Be nice? This place is a death-trap.

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Ilyce Glink writing for Inman Newsshared her thoughts on the property inspection process and offered six hidden property flaws which buyers should be on the lookout for. Unless I buy you each a subscription to Inman News, I am not at liberty to share the entire article, but I will paraphrase in the name sharing.

Radon, Asbestos, Lead, Toxic Substances, Structural Engineer, and Pests were the six ugly monsters which she cited may be lurking in your future dream home. In all fairness, I don’t generally consider structural engineers problematic, but they are often in a position to identify structural issues which may be. As for the others, here is how we might be concerned in San Diego, the Land O’ Tract Housing.

Radon. This is not a huge concern in our area, but on the East Coast is routinely the subject of testing. The Natural Hazard Disclosure Report will identify whether or not your home of choice is in an area of high potential for radon gases. In Southern California, this is generally a sufficient level of discovery.

Asbestos. There is the naturally occurring kind, which is rare. Again, your Natural Hazard Disclosure Report will address this. Then, there is the other kind – the asbestos found in the materials used in the home. For newer construction, you needn’t worry. Asbestos was banned from use in new construction in 1988, and manufacturing stopped in 1984. Homes constructed prior to the mid-1980s might have traces of asbestos products, and you might want to have one of the many hazardous materials testing companies take some samples.

We have a client closing tomorrow on an older home (built in the 1960s) in La Jolla. They did opt for hazardous materials testing, and while the acoustic ceiling tiles were surprisingly asbestos free, the inspector discovered that asbestos was present in the glue used to install the vinyl floors in the bathrooms and kitchen. This information didn’t send them running for the suburbs, but it did give them valuable information before they embarked on any potentially dangerous do-it-yourselfer projects.

Lead. Lead-based paints were allowed to be manufactured through 1968, but lead-based paint products were sold into the 1970s. Again, in San Diego, where old is not old as in charming but old as in built ten years ago, this is rarely a concern. If your home was built prior to 1968, however, you should be aware that eating paint chips could be hazardous to your health.

Structural Inspectors (that is, Structural Issues).No one is immune here. If doors are not plumb, if unusually large cracks are noted in the walls, or if all of the seller’s furniture is arranged in the southeast corner of the home due to gravity, you might consider having a structural inspection.

Which brings us back to our La Jolla home. During the general property inspection, we had cause to suspect structural issues. My clients opted to have the carpeting pulled at several locations throughout the home in order to inspect the slab. It was cracked, indeed. Through further inspection by a contractor, they were able to conclude that the home was sound and that long-term settlement symptoms could be repaired. This will not always be the case, however.

Pests.In my neck of the woods, our contracts include a provision for the Wood Destroying Pests and Organisms inspection. In almost all cases, the contract will require that the seller, as a condition of the purchase, remediate any “active infestation.” While rodents are not specifically included in the “wood destroying category”, the inspector will note their presence, and the buyer will have the opportunity to request that the small, squeaky fellows be removed from the premises. Rarely in San Diego have I encountered issues with the carpenter ants and chipmunks that the author spoke of, but I suppose she was speaking to a national audience.

Our La Jolla house? Termites, wood rot, wood fungus: All present. Chipmunks? Not to our knowledge.

Don’t think that your inspection contingency gives you a free pass to cancel the deal for any reason. All houses (even newly built ones) will have some minor issues. Canceling the deal without allowing the seller to attempt to fix the problem (or reduce the purchase price) isn’t a very nice thing to do.

This is good advice, and the part about being “nice” deserves applause, but…

Ms. Glick writes to a national audience. I am a working girl in a smaller, San Diego market.  La Jolla, for me, was an anomaly. Where the average Year Built of homes I routinely deal with is “Wednesday”, the “Krissi List of Inspection Horrors” is much different.

Caulking.It’s that flexible stuff around the base of the shower pan, at the edge of the tub, and around the sinks. It begins it’s life white and intact but may become discolored or even (gasp!) missing over time. Your inspector will recommend that the entire house be recaulked (including light fixtures, door knobs and furniture which conveys). Recaulking your children as a precaution will also be advised.

Furnace Filters. These are the things that trap dust and dirt as your magic climate control machine does it’s thing. Sometimes, these filters by virtue of trapping dust and dirt will become (gasp!) dirty. Forgetting for a moment that they are $10 Home Depot items, you will threaten contract cancellation unless the seller agrees to replace them. Then, when you close escrow, you will forget to change them yourself for the next 17 years.

Damper Spacers. This is a HUGE health and safety item. Our San Diego gas-fed fireplaces are, well, gas-fed. A damper spacer will ensure that the flue is always open so that when you turn on the gas but forget to light the fire and them leave for a two-month missionary trip to Cameroon, your home won’t blow up. Forgetting for a moment that these are $5 Home Depot items, you will threaten contract cancellation and judicial action unless the seller agrees to pay a handyman $593 to install one.

Doggie Doors in the Fire Door.This is a huge problem in my neighborhood where the Homeowners Regulations require each household to sponsor at least one dog, preferably a Golden Retriever, with bonus points awarded if the dog’s name is “Max.” The door leading from your garage to your home is a Fire Door. It is called this because, when your garage is on fire, it will be also. More importantly, it will impede the spread of fire from your garage to your home (and, presumably, the other way around). When a little access hole is cut out to allow Max to freely move to and from the garage while you are at work, or in Cameroon, you have Breached the Security Perimeter. You will insist that the seller replace this compromised door with a new door. After closing, you will remove the auto-closing mechanism from same so that it will remain open all day long, allowing your own pet (Max) freedom of movement. Not to mention, you will get a really nice cross-breeze.

GFCIs. Ground Fault Connector Interrupts are those special little electrical outlets with the red “reset” button which you push every time you attempt to simultaneously blow dry your hair, recharge your golf cart, and cook a turkey. They prevent bad things from happening if a power surge should occur. At your inspection, you will discovered that at least 40 of these are faulty. Forgetting for a moment that these are $15 Home Depot items, you will threaten contract cancellation unless the seller hires a Licensed Electrician to replace them at a total cost of $3,741. 87. You will offer to accept a credit in lieu of repairs. The credit you will ask for will be $3 million dollars, the seller’s Hummel collection, and a pony.

Of course, based on your inspector’s findings, you could cancel without giving the seller the opportunity to address these heinous deficiencies, but that wouldn’t be very nice.

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