Unpleasant Surprises

THIL_WelcomeBack

Hello, readers! As you may have noticed, it’s been a while since my last blog post. I blame the busy summer season for my hiatus. However, I’m happy to be back and am eager to share this post, as it is important for Inspectors, Realtors and house hunters alike!

Sometimes, it can be difficult to come up with new subject matter. After many posts, it can seem there’s precious little fresh material to cover.

And then… some new material presents itself.

This last week we were inspecting an older home that was vacant. I walked into the guestTHIL_BuyerBeware bathroom and, of course, started turning on the switches for the lights and the exhaust fan. The lights came on, so I directed my attention to the round object in the ceiling above my head, thinking it was the exhaust fan and expecting it to start running.

Instead, the actual ceiling fan in the center of the room’s ceiling began to run. Curious! If that was the ceiling fan, then what was the object in the ceiling above my head? It looked just like a speaker that people use in a surround sound system. But, why would anyone install a speaker in the bathroom? I checked the ceilings in the rest of the house and found no other speaker-like objects.

THIL_MysteryAs you may know, I’m a girl. I’m also a Home Inspector, which makes me sort of unable to resist investigating the unknown. So, I grabbed my flashlight and shined it on the object and saw a camera lens behind the surface material. The lens part swiveled so it could be aimed at different areas, but was, at the time, aimed at the tub/toilet area.

Let’s just take a moment here to absorb the creepiness of what I just told you. Shiver, if THIL_Horrifiedyou like. I know I did. It was something that I have never come across before. It was unthinkable to me to wonder how many unsuspecting people, male and female alike, not to mention possibly children, had their privacy violated by some creeper while they used the bathroom. Or, if they were guests, had showered, unaware that they were being watched. Okay, let’s all shiver again. It’s warranted.

An interesting caveat to this story is that the home buyer was a police officer and informed me that this type of action was, in fact, a crime.

Someone asked me not long ago what was, in my opinion, the number one rule for Home Inspectors today. My reply was that with technology being what it is, the Home Inspector should assume they are on camera every moment of the inspection and conduct themselves accordingly, in both word and deed. Who knew that would be prophetic?

THIL_SurveillanceSo, the takeaway from this unfortunate incident is this: whenever you are in someone else’s home, whether showing the home, touring the home or inspecting the home, be aware that you may not be as alone as you assume. If possible, refrain from using the bathrooms and be sure to keep any unflattering comments about the home to yourself until you are safe in your car with the doors closed.

A Realtor friend of mine had her buyers win out in a bidding war even though her client’s offer was lower. The deciding factor for the sellers? Both parties had stood on the front porch after the tour discussing the situation. My friend’s buyers went on and on about how much they loved the house. Their competition had been less than gracious and said that the sellers had better accept their offer or there would be trouble! Unbeknownst to all parties, the camera on their front porch was also wired for sound and the sellers had heard every word of both conversations.

So, beware, my real estate savvy friends! The future is now and it is always watching!

Thanks again for stopping by and please feel free to comment below, or to shoot me an email with any of your home inspection related questions. Feel free to like and share you your preferred social media platform. As always, I wish you a safe and happy home!

 

Has Your House Had a Check Up Lately?

THIL_StethoscopeIt’s cold and flu season again and I don’t know about you, but this area was hit HARD. The hospitals were full and had people waiting for beds. Your neck of the woods was probably much the same, so while maintaining your family’s health is front and center in your thoughts, I want to urge you not to neglect the health of what shelters your family… your house.

While we commonly refer to a home’s “condition,” it is really the same as talking about the health of your home. Just as we can break our bones, our home’s structure can need repair as well. The human body uses electricity, just as your house does. And plumbing… well, let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that whether it’s a human or a residence, when a plumbing system is not working correctly, the whole family can tell!

