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Sat, Jan. 25

Column: Funny Seller Stories

Randy West

Randy West

I have clients meet me at the end of my inspection and there are a few good reasons for this. I need to be able to concentrate on my job with as few distractions as possible. No matter where I am, at an exterior wall or in the attic, I'm looking at many different components. And they all tie together at the end.

Is that crack in the stucco a concern? Maybe, but I won't know for sure until I complete the entire inspection. If there are cracks on the interior wall in this area, or all the doors in this wall are out of square, that crack could be from some structural movement of the home. If there are moisture stains on the interior wall below that stucco crack, water could be getting into the exterior wall. If there is loose flashing at the eave above the crack, it could indicate a roof leak.

Of course, most often it is just a common crack and not a concern. But I don't want to start talking to clients until I have been in, out, up, down, over and under.

There are other reasons for having the clients meet me at the end of the inspection. I will take a couple breaks during an inspection and see if Gov. Jan Brewer or President Obama have returned my calls (I'm still waiting). I feel uncomfortable taking a break to return phone calls or eat a snack if there are clients waiting for me to finish.

Another reason is most normal people do not walk on roofs or slither through attics and crawlspaces. And most clients are normal people. This means they will be alone in the home while I'm crawling past the black widows under the house. I'm sure all my clients are honest and trustworthy, but it could be uncomfortable if the owners come home and find people in their living room and no home inspector in sight.

There are websites out there that advise homebuyers to accompany the inspector during the inspection. And there are home inspectors who work this way. I have an occasional potential client who wants to attend the entire inspection. Most understand after I explain my reasons, and tell them I will spend as much time as they desire walking around explaining items. If that doesn't work, I tell them it's "corporate policy." That phrase seems to carry a lot of weight, which is kind of funny since I am the corporation.

If the sellers are home, I let them know right away that I will need privacy with the buyers when they arrive. If it's nice out I usually talk to the clients outside or in the garage. Often the sellers will stay in one room so we can talk in the home. Sometimes the Realtors will ask the seller to leave during the inspection or at the end of the inspection when the buyers arrive. I don't request this; I'll be there several hours and I feel it's kind of rude to ask people to leave their own home for half a day. But I do appreciate it when Realtors advise sellers to leave when the buyers are there. There are usually things inside the home I want to show the buyers, like how to operate the gas fireplace or whirlpool bathtub.

Occasionally the sellers are present when I talk to the buyers. I am not opposed to this, but sometimes the sellers don't agree with my findings. Once I told the buyers that a toilet does not flush properly. The seller had all five of us cram into the bathroom to show us how to 'operate' the toilet: if you hold the handle down for exactly 4 seconds and then tap twice on the right side of the tank, the toilet will flush properly every time. I don't know how I missed that.

Once I pointed at some ceiling stains and said these were likely from roof leaks because I found damaged shingles above this area. The seller said I was an alarmist. I asked him what I should say if I find ceiling stains directly below damaged roof shingles. He suggested that instead of saying the "the roof appears to be leaking over there," I should say, "most of the roof does not leak."

Another seller pulled out his inspection report from seven years ago and said he doesn't have to fix anything that wasn't on his report. If his inspector missed it seven years ago then it was not his responsibility.

Another time I was talking to the buyers at the kitchen counter. The seller, a 75-year-old woman, was sitting nearby at the dining room table. I had been talking for a half hour or so and she had not said a word. I told the buyers it was important to put a spark screen on the chimney for the wood-burning fireplace. The seller looked up and said, "My neighbor calls me and complains every time I light a fire." We were all a little surprised and looked at her for a moment. Then I walked over to the dining room window and looked at the house behind hers. This house was much lower than hers; we were looking at the wood shingle roof. I asked if that was the neighbor, and she said, "Yes, every time I light a fire he calls me and tells me to put it out." I could imagine the neighbor standing on his porch and watching hot embers fall on his wood shingle roof. I thought to myself that he was nicer than me; I'd probably be knocking on her front door with a fire extinguisher in my hand.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 6,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him through his website,

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