By Tim Shuford, NPI Franchise Owner, Jamestown, North Carolina
Property inspectors routinely discover things in homes that are unusual or “out of the norm.” Unfortunately, there are often deficiencies (electrical, plumbing, structural, safety, etc.) associated with some of the handiwork that went into creating these unusual features, and the deficiencies are the things documented in an inspection report.
As an inspector, I’m sure that I often don’t pay much attention to the “nice touches” that may be incorporated into or added onto a home — unless there’s a deficiency associated with it. I try to note positive features in a house that required extra thought or effort on somebody’s part to provide some added convenience, functionality or aesthetic appeal on the home, regardless of whether there are associated deficiencies or not.
Here is a sample of my observations and discoveries that might fall into the “nice touch” category:
- Location: An 89-year-old, 1,400-square-foot bungalow with a crawl space and partial basement in a not-so-great part of town. Some of the things I’m likely to see are water intrusion at the foundation walls, sagging and out-of-level floors, cracks in the plaster, foundation problems, inadequate support of floor framing — and, yes, they were all present. Something that jumped out at me before I entered the home was a decorative mosaic tile feature in a brick paver walkway about halfway to the backyard, with an inscription in Latin that appears to be translated as “Way of Life,” or possibly “Pathway of Life,” given its location on a path to the backyard that had a nice little patio area for relaxing. Somebody spend a lot of time creating this piece of art, which is located where almost no one will ever see. Nice touch!
- During the course of the inspection on the same home, I had noticed that some improvements to the bathroom had been done, but I didn’t look too closely until it was time to inspect that room. To my surprise, there sat a nice jetted tub (equipped with a heater and proper GFCI protection) in the space where the original tub had been. The bathroom was the only place inside the home that had received any upgrades. Nice touch!
- While inspecting an 11-year-old, 1,400-square-foot home, I noticed that there were at least four exterior electrical receptacles installed on the home. (Nice touch!) The amazing thing was that each of these receptacles and the receptacles in the bathrooms were individually GFCI-protected. So, if GFCI protection trips, the home owner doesn’t have to launch an all-out search for where the tripped GFCI receptacle is located. Pretty convenient for not a lot of added cost. (I’d like to nominate this electrician to revise some construction standards.)
- While inspecting a roof that was at least 20 years old, I become curious about an anomaly at the ridge cap shingles in one area. What I discovered was a dollar sign ($) carved out of a shingle and nailed on the ridge of the roof. Not sure what that was about, but I got a chuckle out of it. Given the state of the plumbing vent flashings, I may have been the first person to see this handiwork since it was installed. Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Roofer. Nice touch!
There’s nothing terribly spectacular about any of these examples. But, I do believe that each helps illustrate my point. Somebody made some extra effort, put some thought into, spent some extra time, and/or put a few extra dollars into creating a “nice touch” feature. I’m also challenging myself to spend a small amount of time trying to figure out what might have motivated folks to create some of the things that evoke the, “That’s unusual,” or “That’s strange” reactions when I see them, and maybe better appreciate the effort that went into making them happen. Some thoughts, questions for pondering, and examples:
- It must have taken a tremendous effort to get the jetted tub into the bathroom of the home mentioned above. I assume that they broke the original cast iron tub into pieces in order get it out, as the doorways are narrow, there tight corners to navigate getting to the bathroom, and there’s very little working space once the tub is inside the room. There was no apparent damage to the hardwood floors, walls, door trim, etc. The home owner must have had some motivation for installing this tub that was greater than getting a bathtub upgrade for the home. Maybe the owner needed the tub for health reasons. Maybe the owner’s loved ones gifted the installation as an expression of their love. I guess I’ll never know.
- What would motivate the roofer to carve the dollar sign and install it? Maybe he was bored. Maybe this was his “signature mark” that he put on every roof he installed. Maybe he’d been out of work, and this roofing job provided the first opportunity in a long time to bring home a paycheck and provide for his family.
- What was the motivation for an unusual placement of some feature in a home (such as the laundry location, bathroom location, a seemingly random sink location, some kind of cabinet or storage nook, etc.)? What was the motivation simply an over-engineered contraption that doesn’t have an intuitive purpose? Maybe a husband was trying to provide a convenience for his stressed-out wife (or vise-versa) that would save two extra steps every day. Maybe a grown child was trying to provide added convenience for a frail parent. Depending on the installation, there is probably at least one plausible explanation.
If I could find a potential reason and/or purpose behind something unusual that I find, then it might just take on a “nice touch” perspective, even if it still seems strange.
The home inspection report probably doesn’t provide the best avenue to elaborate on “nice touch” features discovered, but a photo with a little description might provide some added value for the client (and Realtor). A wrap-up discussion with the client is certainly a great time to point out any “nice touch” features and discuss the potential reasons behind things that seem odd. It could also help take the edge off any deficiencies associated with the oddities.
Tim Shuford is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in Jamestown, North Carolina. If you live in the area, call 336.823.6605 to schedule your home inspection with Tim.
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