THIL_RoofYou may think you only need a Home Inspector if you are buying a home, but having a yearly home inspection can help diagnose issues that you may not be aware of. Really, how many people regularly walk on their roof? Or inspect their soffit and fascia for wear from tree branches, gaps that water and pests can use to invade your home and chipped and peeling paint? How many people examine the exterior walls for cracked caulking around windows and doors? These issues are easily and cheaply fixed if caught early, but deferred maintenance increases the likelihood that items will have to be replaced rather than repaired and that, my friend, can cost big money.

And that’s just a few items on the exterior.

THIL_ChecklistA Home Inspector can examine and test your heating and air conditioning system, duct work, plumbing and plumbing fixtures, water heater, attic structure and insulation, fireplace and chimney, windows, doors, ceilings, floors and appliances. And while no Home Inspector can guess or guarantee the remaining life of any system or appliance, he or she can alert you to visible signs of possible impending problems. Like the home we inspected yesterday. Built in 2006, it was a lovely, clean, well maintained home, but like most homeowners, they hadn’t looked at their 66 gallon water heater in a while, so they had not seen the rusting that had developed at the base of the unit. See the photo below.

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It was like that all the way around the base of the unit. Of course the buyer wanted the unit replaced, so it was just one more thing to negotiate and complicate the process.

THIL_LaughingSo don’t neglect the health of your home. Let a Home Inspector be the chicken soup for your home’s soul! Get your home a check up today! And if you figure out the “flue shot” joke I couldn’t quite come up with, leave it in the comment section below.

Please Pin, Like and Share on your favorite social media and feel free to email me with any questions you may have about homes and/or home inspection at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Thanks, and I wish you a healthy, happy home!

Background Check? Check!

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If you’re still living in your home when you list it for sale, it can feel a bit like your privacy is diminished. There’s a good reason for that. It is! You’re essentially inviting the public into your home, although ideally, it should be small bits of the public at a time and they should either  be accompanied by a Realtor or be a licensed real estate professional. From initial showings to the open house, from the home inspection and the termite inspection to the appraisal, once that key box is installed, your home will not be as private as it once was.

Many people have concerns not just about the number of people who have access to their home, but about the character of those people as well. And you know what? I don’t blame them! The people involved in the selling process are strangers to the seller, and in this day and age, no one can afford to be naive, especially if children are still in the home.

The good news for sellers in the State of Texas is that the Texas Real Estate Commission has some safeguards in place to help ensure that the people entrusted with access to your home are trustworthy. No system is perfect of course, and common sense should always be used. Following are some common hurdles that Texas Realtors and Inspectors are required to clear before they are allowed to work in these industries.

THIL_BackgroundCheckTo become a TREC licensed Realtor in Texas, education hours are just the beginning. In addition to the 180 classroom hours, the applicants must meet the guidelines for honesty, trustworthiness and integrity. Also required are a background check and submission of fingerprints. The applicants must also pass the State agency’s test and have a licensed Realtor sponsor them.

It’s much the same for TREC licensed Home Inspectors. The requirements that pertain to character, background check and fingerprints are all also required, even for an Apprentice Inspector. There are differing levels of licensing for Home Inspectors in Texas, however, unlike the Texas Realtor, the Home Inspector must carry errors and omissions insurance, the process for which also scrutinizes the Home Inspector’s past performance and/or any pending or past lawsuits pertaining to their work.

If you live in a state that does not oversee home inspector licenses, you may still have some options. The major home inspection professional associations have some strict ethics requirements for their members. Try to find out if the Inspector you’ll be dealing with is a member of any professional home inspection associations. You can usually find this information on the Inspector’s website. Then you can call that association to ask about the standing of that Inspector.THIL_SafetyFirst

These protections do not guarantee that you will only come into contact with respectable people, however, they do help to weed out folks that have been less than upstanding in their past business dealings.
Any time someone is asking to have access to your home, never hesitate to insist on identification, particularly if you were not told in advance of their arrival. Rob and I would never insist on entering a home if the home owner or person representing them were in the least bit uncomfortable with our presence. You have every right to be notified in advance, not just of  showings, inspections and appraisals, but to insist on knowing all parties names and license numbers as well, so you can call the licensing agencies and ensure that the person holds a valid license and is in good standing.

