Could You Get Out of Your House In Case of An Emergency?

By
Real Estate Agent with Front Gate Real Estate Broker 11085

Today began as most real estate days do. My schedule was planned and I was walking out the door when I received an "urgent" call that tossed my schedule into a frenzy.

 

When you buy a house with FHA financing, the house must meet specific FHA guidelines. One of the requirements is that windows are operational, meaning they must open and close. Sometimes homeowners decide to permanently seal the windows in an attempt to keep intruders out. Thoughout my real estate career, I've seen windows nailed or screwed down or painted shut, and sellers think they are doing it for their safety. However, they fail to think what might happen in case of an emergency.

Remove Screws from Windows

 

 

The FHA underwriter red flagged the windows, and the buyers loan can't close until egress is accessible. The inspector wanted to reinspect the house in a couple of hours. Could I get out right away?

 

Since home inspection repairs were complete, I was NOT calling a handyman to remove the screws from the windows. (The seller lives out of state so he can't do it.)  I reached into my toolbox, grabbed my screwdriver, and hurried over to do what had to be done.

 

 

An hour later, the job was complete.

 

 

I am a staunch opponent of permanently sealed windows. It simply isn't safe.

Screwdriver and screws by Pat Starnes

 

In case of fire or other emergency, every second counts. If your personal security is an issue,  PLEASE consider another alternative, like a home security system.

 

With crisis averted, the buyers loan was approved and we headed to the closing table.

 

If you want your transactions to go smoothly, you must expect the unexpected and deal with complications as they arise. 

 

 

Could you get out of your house in case of an emergency? 

Comments (64)

Marney Kirk
Cummings & Co. Realtors - Towson, MD
Towson, Maryland Real Estate

Hi Pat, it is something people don't necessarily think about. We have an unusual situation here in Maryland where there are some very, very old homes that in order to pass a lead inspection for rentals have to be essentially permanently sealed. (I guess so they don't open and disturb the paint/seals/etc?) The first time I came across it, I thought the same thing - dangerous! I have seen it when they aren't regular sized windows, and I guess it would be too cost prohibitive to replace the window to get to the lead paint...and it is often on the front wall with the entrance door, so I guess there is an egress...just an interesting thing in Baltimore!

Jun 29, 2018 12:43 PM
Robert Sole
REM Inspections LLC - Winter Springs, FL

I think you need to have a talk with your home inspector.  I always mention any window that either will not open easily or is sealed in some other way as an item that should be repaired.  In particular, if the window is in a bedroom, I stress that the windows may be needed as an emergency escape route in the event of a fire.  Verifying a means of egress should be an issue on any home inspection.

Jun 29, 2018 02:17 PM
Jill Sackler
Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500 - Long Beach, NY
LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate

It's hard to believe anyone would think that's a good idea but I guess it happens more often than we know. Good that you are bringing attention to it.

Jun 29, 2018 02:21 PM
Ricki Eichler McCallum
CastNet Realty - Corpus Christi, TX
Broker,GRI,ABR, e-Pro, TAHS

What a great question to ask!  Safety is most important and all windows should open and close and lock! :)  Good blog!

Jun 29, 2018 03:22 PM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good evening Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty,

You are the ultimate professional! An emergency comes up and you do what you have to do to make the transaction close. Sometimes it isn't what we planned but necessary! I believe in having access to get out of the house in an emergency! Glad to see your post featured!

Jun 29, 2018 07:10 PM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

You saved the deal!  Wow, good for you--I hope your buyer appreciates the extra service.  Thinking this should have been caught during inspections though.

Jun 30, 2018 06:33 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Norma J. Elkins - I remember being taught fire safety in school at that age. Perhaps that's one reason I am so passionate about the topic. How could adults be so careless?

Jun 30, 2018 07:55 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Marie Arcuri I agree with you 100%. We need an escape route should the unthinkable happen.

Mitch Muller - Charlotte NC Real Estate - I'm honored that my post inspired your family to practice fire drills. Happy for that!

