A Century Home Inspection Horror Story

Not all home inspections are equal. This true story of two previously “inspected” century homes offers an important lesson.

CrawlspaceA century home is a house that is 100+ years old. In early June, 2007, I inspected a century home on a Thursday, and another on the following Friday. The inspections were performed for different buyers. One home was in Collingwood, the other in Meaford. Both of the homes included really nasty, wet, spider-filled crawlspaces.

Coincidently, both of the homes had been inspected two years earlier when the current sellers had bought. I put on my ‘rubber suit’ crawlspace gear for these inspections, and crawled all the way through the crawlspaces, observing and carefully prodding the floor members. Crawlspace wood must be prodded to determine its condition, and its ability to effectively carry loads.

While the vast majority of century homes are magnificent structures, requiring only minor structural repairs, if any, both of these homes were not. They had suffered a century’s worth of moisture decay caused by acute water infiltration. Much of the floor structure required replacement in an environment where there is no room to work. Repair work would include steps to stop the moisture infiltration into the crawlspaces, as well. Both of my buyers chose to not buy the homes.

It came to light that neither of the sellers’ home inspectors had fully entered the crawlspaces during the home inspections two years ago!!

Buyers and real estate sales reps sometimes react negatively when we tell them our fee and some of the other inspectors are charging less. I believe our extra effort puts us in a good – if somewhat cramped – position to look a buyer in the eye, and tell them whether the home they are buying is structurally sound. We always identify the work that will be necessary to repair a structure and prevent further moisture decay, and we love to celebrate the positive aspects of all homes.

We do everything in our power to make real estate deals work, but some days – for various reasons – the buying and selling teams are unable to create a new agreement when major problems are identified..

A number of years ago, Ross Sheardown, an Allston-area sales rep (and friend), who passed away last year, handed me a business card. I had just finished crawling through a crawlspace under a century home for his clients. He told me to read the back of the card. In large, bold letters it said (and I paraphrase, as memory serves):

“The bitterness of low quality lasts long after the temporary sweetness of low price has faded away.”

Thanks Ross. At Safe Homes Canada, we guarantee that our clients will never, ever suffer an expense because of a lack of thoroughness during their home inspection!