THIL_StopOne more thing to keep in mind: Any Home Inspector will likely refuse to perform an inspection on a property with unattended minors in the home. If there will be anyone in attendance, there should be someone at least 18 years of age present for the inspection to proceed. Many Home Inspectors will ask for the property to be vacated by all parties to restrict distractions, and while this is completely understandable, I personally never ask a seller to leave their home if they want to stay.

The takeaway here is this: If you’ve listed your home for sale, make peace with the temporary loss of some of your privacy, but don’t feel that you need to admit anyone who knocks on your door, particularly if you are not certain of their identity or background. Any Home Inspector that is a real professional will understand a sellers need to take a few minutes to ensure their safety and the safety of their families. If they balk at your request to have a moment check them out, reschedule!

Thanks again for stopping by! Please remember to Pin, Like and share on your favorite social media and please feel free to email me any home inspection related questions, whether the questions are technical or procedural. You can send emails using the contact form below or at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Have a great day and I wish you a safe and happy home!

 

The Art of the Unemotional Deal

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Home. Few words evoke so many emotions, whether good or, let’s be honest, stomach churning. This fact may make what I am about to propose seem contradictory, but trust me, this is good advice: When it comes to buying your next home, leave emotion out of the equation.

Time after time, we have seen people go into real estate transactions with love goggles on causing them to completely ignore any and all warning signs. They see the house online, then in person and fall head over heels. They then rush headlong into their “forever home” becoming a real nightmare.

Todd Vaughn, owner of Swat Pest Control here in Lubbock once told me about an experience he had with some love struck buyers. The house was eaten up with termites. One of the worst infestations he’d ever seen. From the foundation to the interior walls there was pervasive structural damage. Todd said, “I told the buyers the results of the inspection and they asked me, “Well, should we buy it?”  What else but love could cause someone to potentially ignore tens of thousands of dollars in termite damage?

THIL_LoveHomeOne of the bad parts of home inspection is that sometimes you have to crush someones hopes and dreams. Inspections can, and sometimes do uncover problems that the buyer is unwilling or financially unable to remedy. And when that person has allowed emotion to cloud their judgement, they can easily talk themselves or their spouse into a situation that can take not only a financial toll on the relationship, but an emotional one, as well.

We recently performed an inspection on a home that was extremely well decorated. I mean, this lady must have had a PhD in Magnolia from Joanna Gaines University. The thing that struck me, though, was that this was a very common floor plan from a very popular builder, and although it was a perfectly nice house in good condition, I knew once the buyers saw it without all the decor, they were bound to be let down. Without all the decorations, it was just like many of the other homes in that neighborhood. I couldn’t help but wonder if the decoration of the home had affected the sales price.

THIL_InvestmentHere’s the thing; First and foremost your house is an investment. Be prepared to walk away if that’s what you have to do. The inspection may go smoothly or it may throw an unexpected wrench in the works. The appraisal may come back without a hitch, or it may not. One of my friends was buying a home and the process was going very well. Till a week or so before closing when the appraisal came back $11,000 below the sales price! They may have become attached to the house at that point, but they were objective enough to know that they shouldn’t pay eleven thousand dollars over market value. They stuck to their guns even to the point of sending the seller’s Realtor a termination notice. The buyer then agreed to drop the price.

When looking for a home, don’t let the current decor and finishes be what holds sway with your decision making, whether they are good or outdated. Much of the decor will leave with the seller and finishes can be changed or updated. And if the house needs minor or cosmetic work, all the better! With a little work and a modest investment, you could have much more equity in your home very quickly. And if you can’t love equity, you scare me. Seriously. We can’t be friends anymore.

