There is no WAY this can be safe!

Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.


There is no WAY this can be safe!

It was a long inspection of a very unusual house.  I suspect this will not be my last blog post about this home. 

Return air grille

As I headed from the master bedroom into the living room I noticed a return air grate on the wall.  Now I don’t usually pull the covers off these air returns---unless the furnace filter is behind it.  This particular one was clearly not the type that would typically have a filter in it. 

Like I said, I don’t usually take the cover off of them, but I do get down at an angle such that I can look through the grille with my flashlight to see what I can see.  Sometimes they are plugged with pet hair, usually they are uneventful.

By checking them I can get a little bit of an idea of the condition of the ductwork---the same as sticking my camera down a heat register to see what those ducts look like.

When I aimed my flashlight into this one I was surprised by what I saw.

I smiled at my buyer and said, "check this out,“ when I really wanted to say, "I don’t see how this can be safe!”

I started to unscrew the grille, to show them what was inside, when the whole thing just fell off in my hands.

Safe in a wall

The screws were fake and the grille was attached with a magnet to the steel cover of a hidden safe!

Who would have guessed?

Well I guess at least the family jewels were safe---and they even left the key!


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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  1. Lenn Harley 06/24/2012 11:27 PM
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Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

That may be one of the best ways...make that was one of the best ways to hide a safe I'd seen.  Now you've let the secret out of the bag.

Jun 25, 2012 07:27 AM #49
Gina Tufano
Ask Gina & Company with Pearson Smith Realty - Sterling, VA
Ask Gina & Company, Northern Virginia Real Estate

Wow! I agree with Cindy - best ways to hide a safe. Seriously, what was the point here of even having the safe?? 

Jun 25, 2012 07:47 AM #50
Sandy Acevedo
951-290-8588 - Chino Hills, CA
RE/MAX Masters, Inland Empire Homes for Sale

This sounds like a good idea to me. Usually it is the master bedroom closet, but so typical.

Jun 25, 2012 08:25 AM #51
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Hard to forget where's the safe, it always returns to the same place. 

Jun 25, 2012 09:49 AM #52
Carla Freund
Keller Williams Preferred Realty - Apex, NC
Raleigh - Cary Triangle Real Estate 919-602-8489

I guess you blew the cover off that one! I wouldn't have thought. Interestingly enough, someone told me that some people involved in illegal activity often hide things in air returns (money, etc.).

Jun 25, 2012 10:54 AM #53
Barbara Altieri
RealtyQuest/Kinard Realty Group, Fairfield and New Haven County CT Real Estate - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Charles -- That's pretty cool. Never heard of that. But what's with leaving the key?

Jun 25, 2012 11:40 AM #54
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Charlie, You just never know what you will find in those darn returns. That is better than some of the other crud I find.

Jun 25, 2012 12:18 PM #55
Dale Samples
304.741.4705 • - Charleston, WV
REALTOR -Homes for Sale Charleston, West Virgini
Very clever. Much better than the fake soup cans in the kitchen cabinet
Jun 25, 2012 01:18 PM #56
Erica Ramus
Erica Ramus - Ramus Realty Group - Pottsville, PA - Pottsville, PA
MRE, Schuylkill County PA Real Estate

Interesting! So was there any money in that safe? 

Jun 25, 2012 02:01 PM #57
Terkel Sørensen
Real Estate Places - Temecula, CA
Realtor, 951.805.0773 , Bank owned and Short Sales

Nice find Charles. I was remodeling a West Seattle house a few years back and we found a kids goodie box in a wall - not the crown jewels, but it was kinda cool to see the magazines and stuff - from the 50's...

Jun 25, 2012 02:35 PM #58
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Anonymous, that is pretty cool!

Jennifer, for sure---hiding in plain sight

John, and that expectation is what makes this spot so good I guess

Rob, yes---they are usually just doing the job they were intended to do

Carla, lots of repairs will be necessary if it does not convey---so I would vote that it is a permanent fixture.

Ira, most would not I think

Kate, and I will know where to look :)

Eric, and now that spot is out too---if we give away enough locations, they won't be able to check them all :)

Cindy, I know---time to get creative and come up with a different "cover" :)

Gina, lots of people have them---I have installed quite a few for people---just trying to make it difficult for people.  Burglars don't like to mess with something that is going to make a lot of noise to get into.

Sandy, that does seem like a common place

Jim, yup :)

Carla, I mostly find certain magazines and toys in ductwork---maybe a few coins but never the real thing

Barbara, my only thought was that the sellers were leaving it for the buyers.

Don, it was kind of fun---lightened up the inspection for a few minutes

Dale, those cans of soup are too easy to cart away

Erica, it was quite empty---thankfully.

Terkel, it is always fun to find those blasts from the past

Jun 25, 2012 03:21 PM #59
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Andover, MA
Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale

Charles, as a home inspector, I am sure you come across many 'surprises'. Some are unsafe and some are....'safe'!

Jun 25, 2012 03:36 PM #60
David O'Doherty
Raleigh Realty Inc - Clayton, NC
Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC

Very Interesting Charles, good job spotting that.

Jun 25, 2012 07:58 PM #61
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Charles, now that was not the post I thought I was going to read here! 

Jun 25, 2012 08:26 PM #62
Brent & Deb Wells
LivingWell Properties - Prosper, TX
Prosper TX


At least that would not harm anyone, I bet you have seen some really dangerous stuff in your time...


Jun 26, 2012 12:51 AM #63
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Praful, I had another great one yesterday I can't wait to post about :)

David, thanks

Pat, I thought maybe it would work like that :)

Brent, for sure

Jun 26, 2012 12:59 AM #64
Robert Sole
REM Inspections LLC - Winter Springs, FL

It is amazing what you find on some inspections.  Every time I think I have seen it all, I find out that I have not.

Jun 27, 2012 02:22 AM #65
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Robert that is sure true and what makes our job so interesting at times

Jun 27, 2012 03:50 AM #66
Eric Peltier
Eric Peltier - Premier Mortgage Group - Boulder Colorado - Boulder, CO
Mortgage Lender in Boulder CO

"UneVENTful"   hahaha.  I wonder if the current owner knew it was there?

Jun 28, 2012 12:29 AM #67
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Eric, I can only assume so since they built the house :)

Jun 28, 2012 12:34 AM #68
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Charles Buell

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