Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Safety and Seller Ethics -- Don't Know? Or Just Not Telling?

 Normally, when performing an inspection, I find that sellers really do not know the various problems at their home. That includes outlets that are not properly polarized or grounded (they do not know the difference if appliances work when they are plugged in); subtle flashing problems or issues at roofs, windows and decks; improper sink traps, even small plumbing leaks. However, sometimes I see something blatant and have to wonder " does the seller have no clue about this?"

The photos below would be an example. I was told, after asking, that no furnace problems were listed on the property disclosure form. This is a propane furnace that is situated in the laundry area, on the floor, plain view and no cabinets around it. The doors and housing looked very old, and filters were exposed at the top. My first clue something was really wrong was when I bumped the B-vent (flue) and it flopped around like a yo yo. The doors slid right off and, when I looked inside, I saw the conditions in the photos below.

Extreme rust was apparent and, also, the flue was not attached. It had slid out of place, leaving a wide gap. Assuming this unit would operate at all, the combustion gases would leak right out into the home. The pen is used as a marker to point at one such leak. I did not even try to run this furnace, for fear of problems that might be created by such a neglected unit. The buyer's realtor, and the buyer, were very pleased that I found this. In fact, it was so obvious that I was a bit embarrassed as it did not take Sherlock Holmes to ferret it out. Again, the bigger mystery to me is whether the seller knew the device was shot and was just not telling (pretty serious safety issue here to be hiding -- people could die) or if the seller just flat was unaware that this unit was worn out and worn through. In a related matter, Sean Allen an AR member, posted an interesting article about this very issue.



Right side, rusted days and rusted nights          Care for some carbon monoxide anyone?

CO to go around, enough for everyone

Thanks for dropping by.

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA home inspector


Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 4 commentsSteven L. Smith • January 29 2008 12:20PM


Sometimes a home inspection can be a life saver.  Great heads up for home owners and buyers.
Posted by Randy Prothero, Hawaii REALTOR, (808) 384-5645 (eXp Realty) almost 12 years ago

wow, I wonder if the seller was having headache problems. When I owned apartments back in Kentucky I had a tenant who lived on the top floor. For some reason he told me that he was getting headaches every night and didn't know why. At first I just shrugged it off. Then later that night I immediately woke up and realized that his headaches may be caused by the furnace. The next morning I called my HVAC guy and we went over to the unit and checked out the furnace. Sure enough, the fumes were not going up the stack and were coming out into the Apartment. The Tenant and I were very lucky that nothing fatal happened.

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) almost 12 years ago
That definitely underscores the necessity of a thorough home inspection!
Posted by Shannon Jones, Long Beach CA Real Estate (The Shannon Jones Team) almost 12 years ago


Good tip there. No clue.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 12 years ago