THIL_WinningTo recap, let’s hit the high points: reign in the emotions, look at the facts and the numbers and remember that you are making what may be one of the largest investments you will ever make, so keep your head in the game!

Thanks for reading this installment! If you haven’t signed up to follow The Home Inspector Lady, let me encourage you to do so now. If you are reading this on a phone and don’t see the email sign up, you can find in when you click on the “About” page. And please remember to Pin, Like, Share and comment below. And as always, email any home inspection related questions or comments and experiences to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Have a great day!

Just the Facts: When Inspector Opinions Don’t Matter

THIL_FactsI have a recurring nightmare. Well, I have more than one, but just one about work. I have a home buyer asking me any or all of the following questions:

  • Am I paying too much for this house?
  • Would you buy this house?
  • Is this home’s value likely to increase or decrease?
  • Is this a decent neighborhood?

There are more, but you get the picture. Sometimes I wake up screaming. Think I’m over reacting? Read on.

Just like sea shells and finger prints, no two Home Inspectors are alike. Some may have a higher level of education in structure, while others have more experience with electrical systems. Some may be able to do appraisals, while some others have training in mold or asbestos testing. Right now you may be asking yourself, “What’s your point, Inspector Lady?”

My point is this, before you ask your Home Inspector about listing prices or the prospective return on your investment, you should first be asking if they have any specialized licenses or certifications. Asking someone who isn’t qualified to do real estate appraisals whether or not you’re paying a fair price is kind of like asking your mechanic to look at a suspicious mole.

THIL_ConfusedWhile it may seem puzzling, there are differing levels of education and certifications for Home Inspectors, even Home Inspectors working in the same state. Here’s how it goes: Even if (and yes, I do mean IF) a state governs the licenses of Home Inspectors, they likely will have a minimum number of requirements to qualify for this license, but these professionals can, and often do, choose to exceed that minimum. Depending on the area of focus, this gives Home Inspectors a wide range of services they can offer and you should definitely inquire about any specialized knowledge that is important to you.

THIL_RelievedBut even if you don’t feel the need for any specialized services for your particular transaction, this is something to keep in mind when talking with your Inspector. I and most Inspectors I know absolutely refuse to answer questions like, “Would you buy this house?” It’s not my job to make judgement calls like that. It’s my job to help give you as much information as I can about the condition of your prospective home at that time, so that you can then combine that knowledge with all the other variables and make that decision for yourself.

Believe me, there are few things that Realtors hate more than offhand comments about something outside an Inspector’s wheel house that can unduly influence a buyer and tank a deal. So before your inspection, get some background on your Inspector so you know the areas in which they are qualified to speak. Knowing whether or not the Inspector has the expertise to offer that opinion or advice can help you determine how much weight the comment should carry.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask your Inspector or Realtor for referrals for people properly qualified to give you the information you require.

Thanks for stopping by! Please feel free to use the box at the top to sign up to follow this blog and please remember to Pin, Like, Tweet and/or comment below and please email any home inspection questions or experiences you’d like to share to thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Home Inspections: Should the Home Owner Always Leave?

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So we recently encountered an issue that comes up infrequently for us, but it does come up: We arrive at a home inspection and the home owner makes it clear that they’re not going anywhere.

If you’re not in the real estate game and not familiar with the home inspection process, let me catch you up: it is customary for the home owner to be elsewhere while the home is being inspected. It’s not a law or written in stone or anything, but it is routine and most Realtors explain to their sellers that they will need make plans to leave the property and let the Home Inspector do his or her work.

Doesn’t always happen.

In an example from our own experience, we arrived at a property and were met by the very eager young home buyer and her father. Her dad had traveled seven hours to be there for the inspection. After introductions, I told them I would knock on the door and see if anyone was home. Boy, was she ever home. After I introduced myself, the owner, a nice looking older lady, said, “Well… YOU can come in, but they can’t,” pointing at the buyer and her father.

