Marching to a Solution – An Important Inspection

Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty of California, Inc. CA DRE #01490977

Marching to a Solution

The Value of a Fire Sprinkler Inspection


I was working with a buyer a few years ago who was looking for a second home. It was important that there be a big lot, and that the home did not need a lot of upgrades. There also needed to be room on the property to park a good size RV, which is not easy to find!


We found a home that met the criteria, including price range, and an offer was made. After a bit of negotiation agreement was reached and it was time for the home inspection. As it turned out we did a number of inspections, including roof and HVAC.


This particular home had fire sprinklers. Given it was not new construction nor recently I recommended we call in a fire sprinkler system inspection company and the buyer agreed.


fire sprinkler in operationI had learned in a prior sale that there are some important things required for homes with fire sprinklers, having witnessed the fire sprinkler inspection. The vendor was one of several recommended by the North County Fire Protection District.


Fire sprinkler system requirements no doubt vary by jurisdiction and state.


Requirements include: (1) a certain water pressure for the system (this is tested); (2) a labeled exterior fire alarm; (3) a control panel in the garage with extra sprinkler heads, controls and wrench; (4) an exterior water spigot (labeled) for testing the water flow; (5) minimum time period between when water starts to flow in the system and the fire alarm goes off (as I recall it’s around 30 seconds).


There are also different kinds of sprinklers head depending on location (e.g., stairwell vs. laundry room vs. kitchen), and certain requirements about where sprinklers are required and where they are placed.


As it turned out it was a very good thing this inspection was done. The inspector let the buyer know that the particular sprinkler heads in the house had been recalled a few years prior for being defective. He said the owner would have been notified of this in writing.


The worse news was the cost to replace the sprinkler heads was about $3,000.


Unfortunately there were some other concerns about the home and property. This included an easement that allowed the adjacent neighbor to use part of this home’s driveway to access another building on the neighbor’s property whenever desired.


As a result of these issues the buyer decided to cancel.


This is my second entry in the March to a Solution - ActiveRain March Challenge.

Photos courtesy of Pixabay

Posted by

Jeff Dowler, CRS
Certified Residential Specialist / Realtor®

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Comments (14)

Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Fire sprinkler systems are not very common in residential properties so knowing to reach out to the fire dept for an inspector saved your buyer, as well as the easement issue.

Mar 17, 2023 03:13 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Hi Ed Silva 

They are required in new construction and have been since 2011, I believe. 


Mar 17, 2023 05:34 PM
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

A sprinkler system that doesn't work isn't of much use! I wonder if the seller corrected that issue before the next offer?

Mar 17, 2023 03:51 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

An excellent point Marte Cliff . The home did sell and since the issue was disclosed when the contract canceled I would hope that either the problem was rectified or was appropriately disclosed.


Mar 17, 2023 05:35 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Jeff Dowler, CRS - Oh, my goodness! When it comes to potential fires, you were certainly looking out for your buyer's best interest! Many prospective buyers wouldn't even know or think to have a Fire Sprinkler Inspection. Thanks to your excellent buyer representation, you not only saved your buyer a lot of money, the Inspector advised to the Buyer that the Seller "would have been notified in writing." The cost to repair and replace heads at an astronomical cost would have or could have been a rude awakening if it hadn't been for your quick critical thinking and the Inspectors valuable expertise and  solutions to the problems.

Unfortunately, there wasn't full disclosure by the Seller and it was a good thing the buyer cancelled his contract. Who knew what else the Seller was hiding? 

Thank you, Jeff for an outstanding entry into the March to a Solution|ActiveRain March 2023 Challenge!

Mar 17, 2023 05:13 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Thank you Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP . It was certainly an interesting experience and good learning. The buyer was certainly glad to have gone ahead with the inspection.


Mar 17, 2023 05:36 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP

Jeff Dowler, CRS - yes indeed! This was an excellent educational post with eye-opening awareness too! When it comes to buying real estate, fire is nothing to play with! Plus, the property that you terminated for the buyer probably would not have been insured if the buyer ignored the problem, moved in,  and there was a fire! 

