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Your Strangest Callback


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The most bizarre callback I ever received was about seven years ago. The clients called for help. They knew that everything had checked out because they followed me throughout the inspection. But, on the day they moved into the home about half of the lights and outlets were dead. We both thought that was pretty strange. Then the client told me something even more weird, "When we turn on the cooktop or oven, the elements don't get hot, but lights all over the house come on." For a second that REALLY had me bamboozled. Then it dawned on me that for that to happen, one of their incoming service lines had to be cut, or something similar, which was permitting power to backfeed when the stove or oven was turned on. I told them to call the local power company. SUre enough, when the meter was re-installed, a plastic insulator was left in place which prevented contact at one of the meter connections.

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It wasn't a call-back, but I had something very similar in a foreclosed home. I had seen a weird looking lock on the meter but not thought too much about it as the agent said the electrical power was still on...but it turned out that only some lights worked. Others came on, dimmer, when I turned on, or at least tried to turn on, 240-volt appliances. It turned out that the utility company had disconnected the SEC's at the meter but one of them had reflexed(?) back into contact with a lug, leaving the house with one leg live and one dead. Definitely a headscratcher until you work it out.

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This was not a call-back either, just helping out a past client on a house I didn't inspect.

This had to do with their plumbing system. They have a typical 14 year old, Colonial style home in the suburbs of Chicago, PVC waste lines, copper supplies, overhead sewers, etc. All typical stuff for this area.

The waste line in the basement exits the building through the front, the sump pump through the back. About 4 months ago, the homeowner started noticing a sewer gas smell from the sump pit. She poured some bleach in the pit thinking it was just stagnant water and forgot about it. Then she noticed in getting worse.

She called out two plumbers, one trying to make the connection between the ejector pump and the sump pit (which are completely separated), the other, not smelling anything basically saying she's crazy. She even called out the village to scope a storm sewer that runs next to her house, but the smell continued.

She calls me and after hearing what all of the other guys did, I told her to try a test, run the water in the building and go back to the sump pit. Sure enough, the water flowed in. The waste line sheared off outside of the foundation, leaked down the wall, into the drain tile and back to the sump pit.

I haven't heard back from her yet about how everything turned out, but I'm sure it was a mess to fix. And from what I understand, she has some pretty expensive landscaping right where the plumber has to dig.

Tony

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The waste line sheared off outside of the foundation, leaked down the wall, into the drain tile and back to the sump pit.

Tony

That's so common. I found it in new construction just last week.

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Jerry,

What made you take off the clean out cover?

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What made you take off the clean out cover?

As Cust. Service Manager for a builder back in 1990 or so, got a call about a clogged sewer in a house still under its one-year warranty. This was the problem; soil back-fill pressure atop the sewer stub connection just outside the foundation, about 8-9' down, broke the connection.

Ever since I started doing this, I've opened sewer main cleanouts where such are setup so you can see laterally into the sewer, and I've probably found a few hundred such broken connections. Remarkably common. Yes, beyond the standards, but a biggie to pay for to correct, so ya feel good for your client when you find one.

The builder I was with when I first saw this then started to strap such connections to the foundation with a cradle-like thingy for support.

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Do you carry a big wrench?

You know it, big boy.

Think how many things get screwed up by sloppy backfill.......this is just one of them.

In new construction, where the pipe isn't all clogged with sewage, you'll often see ponding water ten feet or so back into the underground pipe, where the pipe *bellied* from the poor backfill/lack of an adequate amount of compacted stone under the pipe/soil pressure.

I get a few "neighbor-jobs" out of those about the day after the builder digs up the front yard.

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With apologies to those who have already read this a time or two before:

Every home inspector has a hatful of well rehearsed war stories he’ll tell without provocation, and I’m no exception. Nasty crawl spaces, nasty dogs, nasty homeowners, after this long in the business I’ve seen ‘em all - at least I thought I had. What happened to me a few years back is the first home inspector war story I’ve heard, that actually approached warfare.