I stood there, open mouthed and staring. I had never had this happen before. Ever.

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I was stunned. My mind was spinning. How was I going to tell this lovely, hopeful young woman that she was unwelcome in her prospective first home? I guess my dilemma was evident on my face because the owner followed up the previous verbal slap with, “They can come in when you’re done, but I don’t need to babysit total strangers for two hours.” I think I may have managed some succinct, clever retort like, “I see.” Then I reluctantly returned to the buyer and her dad as if I were addressing my own firing squad.

“Um… I’m not sure what to say here, but the owner says you can’t come in till we’re done.” Blank, uncomprehending stares, much like my own when given the news. Needless to say (people say that when they’re about to say it anyway) the Realtors sprang into action and although the seller apparently paid no attention to her own Realtor, the buyer’s representative arrived at the property right away and accompanied the poor, bewildered pair into the house to take measurements and do the usual looking around while awaiting their inspection results.

Happily, the opposite experience is more prevalent. Sometimes the buyer and seller get along famously and even become friends afterward (shout-out, Hillary! Hillary bought my house from me four years ago.)

Overall, we’ve had more positive experiences with home sellers than negative ones, but the result of my original example was that the buyer was so turned off by the terse and uncivil experience, it soured her on the whole transaction and she terminated the contract at the first opportunity.

Whether the owner stays or leaves is a multifaceted question, but luckily for me, the Realtors have usually addressed this long before our arrival because Rob and I could never dream of asking someone to leave us alone in their home. After all, they don’t know us. On more than one occasion, the owner has had personal issues that made their leaving home an impossibility (sick kids, recent surgery, a parent with dementia). Fortunately, in these situations, everyone was quite polite and all was well.

My point and my professional opinion is this: Listing Agents: This one is on you. You know your client. If they’re not exactly a “people person” do your best to get them out while the inspection is going on, but if you can’t, either give all parties a heads-up or try to be there during the inspection to smooth any ruffled feathers and/or keep them otherwise occupied. A good time for paperwork, perhaps?

I would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to use the form below or email me with your comments or questions at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . Social media buttons are provided, so please Pin and share on your preferred platform. Thanks, and be sure to sign up with your email address to be notified (or forewarned) of future posts, depending on whether or not you’re a fan. Thanks, and happy house hunting!

New Construction vs. Older Homes: Which is Better?

 

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Favorites have always been tricky for me. I feel way too much self imposed pressure to get it right. Want to see me pass out? Ask me to name my all-time favorite song.

Any time the word “better” is used in a question, you know the answer is most likely a matter of opinion. So it is with housing. So it is with this post. If we are comparing a new- build to and older home, the answer not only depends on the builder’s standards and post-sale diligence, but also on the care and maintenance demonstrated by the owner over the years.

“Do you have any real life examples?” you ask?  Clearly you have not read my other posts. (They’re all still here. Just scroll down. And Pin them. And share them!)

We all know the lure of the newly built home. Updated designs, all the latest finishes, much better energy efficiency in the windows, doors and insulation. What’s not to love? After 14 years in this business, I would have to say that the major factor in buyer satisfaction with new construction rests on one factor and one factor alone: Will the builder come back and address the issues that arise in a timely manner?

If you think that buying a new home means that you won’t have any problems come up, think again, my friend. ALL builders have what’s called “warranty work”. Those are the items that come up in the first year or two after the buyer purchases the home, that the builder is responsible for addressing. Leaking drains, cracked caulking, HVAC break downs, roof leaks, doors that won’t latch and the list goes on. My husband Rob put it best, “All builders have issues come up after the sale of the home. The difference between a good builder and a bad builder is how well he or she handles those issues.” Well said!

Not long ago we were called out to inspect a home that was 6 years old. Sadly, foreclosure proceedings had begun and the bank wanted to know the condition of the home that was about to become their responsibility.  It was in a respectable family neighborhood that was about one step up from a typical, average-income first time home buyer neighborhood. The home shouldn’t have had many issues to report, and wouldn’t have, if the owner had shown the slightest interest in any aspect of property maintenance, inside or out.

