I see this quite often in older homes, and sometimes (believe it or not) the buyer does not care, and wants to roll the dice and try and live with it for a few more years.
It seems that lately I have had a string of issues come up where my opinion of the condition of something was vastly different from that of the "qualified" professional brought in to make further evaluation.
In itself this does not bother me all that much, because I would rather have the issue move from my E&O Insurance to theirs anyway.
It does create issues when the agents start arm wrestling over the deal however.
For example on a recent inspection I pretty much shot, killed and buried a 26 year old furnace. Now if the furnace is truly shot, the buyer's agent will usually be able to negotiate for a new furnace or for an allowance for a new one.
When I have a furnace in such a condition my report recommendation might go something like this: The heating unit is 26 years old and as such is approaching or past its expected service life and is generally less efficient than a more modern unit would be. I recommend factoring replacement of the furnace before the next heating season. Comprehensive and invasive evaluation of the heat exchanger prior to the next heating season is necessary if this unit's service life is to be extended. I recommend inspection and certification in writing by a licensed heating contractor if the unit is not to be replaced. Evaluation of the unit for Carbon Monoxide leaks is required as part of the overall evaluation of this unit if it is to remain in service. The amount of corrosion inside the heat exchanger, considerable condensate and rust in the draft hood, the appearance of the burn patterns and the age of the unit warrant these concerns. Installation of Carbon Monoxide detectors throughout the home according to manufacturer's instructions is recommended.
The first thing I saw when I approached the furnace was the black marking at the top corner of the unit. This furnace had back-drafted so bad that combustion by-products had been venting through the opening at the corner of the furnace---into the basement.
With the cover off, I think that even a novice should be able to see the extensive discoloration and rusting inside the furnace compartment that is the result of the back-drafting furnace.
My buyer did call a HVAC contractor for their opinion of the unit and were told the furnace was operating normally and that it could last another 6 months or 15 years.
It boggles my mind than any professional would put their E&O on the line with such a statement.
I am grateful for the HVAC contractor to have the furnace on his E&O and not mine.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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