The last time you had a home inspection, did you thank your home inspector? If not, you really should have.
Most people do not understand home inspections or how they work mainly because people feel that the only time they really need a home inspector is when they are buying a home. (which could not be further from the truth, but we’ll have to address that in another blog) so you typically only run into a home inspector once every 5 years or so. There are some who believe that home inspectors are a joke or that they get paid too much money for what they do. Most of these ill feelings come from people who have been burned in the past because they did not practice their due diligence to begin with.
Home inspection is a very unique industry indeed, filled with mainly hard working owner operators of their own businesses. Home inspectors come in all shapes and sizes and have varying degrees of ethics and competency. Truth is, there is really only one thing that all home inspectors DO have in common and that is the danger we all face every day.
Danger? You say laughing to yourself. How in the world can a home inspection be dangerous? Well, let’s just take a look. I have outlined just a few of the everyday dangers home inspectors face below. Please keep in mind this is not a complete list, but should give you a general idea.
Asbestos – A known carcinogen that releases fibers into the air. When inhaled, the fibers embed into the lungs and can cause Mesothelioma (Cancer). Typically found in older homes 1800-1978. All home inspectors are exposed to Asbestos at varying times in their career. There are still MILLIONS of homes in America that still contain Asbestos.
Mold – Widely known for its adverse health effects when inhaled. Mold spores cause a wide array of health issues from upper respiratory illnesses to brain damage. Can be found in ANY home at any given time. If the home has mold and there is a home inspector inspecting that home, he is exposed to it.
Lead Based Paint – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are at least 4 million households that contain Lead Based Paint. The dust created from peeling/flaking Lead Based Paint is particularly dangerous. 1 to 5 micrograms of dust is enough to poison someone and cause irreversible damage. The most common issue found in poisoned individuals is brain damage. Home inspectors are exposed to Lead Based Paint routinely and can even bring the dust home with them on their shoes which can also harm their family and pets. Typically found in homes built prior to 1978.
Insulation – Fibers from any insulation can become airborne when disturbed such as when walking in attics, something home inspectors routinely do. Once airborne, these fibers can become lodged inside the lungs and cause a wide array of upper respiratory problems over time. Home inspectors are exposed to this risk every single day.
Animals – This one should go without saying. Dogs, raccoons, possums, squirrels (yes squirrels, they aren’t as cute as you think) even stray cats pose issues to home inspectors. Typically found in crawlspaces during winter months, animals can carry all kinds of diseases and rabies. Most animals do not like the thought of feeling cornered in a crawlspace and will become violent if they feel they are threatened.
Squatters – Typically found when inspecting vacant, foreclosed homes for investors or those home buyers who think they are getting a deal by buying one of these properties. Squatters, like most animals, can and will become violent if they feel they are being threatened in any way. There have been many cases of violence against home inspectors by squatters throughout the country. What you don’t read the news?
Fleas – Some people live very dirty and many have pets who are not exactly “well groomed”. Home inspectors have to inspect dirty homes too. A dirty home coupled with dirty pets is the perfect storm for fleas. Flea bites are not at all uncommon for a home inspector. Home inspectors can also unknowingly bring fleas home with them exposing their family and pets to these nasty little creatures.
Venomous snakes and spiders – Again this should go without saying. There are many venomous insects and snakes in the United States including the Brown Recluse and Black Widow! Insects are small, lightweight and can be on a home inspector for several minutes before he even notices.
Shards of rusted metal or broken glass – Typically found in crawlspaces or attics. These dangers are usually left behind by contractors who don’t like to pick up after themselves. It is not at all uncommon to find abandoned, rusted out duct work, broken glass bottles, nails etc. laying around on the crawlspace ground. Makes crawling around them even more hazardous than they already are to begin with.
Carbon Monoxide – Colorless and odorless. Often called the silent killer. Carbon Monoxide is a very real threat to home inspectors as we are required to inspect furnaces, flues, ducts, etc. and are usually inside a home for at least 2 hours. CO gas can come from the furnace in the form of a cracked heat exchanger or damaged/rusted flue but can also come from ANY gas fired appliance.
Electrocution – In this day and age of the DIY handyman, home inspectors routinely run across electrical work that was performed by someone other than a licensed electrician. Uncapped live wires, frayed wiring, open junction boxes, improperly wired outlets etc. all of which can pose an immediate danger to the home inspector inspecting those items.
Burns – Hot furnace and water heater flues pose a danger to home inspectors, particularly when located in confined areas or by attic accesses where home inspectors have to get to.
Waterborne diseases – Waterborne diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms in water. Contaminated well water is the most common culprit along with stagnated sump pit water and even standing water in basements or crawlspaces. All can pose a significant risk to the home inspector as he goes about his daily job.
Hantavirus – Home inspectors can easily become infected with Hantaviruses through direct contact with rodent urine, saliva, or feces found in basements and most commonly in crawlspaces. This is a very real danger to home inspectors and can be fatal.
Falling off ladders, roofs or though ceilings – As home inspectors, we climb ladders, we walk in attics and sometimes upon unstable decks. All of which pose a real danger and can put any home inspector into early retirement.
Mother Nature – The weather is a very real danger. Sub zero temperatures and even colder wind chills are not uncommon in many areas of the country. A typical home inspection lasts 3-4 hours with an hour of that time typically spent inspecting the exterior of a home. Frostbite can occur within seconds to exposed skin and many home inspectors have fallen victim to old man winters deadly bite.
Driving – Yes, home inspectors have to drive to the home in order to inspect it. This also includes driving in undesirable conditions. We are like the post office, rain, sleet or snow, you know the saying. We drive in snow storms, ice and hail storms, severe thunderstorms. You name it, we have to drive through it EVERYDAY to get to your potential new home.
As you can see from the list above, there really are many dangers that home inspectors face on a daily basis. The fact is, we never know what we are going to be in for until we get to the home. Some are nice, clean and well maintained with little to no danger while others pose numerous and significant safety risks that put our lives in danger.
So the next time you have a home inspection, instead of doubting or scrutinizing the inspector, instead of thinking that the inspector is making too much money, instead of thinking you are completely wasting your money and your time, just stop for a moment and remember this blog. Take a second, reach out your hand to the inspector and thank him. Thank him for risking his life to inspect your potential new home and making sure that it is a good solid investment that is safe for both you and your family.