It was atrocious. There were holes in the walls, broken windows, trash everywhere and the cherry on this particular disgusting sundae… Dog poop all over the master bedroom carpet. There had been no maintenance on the exterior, which led to water damaged soffit and fascia as well as chipped and peeling paint and water damage to the exterior door trim. Cracked caulking on the exterior window trim had allowed moisture to seep inside of the window casings, causing swollen wood trim and who knows what inside the wall cavity.

Granted, this is a worst case scenario, but I wanted to make a point about home maintenance. Just because a house is new, that doesn’t exempt it from deterioration, even in the first few years. Exposure to the elements causes caulking to crack, paint to chip and peel and it can even wash mortar out from between the brick and stone on exterior walls. It is vital to inspect your home at least once a year to ensure that your home’s maintenance needs are met before costly damage can occur.

Cut to a home inspection we performed on a house built in the 1950’s. The house had one owner since construction and the maintenance had been meticulous. Were there some deficiencies? Sure. There almost always are some items in red ink, but this home had been well cared for and was able to return the favor to the owner twofold:

  • There were no expensive repairs requested by the buyer during the sale process.
  • The new owners knew they were getting a home that had stood the test of time and would likely continue, if the same standards were met in the future.

So, back to our original question: Which is better? A new home or an older home? The answer is, it depends. New homes have their advantages in terms of updated design,  newer (and maybe better materials in some cases) and a builder’s warranty, however, I’ll take a home that was built 50 years ago and been well maintained, versus a home 5 years old that’s had no maintenance.  But that’s me. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and experiences and, as always, submit any home inspection or maintenance questions to me at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com .

Home Inspections Save Lives… Sort Of

One of the things I like best about my job is being able to help people. Sometimes we help first-time home buyers understand how different parts of their home work. Sometimes we help them in the process of buying their dream home. But sometimes we help people avoid a costly mistake.

One young couple we met recently had already been dealt some tough blows. The husband had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair. While the disease had taken it’s toll on his body, his mind had been spared and he could communicate and understand what was going on around him. His wife was a school teacher and his care giver in her off hours. To say they were on a thin budget would be kind. They had managed to save for a house and had put a contract on a home that had recently been renovated. They were very excited. Their Realtor asked us to check it out.

Unfortunately, it was almost all bad news. The house (a pier and beam home) was not attached to any permanent foundation. There were no plumbing vents. There was no insulation in the attic. The windows were new, but were too high and too small for exit in an emergency. There were not enough electrical outlets. The water heater base was a cardboard box! And these were the things were could see. With no insulation in the attic, who knows whether there was any insulation in the walls or whether the home was wired safely?

The buyers were crushed. After all, the house looked great on the outside. It even had a wheel chair ramp. Plus, it was within their budget and in the small community in which they wanted and needed to live. They thought they had found the perfect home.

I know what you’re thinking: How could a home be renovated and NOT be up to code? After all, it was in a municipality. Where was the Building Inspector? Well, this municipality didn’t have the budget for a Building Inspector. As a result, no one was making sure things like this didn’t happen to folks like these. The buyers were literally in tears at the end of the inspection. In fact, they confided in us afterward that they almost didn’t get the house inspected, since it was newly renovated and had looked to have been done well.

Fast forward a few weeks. Their Realtor called us back. The buyers had put a contract on another house in the same community and wanted us to take a look. After their first disappointment, they remained cautiously optimistic. The second home was a vast improvement on the first one. While no home is perfect, this second house was safe and, actually, a better fit for them, they said.

So… Do home inspections save lives? Maybe. Or, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. To be honest when I named the post, I was just trying to get you to read it. (You read it! I win!) However, at the very least, home inspections, or the lack of them, have the potential to have a huge impact on people’s lives, for good or bad.