I did an inspection for a very nice client in the summer of 2002. The condo was in Boston’s Back Bay where at the time, a 475 square foot one bedroom unit ran about $400,000 plus a few hundred a month in condo fees. A single parking space in this neighborhood can cost $100,000! The inspection didn’t turn up anything particularly noteworthy, but toward the end of the inspection, my client took me aside and told me she was paying about $30,000 below market value for the unit. She said the owner discovered this only after he accepted her offer in writing and now he was angry. Mind you, a signed offer to purchase is a legally binding document, so there was nothing he could do about it by this stage.

Three months later I got a call from my client, Ms. Happy Homebuyer. It seems Mr. Disgruntled Homeowner began to stall and eventually refused to proceed in the transaction after finding out he could have got more money for his unit. They went to court and my client won. The owner was forced to proceed with the sale and they were scheduled to close in six weeks. During this time, she had received several threats of physical harm in writing and over the telephone from the owner. The Boston Police Dept. locked him up once and criminal proceedings were underway.

One of the threats he made was to damage the unit in such a way that would not be apparent until causing my client great harm several weeks after closing. The other unit owners had received similar threats, and though they were scared, they all think he is a harmless nut. My client said she is terrified, but for reasons I still can’t begin to understand, she still wanted to buy the place. She asked me to be present for her final walk through on the morning of the closing and look for more damage that this lunatic might have done. I explained to her that this kind of thing is way beyond my field of expertise, and though I would do my best, I could provide no guarantees and it’s going to be expensive. She said money was not an issue (hadn’t it become the only issue?) and she would sleep better knowing I’d look the place over, so I agreed and we arranged a date.

I had barely got out of the driveway heading toward this forensic inspection (specifically scheduled for 9:00-11:00 am by court order) when my cell phone rings at about 8:00 am. My client tells me that a locksmith is supposed to meet us there and change the locks during our inspection. The owner has moved out all of his belongings, but says he intends to violate this court order and remain in the unit until the locksmith leaves. She goes on to say that there is a 50/50 chance that he will make the inspection impossible and in that case, she’ll write me a check for my 2 hour minimum, and send me home. Her attorney and the seller’s attorney were going to be in the unit at 9 am sharp to try and convince this fellow to leave peacefully and comply with the court order. She then instructed me to proceed to the inspection, park my truck nearby, but out of sight of the unit and wait to be contacted. It was beginning to sound a little clandestine, so I asked her if we should synchronize our watches and give each other code names and if so, I’d like to be called Agent 86. She laughed a nervous laugh and we hung up.

I got there plenty early and parked around the corner, not quite 150 yards from the front door. By 9:30 am, I hadn’t been contacted, so I called the cell phone number she’d given me, but a guy answered. I thought I might have the wrong number, but I gave him my name and asked to speak with my client, and after a short pause, he handed the phone to her. She explained that the locksmith was a little late, but the lawyers, the listing real estate agent were there, and the owner was yelling at everyone. “By the wayâ€

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I had a home owner tell me that he was not selling his house and that I could not come in. His daughter and both agents where there and they where telling he had to sell. I left after and hour. I don't know if he sold or not.

I had another home owner call my office while I was in the crawlspace of their home complaining about how long I was there doing the inspection since there was nothing wrong with her house. By the way the office phone is forward to my cell phone which was in the crawlspace with me.

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I once had a drunk home owner tell me (scream) he would piss all over my radon equipment if I left it in his house.

Yeah, ya gotta watch those drunks. I had a drunk homeowner sick their German Shepherd on me once. It charged, grabbed ahold of my thigh and walked with me to the edge of the property and didn't release me til commanded to. It was pretty freaky.

Jim, That's the most drama filled inspection I've ever heard of. Sheesh!

Phillip, glad I'm not the only one that receives phone calls in the crawl space.

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