washing machines fall under that "requirement."

Remember too - standards are MINIMUM standards.  An inspector can, at his discretion and according to the business model he has established for himself, exceed any MINIMUMS.

From ASHI - the inspector "shall" inspect "fixtures and faucets."  But is NOT required to turn valves on or off, or inspect "clothes washing machine connections."  Why not?  Because sometimes they are not visible.  A stack-able unit put inside a thin closet cannot be moved to look over or behind to see those connections.

Also, the inspector is NOT required to do anything that, in his opinion, might be dangerous or might be a "significant risk" to himself or the clients, do damage to the property or its belongings, or to move belongings blocking the way of performing a visual examination.

From INACHI - the inspector "shall" inspect the plumbing including "all fixtures and faucets, by running the water."  But he is NOT required to "inspect clothes washing machines or their connections." 

A home inspection has built-in deficiencies.  There are simply some things that cannot or should not be inspected. 

Once during a home inspection I ran the dishwasher and washing machine on their regular cycles, and began moving through the house.  What I did not know, but was admitted to later by the listing agent, that the washing machine was broken and the seller was to leave a note not to test it.  He didn't!  The resulting flood damaged $20K of office equipment and computers in the basement.

When washing machines are not on drip pans, or look old and the connections do not appear to be in good condition, or if I CANNOT move the valve handles easily to turn off if need be, I will not run a washing machine. 

But the Standards of Practice of all associations state that if a home inspector DOES NOT operate something, he must so state in the report.  Fair enough.

On a recent home inspection the house had been vacant for some time.

The appliances were very old.

The washing machine was on the lower level, and looking at it and the shut-off valves, and the lack of drip pan, I expressed my reluctance to test it.

And I could not see behind to check the connections.  This photo was taken by reaching the camera behind.

The Realtor insisted and turned it on when I was not there.

Hearing the resulting water flooding behind the washer and within 30 seconds I ran to it and turned it off. 

But not before it drained a lot of water behind and onto the floor.

The left yellow arrow shows that the hose behind was not connected to the unit, and the right arrow shows that disconnected hose.  Succinctly put, it was a mess.

The following panoramas show thermal images of just how quickly water can flow from a laundry room onto the carpet.  This happened in less than 30 seconds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The upper panorama shows the carpet on the left side of the laundry closet in front of the washing machine, and the lower one shows the opposite end of that room in front of the furnace and water heater.  That water made its way around the corner and well into the living room.

Fortunately the house was on a slab and the water could not go into a lower level.

In this case the home inspector will not be blamed for this accident.  He did not turn on the washing machine, and made it clear he thought it best not to.

My recommendation:  sometimes your home inspector will get a "Spidey Sense" about something and advise against doing it.  That could be anything - walking around an attic space, turning on or off a valve, or running an appliance.  If he cannot do something he will protect your client by putting in the report that this or that needs to be examined by a different professional or demonstrated by the seller.  In the end, hopefully, everyone will be happy!  In the example above, my client was happy to find out that the loose washing machine connection was found BEFORE moving in, but the listing agent and sellers were NOT happy that it was tested!  Another day in the life of a home inspector.

 

 

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 39 commentsJay Markanich • October 24 2017 10:09AM

Comments

Thanks for sharing this information.  Glad you have a Spidey sense about these things.

Posted by Peter Mohylsky, Your Bucket List Broker in Destin, Fl.. (BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS REAL ESTATE) 6 months ago

Absolutely true!!!

The Home inspector is NOT required to do anything that, in his opinion, might be dangerous or might be a "significant risk" to himself or the clients, do damage to the property or its belongings, or to move belongings blocking the way of performing a visual examination.

Posted by Sham Reddy, CRS (H E R Realty, Dayton, OH) 6 months ago

Good morning, Jay Markanich washing machines, dryers and refrigerators are personal property.... should not be part of the inspection....and agents should make it clear that they are personal property....banks don't want to mortgage personal property.... keep it outside the agreement...

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) 6 months ago

Barbara Todaro - your comment is fascinating.  We are one country with so many different procedures and policies, laws and regulations. In the DC metro area, washing machines and dryers, refrigerators and stoves are considered fixtures unless otherwise specified that they do not convey.  So interesting! 

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) 6 months ago

Good morning Jay Markanich - what a great post - I had an inspector who wanted to put soap in the dishwasher to test it and used a big squirt of  liquid Palmolive (or something like that) - The next thing I saw was a lot of bubbles oozing out of the dishwasher.... what a mess - what was he thinking!  He has not done any other inspections for me! 

Posted by Lise Howe, Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA, (Keller Williams Capital Properties) 6 months ago

While David is the inpsection person....can't say I ever heard of one being inspected though they are often covered on home warranty policies.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale (Keller Williams 414-525-0563) 6 months ago

Good morning Jay. I have many experiences where an inspector disclosed what he would not test. Better than the mess that might have been created. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker (Wayne M Martin) 6 months ago

Peter - that kind of sense comes best along with experience!

Glad you think so Sham.

Barbara - I have heard that in other areas of the country it is not like this, but here all appliances convey unless there is specific mention in the sales contract that they will not.  So they typically get tested! 

Lise - dishwasher soap has a bubble supressant for a reason!  I can't believe an inspector did that!  I bet I know who doesn't do dishes at his house!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

S&D - I recommend a home warranty in every inspection, unless the house is brand new.