Jun 30, 2018 07:58 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi - the entire situation began because the appraiser couldn't get into the attic to inspect. She didn't have a step ladder with her, so she noted on the appraisal to get a copy of the home inspection. Boy, did that make us jump through extra hoops. The lender was extremely apologetic.

Jun 30, 2018 08:01 AM
Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi

Sometimes concerns are raised for good reasons too, Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty ... sounds like such was the case here.  You kept your clients safety in mind, plus their transaction.  


Gene

Jul 02, 2018 10:23 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Marney Kirk - Wow, just wow! For safety's sake, there should be at least ONE window in each room that opens in case of emergency. That is pretty scary to hear. True confession. When I was a child, my family lived in an old house and my parents painted my bedroom window shut. I hated that it wouldn't open because I enjoyed fresh air coming in. If I remember correctly, I took a tool in hand and whittled away at the wood frame in an attempt to "unstick" the paint. Maybe that's where my passion came from. :)

Jun 30, 2018 08:06 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Robert Sole - Great point, but to clarify the home inspector made note of the issue on the home inspection. The buyer was aware of it, but didn't require the seller to remove the screws. It was only when the inspection report was submitted to underwriting that it became and issue and MY emergency for the day. So, to the inspectors credit, he noticed and made proper note on the report.

Jun 30, 2018 08:15 AM
Robert Sole

This is why I tell my clients that they should never, never, never give a copy of the inspection report to the underwriter.  In this case it was a legitimate concern but I have had customers whose mortgage was held up for very minor issues that would have never caused a problem because the underwriter did not understand what was on the report. 


I am not sure about your area but here there are very fw situations where an underwriter has any need for a home inspection report.

Jun 30, 2018 11:21 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR - the inspector made note of it on the inspection report, but the buyer didn't make a big deal out of it. In other words, they didn't ask for the screws to be removed on their repair request. It was not until the underwriter got a copy of the home inspection that it became an issue, and an urgent one. Thanks!!!

Jun 30, 2018 08:18 AM
Michael Layton
RE/MAX Desert Properties - Palm Springs, CA
Experience and Trust

This is very serious stuff. I have a close friend who woke to a fire in her condo, last year, she had just under 2 minutes! to squeeze out a very small window in her bedroom since the smoke and flame were blocking her access to her front door. She told me the window was very difficult to open and she was not sure she was going to make it.  Be sure you have a plan.

Jun 30, 2018 08:32 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Michael Layton - I'm so happy your friend was able to get out. You just don't realize every second is precious and you need the escape plan.

Jun 30, 2018 08:43 AM
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Pat, this is a very helpful post.

Not only will this information help save a transaction, it could save a life.

Thanks

Jun 30, 2018 04:08 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

That's a great story, especially the part about the screwdriver!

I never gave it a second thought but I don't think I've ever come acrosss windows like that.

Jul 01, 2018 12:08 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Thank you John Wiley . I hope this post will open a few eyes about the dangers of inaccessible escape routes.

Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089 - I'm a bit of a "handy ma'am" so I can take care of these tasks when necessary.

Jul 01, 2018 07:37 AM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Ditto with Robert Sole, #45 on the home inspector regarding his performance. What other items did he miss or simply didn't perform a comprehensive inspection? 

Jul 04, 2018 12:39 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Kimo Jarrett - The sealed windows were noted in the home inspection, but the buyer didn't ask for it to be corrected. The issue came into play when the LENDER got a copy of the inspection and at the 11th hour, insisted that the windows be operational before the closing could take place.

Jul 04, 2018 09:40 AM
Pat Starnes-Front Gate Realty
Front Gate Real Estate - Brandon, MS
601-991-2900 Office; 601-278-4513 Cell

Edward Thirlwall - thanks for sharing your thoughts about the safety of such a home. At some point one of the neighbors had something stolen from their outside storage building (so I heard third hand) so the elderly client that lived in this home reacted to the extreme. I visited this home on numerous occasions and never felt unsafe. I agree with your thought process and may have reacted the same way but the buyer was aware of the windows having been secured and it did not pose an issue with her.

Jul 17, 2018 04:30 PM