  • They can help you determine where you’ll live and who your neighbors are.
  • Home inspections can impact the quality of your life in that home.
  • They can affect your finances, whether they catch the need for a costly repair before you buy or alert you to upcoming maintenance needs after the purchase.
  • They are a test drive of the structure where you’ll make your life, at least for a while anyway.

So, I’ll leave it up to you to decide. As for my opinion, Rob has pointed out that my objectivity could be called into question. I will say that anything that gives you as much information about one of life’s major purchases as a home inspection does, could at the very least be considered “potentially life altering”. It’s not “life saving”, but I’ll take it.

I would love to hear your experiences and/or feedback through the “Comments” section, or via email at thehomeinspectorlady@yahoo.com . As always, you are welcome to email me any questions relating to home inspections, home maintenance or anything that’s puzzling you (home-related, I mean.)  Thanks for reading, sharing, pinning and tweeting!

Open House… Literally

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The strangest thing that has ever happened to me during a home inspection was actually the result of an open house the previous day. It resulted in teaching me a great lesson in personal safety, but it also taught the Realtors involved something that I don’t think most real estate professionals would have thought about otherwise. Maybe I’m wrong (and if I am, please comment.)

So, I get a text on a Saturday from a Realtor who has a buyer in a tight spot. He was in town with his daughter to buy a house for her to live in while she went to nursing school. Unfortunately, back home, his wife had taken ill and was in intensive care at the hospital. He needed a home inspection before he left the following afternoon.

We agreed to do the inspection for him the following morning on Sunday. Knowing the house was vacant and we wouldn’t be disturbing the owner, we made the arrangements. It seemed simple enough. Right?

When we arrived at the house, everything seemed to be the definition of normal. Then we realized, we had left our ladder at home. You kinda need that for a home inspection. So, we introduced ourselves to the buyers, got the key out of the lock box and opened the door. Rob explained to the buyer about the ladder and leaves to retrieve it while I stay there to get started.

Upon entering the master bedroom/bathroom combo, I admire the barn doors separating the bedroom from the bath. When I slid the doors open, however, I noticed a smell. A bad smell. I immediately wondered if the plumbing had backed up. A quick check of the fixtures dismissed that thought. Then I thought, “dead mouse”? Yikes! I hoped not. If only it had been that simple.

I turned on the light to the walk in closet and opened the door. On the floor were two denim covered legs sticking out from under a blanket. Two legs, the bad smell and no movement at all from the person on the ground. I closed the door. Quietly. I then had the privilege of explaining to the buyers that there was a person in the closet. I can still see the looks on their faces. It was as if I had told them I had found Narnia in there. Blank stares. I assured them I was not joking.

The father went in to investigate while I suggested to the daughter that we wait outside. Then the shouting started. “WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? WHY ARE YOU HERE?” Turned out, the shouting was coming from the father. He had awakened the sleeping young woman on the floor and, in hindsight I realized, was probably trying to use the puffer fish defense method to get her out of the house. It worked. She came running out of the house saying she had gotten lost. Probably true in a metaphorical sense. She turned out to be a meth addict. But that’s only part of the explanation.

The listing agent had an open house at this property the day before the inspection. The young lady from the closet had come to the open house, left the master bathroom window unlocked and returned later with some friends. They broke into the house, stole a number of items that the stager had used to decorate and she, no doubt thinking,”Who’s going to be here on a Sunday?” decided to crash there for the night.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Just because a house is supposed to be empty, that doesn’t mean you are alone. Since that day, my husband and I check every house (he chceks the closets) as soon as we arrive. And we do it together, believe me! When I opened that closet door I truly believed I had found a dead body.

The Realtors involved learned something, as well. Any Realtor who is securing a home after an open house thinks to check to make sure the doors are locked. Who thinks to check the windows?! A few more after that experience, I can promise you. Stay safe out there, Readers! And please comment with your thoughts or experiences!