Wayne - typically I will do that, depending on the condition of something.  Often times it is the electric panel box that I can't get into!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

And the red faced agent said what? I had an agent tell me once, "It's ok, go ahead and break that door lock so we can get in for the inspection" Ummm, nope, I will go to my truck, come get me when we can open it. She broke the lock.... and got sued!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) 6 months ago

Fred - hand in mouth.  Speechless.  Wide eyed.  Wondering what to do.

Allllll the cliches you can think of!  I didn't say a word, but Mighty Mo got busy.

What did Sue do to the agent who broke that lock?  (You said she got "sued")

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Jay,

I doubt that I could do your job.  I'd be afraid to touch faucets, breakers or light switches for fear something would break and the owner would hold me responsible for the damage and repair!

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) 6 months ago

Well, tit for tat, Stephen.  I doubt I could do yours.

Once when I turned the knob of a washing machine, it came off in my hand and everyone saw it.  A week later I got a bill from the seller for $800 for fixing the knob.  Really?  I called the agent who knew fully well I did not break the knob, and sent the bill back to the guy with a note that if he tried this again my lawyer would be contacting him and we would go after him for fraud.  I never heard from him again!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

I would think that if the washer and or dryer were a part of the transaction then the inspection is warranted.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) 6 months ago

It is, Joe.  But depending on the location or condition my insurance company, and associations, say that any test should be done with supreme discretion and care.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Jay- the comments once again show that real estate is local!  And I know that if you're going to hire an inspector, you need to make sure that you hire someone who knows what they're doing...like YOU.

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 6 months ago

Aw shucks.

Thanks Kathy.  One of the first things I learned on AR years ago is that real estate is different from place to place!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

                            Thank you Jay. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) 6 months ago

Again, aw shucks...  And again, thanks Kathy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

I can see why Kathy chose to highlight this post today...great stuff!

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) 6 months ago

Thank you Kristin.  I think this was a lesson learned by that realtor!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Excellent points, Jay.  So many things can go wrong and as the expert, you know better than others when someone may be pushing their luck.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) 6 months ago

Thanks, Debbie.  Some things  are best not done!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Frightening to me on so many levels....as a seller and as a potential buyer. What a mess. LISTEN to the inspector when he suggests NOT to run an appliance!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) 6 months ago

Jay

Excellent points here. I have never had a home inspection test drive a washer, or a dryer! I had a home inspection where the dishwasher, per the seller who was there, had not been run in 3 years. The inspector wisely declined to run it and buyers got a new DW in the deal.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad (Solutions Real Estate ) 6 months ago

Sharon - I have seen enough accidents that it is simply best to leave some things alone!  Water problems can be very expensive.

Jeff -- I won't run unused dishwashers either!  When a dishwasher is crusty and dry and full of storage I simply photograph it and it becomes part of the negotiation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

I have never had an inspector test the washer although checking the dryer vent exhaust outside for built up lint seems common.

Posted by Gary L. Waters, Broker Owner, Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC, ... a small office, delivering big service! (Waters Realty of Brevard, LLC) 6 months ago

Gary - checking the dryer vent is a necessity.  There are tens of thousands of dryer fires every year because of clogs!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

I never really thought about the washing machine on that level. Thanks for the food for thought.

Posted by Laura Cerrano, Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher (Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island) 6 months ago

Laura - testing things can be easy or not, sometimes.  Washing machines seem to have so many unexpected problems it's best to avoid them altogether.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Great information on risk management and the unfortunate results that can happen Jay. A homeowner tried to say the Home Inspector broke her water softener during the inspection...though he did not even touch it! Sheesh...

Posted by Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!, So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR (PK Real Estate Utah South) 6 months ago

Thanks for stopping by Wanda.  I was accused of breaking a washing machine turning knob.  See comment #13 above.  Sometimes people leave booby traps for the home inspector.  It pays to have other people present at the inspection!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Really glad you handled this question, I've often wondered if it was meant to be inspected. Local inspectors don't do it.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) 6 months ago

Oh my. I hope that realtor was mortified for not listening to you. Duh.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) 6 months ago

And now you know, Jill!  Stop by my posts more often!

Kat - live and learn.  And I am shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, that you did not see this post the first time around!

Says he, with a wink.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

I remember asking a home inspector here if he checked/tested the washer and dryer as the buyers asked. He said no I do not turn on appliances to check them especially a washer and dryer. He did check the appliances and said they seemed ok and everything looked okay behind them.

Posted by Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®, Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate (Perry Wellington Realty, Adam Conrad, Broker) 6 months ago

I check all the appliances very carefully, especially the dryer, Rebecca.  Sometimes I check the washing machine, but not every inspection.

See my post about the leaky dishwasher!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

Great points all. It is just like someone trying to sell their house themselves instead of using a realtor. It is the realtors job to sell houses. They are professionals. It is better to listen to a home inspector because it is their job to inspect houses. They are professionals. Why hire a professional if you are just going to ignore them anyway? Great post. Thanks for sharing. 

Posted by Corey Martin, Real Estate and Management Solutions (Martin Presence Group) 6 months ago

Thanks Corey.  Glad you stopped by!  Check in again!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 6 months ago

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