Mar 17, 2023 05:45 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP 

Well, the buyer made the decision that was right for the situation. Who knows what would have happened with the insurance company, had they gone ahead.



Mar 17, 2023 07:51 PM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP

Jeff Dowler, CRS - I sold the house nextdoor to me multiple times as the Lising Agent. On the day before closing, I received a call from the Buyer's Insurance Company asking me to take photos of inside the shed in the backyard and to take pictures all around the shed to show the distance between the shed and the house, and the shed and the wooden fence. I thought it was an odd request and asked why. Ins Co told me the appraiser marked down there was electricity inside the shed creating a mini workshop. They needed the buyers to take out additional insurance to insure the shed and if the buyers lender had a problem with that, it would not close. I was so glad it closed!

Mar 17, 2023 08:01 PM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Hi Jeff- Having a sprinkler system for your house sounds good but like home generators, they need to be maintained because when you need really need them!!!

Mar 17, 2023 05:17 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Having a periodic inspection on sprinklers certainly makes sense, Kathy Streib . Good analogy with home generators. Who wants to find out when it's too late that there's a problem.

Have a good weekend!


Mar 17, 2023 05:39 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Hello Jeff Dowler, CRS those are good reasons to cancel. I would wonder what else the seller had not disclosed.  It could be the seller never read the letter or simply did not receive it yet it would cause me to wonder. 

Thank you for your second entry in the March Challenge.

Mar 17, 2023 06:53 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist 

It may be the seller never got the notification, but we did not get that far in the process. Buyer had seen enough issues with the inspections, including the easement problem, and decided not to pursue.


Mar 17, 2023 07:59 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Jeff - we continue to learn each day.  You suggested a not-so-common inspection because of a previous transaction that proved beneficial.   Real estate experience grows through experience and education.  Fortunately, there is no shortage of examples of each.  

Mar 18, 2023 04:09 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

You're right about real estate experience Michael Jacobs 

Thank you for stopping by.


Mar 18, 2023 10:27 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Jeff,

This is the wonderful world of real estate....we have a learning opportunity on so many levels in our transactions. The buyer made the decision that was right for the situation. I would wonder what else the seller had not disclosed because he should have received notice about the recall.

Mar 18, 2023 05:05 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

There IS lots of learning in this business, for us and for clients Dorie Dillard Austin TX 


Mar 18, 2023 10:29 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667,, Broker/REALTOR® - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Interesting! Fire sprinkler systems are not required for new single family or two-family homes where I live. I've never heard of a sprinkler system inspection (until now). Great catch!

Mar 18, 2023 05:32 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Kat Palmiotti 

I imagine there are plenty of places where sprinkler systems are not required, other than perhaps in high-rise buildings or commercial facilities.


Mar 18, 2023 10:34 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Good morning, Jeff... now that is a unique story. I learned more about sprinkler systems than I ever knew was possible today! 

Mar 18, 2023 05:45 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Nina Hollander, Broker 

It was a good learning experience for me both times, too. I had no idea.


Mar 18, 2023 10:36 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jeff, what an interesting story, and have never found a single-family home with fire sprinklers.  We only see them in high-rise condos, and only if the building is newer.

Mar 18, 2023 07:08 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

Hi Joan Cox Thanks!

I suspect what you see is more common in other jurisdictions.


Mar 18, 2023 10:39 AM
Brian England
Arizona Focus Realty - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

The inspection is usually the most stressful part of any transaction, haha.  Sellers always think their property is perfect even when an inspection determines otherwise.

Mar 18, 2023 07:58 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS

There certainly are some surprises in many cases for buyers AND sellers Brian England !


Mar 18, 2023 10:40 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Jeff and thank you for the great information on fire sprinkler system inspections.  Never heard of this before.


Mar 18, 2023 09:07 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Will Hamm 

I'm glad it was helpful for you!


Mar 18, 2023 10:41 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Jeff I don't think I have been in a house around here that had sprinklers.  I did not know that much was required of fire sprinklers.

Mar 18, 2023 12:58 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS


I was surprised at how much there was to know about fire sprinklers and the issues that are evaluated. Obviously if you have them you want them to work if there is a fire.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend

Mar 18, 2023 05:40 PM