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Beyond expected service life


Chris Bernhardt
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What do you say about items beyond their expected service life that appear to still have service life remaining?

ASHI SOP requires that they be reported.

For example 30 year old gutters that look like they could go another 10 years. If you just report the fact that they are beyond or at the end of some arbitrary service life the client will almost always interpret this as a defect and then will ask how much life do you think I could still get out of this thing?

Chris, Oregon.

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Give them the facts as you know them.

Take a water heater, for instance. I'll check the serial number to determine its age and then tell the client how old it is. I'll explain that around here water heaters average about 10 to 15 years before they're toast. When a tank is already older than that, I make sure they know that it's beyond the end of its normally expected service life range and that they understand that there's no way to really know when the thing will fail, so the prudent thing to do would be to replace it right away. Then I tell them not to be surprised that, if they should decide to keep the danged thing because it is still serviceable and leak-free, not to be surprised if it fails at any moment and at the most inconvenient time possible. Then I'll recommend that they call around to some dealers to discuss replacement options and cost. Then I make sure I say the same thing in writing in the report. That way, when it does go they will have been forewarned.

That's pretty much the way I approach it. Tell 'em where I think whatever it is is in its life cycle. Warn them that once it's at end of normally expected life cycle that there's no way to really know how much longer it will remain serviceable, and, if it's near, at, or beyond that, advise them to repair/replace it right away. At the same time, knowing that there's a strong likelihood that they might cave in and keep the item, rather than lose the house by fighting over it, I make sure they understand that if they don't repair/replace it immediately, not to be surprised if it (whatever it is) fails at any moment and at the most inconvenient time possible.

It works for me.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Chris Chris Chri - Common sense must prevail.

The tables of life expectancy are arbitrary - I know of at least a half dozen. For instance what is the life expectancy of Alum 8" lap siding? What is the life expectancy of a Toto stool vs Case stool and what happens when they fail? Design life? 40yr asphalt three tab shingles are designed to last 40yrs? etc.

Go online and ask for an ASHI request for interpertation at www.ashi.org.

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Chris,

Water heater example:

I tell them the make, size, age, etc, the last sentence is the following;

This unit has exceeded its normal life expectancy and may fail at any time (it could fail tomorrow, it could last another 2 years). To ensure uninterrupted service & protection from possible flooding, I recommend replacement of the water heater NOW!

If they don't listen, they can't argue.

Darren

www.aboutthehouseinspections.com

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I report:

"The ________ has outlasted its expected useful life and the costs associated with replacement and/or failure should be anticipated in the near future. There is no way to predict exactly when this will happen within the scope of this home inspection."

I don't know much about the insurance programs that can be purchased to cover the systems in the house, but the real estate agents often discuss this option. When this conversation begins, I tell my clients to consult with their insurance agent because I am not an insurance expert.

Additionally, in conversations during the inspection, I talk about the advantages of preventing damages associated with system failures, energy cost savings potential if the system is upgraded, etc..

The reality is, like most of us, when you own a home, you prioritize the to-do list and go down the list until you run out of money. When you get more money (hopefully), you continue on. The list always seems to change and get longer. The whole time you are crossing your fingers that things don't happen out of order but they almost always do.

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Chris,

I used to think I knew what a client would think. I don't.

I'm still amazed when someone pays too much for a house I tore apart in my report. Don't we all feel better when they run like they are supposed to from a POS?

Life estimating tables? It is all SWAG! (scientific wild ass guess). I've seen 3 year old water heaters blow, new roofs leak, and much more. I report what average life expectancy is, but that means some fail sooner, some later.

You are a very diligent person, and that makes you one of the good guys, but you may want to recite the Serenity prayer a few times. We provide a standard of care, not a standard of worry. Deep breaths...

Originally posted by Chris Bernhardt

... the client will almost always interpret this as a defect and then will ask how much life do you think I could still get out of this thing?

Chris, Oregon.

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I limit that stuff to things one can't know; water heaters & HVAC equipment essentially. Maybe roofing, but only if I'm feeling particularly paranoid that day.

Stuff like gutters? Heck, just look at them. They're OK, or they're not. Even if they're not, most gutters could be salvaged, if someone was silly enough to salvage gutters. And, how bad could someone get burnt on gutters? (barring inlaid copper/lead or historical stuff.)

Appliances; they work, or they don't. If they're beat up & old, I tell folks they're beat up and old; they could go @ anytime.

Service life for everything is, at base, completely unknown. I find it offensive that someone would actually publish service life "tables". All it shows is how little they know.

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Originally posted by kurt

Stuff like gutters? Heck, just look at them. They're OK, or they're not. Even if they're not, most gutters could be salvaged, if someone was silly enough to salvage gutters. And, how bad could someone get burnt on gutters? (barring inlaid copper/lead or historical stuff.)

Appliances; they work, or they don't. If they're beat up & old, I tell folks they're beat up and old; they could go @ anytime.

Yeah,

I'd forgotten to address the gutter question. I agree with Kurt on that one. A mechanical device is one thing, but If something is an immovable building component, framing, sheathing, siding, trim, gutters, etc., just examine it and if it's OK move on, or, iIf it's worn out or needs maintenance, tell the client.

Aluminum gutters will last a long, long time and I don't even consider any "service life" on those. Steel gutters might last as little as 10 years or as long as 50, if they've been well maintained, sanded and re-primed and re-painted over the years, so you have to judiciously probe them with a finger here and there to see if they're paper thin and ready to give out or simply need to be sanded down, re-primed and repainted. Wood gutters can last up to 75 years, if they've been properly cared for, even though few do because of poor/improper maintenance, and you've got to examine every linear foot of them and make sure that clients understand that they'll need annual scraping and re-oiling and are a lot of work.

As far as appliances go, I tell clients that I'm doing a simple on-off check of the appliances. That most seem to last at least 10 years from the date of installation, but some don't, and, since the manufacturers only warrant them for a year, it's anyone's guess as to how long they'll last after the warranty expires.

I reinforce this stance by telling them that the only warranty I'll give them on the appliances is: "as long it takes to reach my truck. Once I'm in my truck and backing out of the driveway, if the thing fails, I'll feel sorry for your loss, but that's just the way it is with appliances."

They get it. Well, all except for one silly lady, that is, but the remainder have. I've never had one appliance fail in the time it takes me to collect my check, walk to my vehicle, open the door and get in.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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