Beware the urge to dewinterize a property.

Home Inspector with Safe Haven Home Inspections 221

This can be said for both inspectors and agents alike.  With the large increase in foreclosed and vacant properties and the time of the year, we are all running into vacant and winterized homes.  I cannot stress enough the importance of having the property ready for inspection by having it properly de-winterized.


My inspection was set for Saturday.  On Wednesday, I called both the selling agent and the listing agent to make sure the property was going to be de-winterized.  No problem said the listing agent.  I am taking care of it tomorrow (Thursday).  I arrived at the property a little early and the first thing I checked was the outside faucet.  Hooray, water.  I could also see the main gas valve was on and there was a light on in the garage.  This is great.  All the utilities are on.  As with some homes, you never know where the main water valve is going to be located so I decided to check the meter box at the curb.  I opened the cover, marked the meter and proceeded to walk the exterior of the home.  Returning about 10 minutes later, I checked the meter and, hmm, the flow guage had moved.  Not a lot, just a little.  Water is on the move.


Just then the clients showed up and we proceeded inside.  Gorgeous hardwood cherry floors in the entry and down the hall and throught the kitchen in the rear.  As I walked into the hall, I felt a slight raise in the floor boards.  I decided to try and find the main water valve.  I entered the laundry room off the hallway and there under the stairway was the main water valve.....with a constant and heavy drip.  Not a stream, but constant dripping.  As I stepped forward to take a closer look, I stepped onto the carpet.  Can you say SPONGE.  It was absolutely soaked.  This was right next to the crawlspace access.  I opened the hatch and there was about an inch of water straight down.  The slight raise in the hallway floor? thats what happens when wood gets wet, it swells.  I turned the valve off and called the listing agent, on speaker phone, with my clients and the selling agent present  I told them that I would remove the carpet just to get the water off the subfloor and put it in the garage.  The listing agent said thank you and was sending someone over right away to see the damage.


It seems the listing agent decided to save the $75 de-winterize fee and turned on the water all by themself.  The only problem, they had turned the valve on too far, causing the drip.  It had been dripping heavily for almost 50 hours.  They also did not do a thorough check of the property.  The kitchen faucet was dripping at the connection to the valve.  The cabinet had standing water inside.


To make a long story short:  The agent saved $75 on the de-winterization.  The hardwood floors were replaced, the carpet was replaced, the vinyl floor in the laundry room was replaced, the kitchen island cabinet had to be removed to install the new floors and let everything dry out.  Not sure how much it cost but I don't think the listing agent had much left of their commission.


So take it for what it is worth.  If the property was winterized by a hired firm, make sure the same firm does the de-winterization.  Sure this agent saved $75, but they spent thousands to repair the damage caused by their choice.


Best to all during these tough times.  Keep marketing.  Keep busy.  When I sold real estate in the early 80's, my first broker told me something that is true to this day, regardless of whether you are a Realtor or an Inspector.  "If you keep doing what your'e doing, you'll keep getting what your getting".  Wise words that I am once again starting to follow, with this, my first blog.

Comments (7)

Vickie Nagy
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate - Palm Springs, CA
Vickie Jean the Palm Springs Condo Queen

What a story! That totally emphasizes restricting actions to those licensed for. This agent had to be penny wise and pound foolish.

Thanks for an awesome first blog!

Feb 01, 2009 02:21 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Now that is a painful lesson --

Feb 01, 2009 02:26 PM
Debbie Blesi
Exit Realty Executives - Coon Rapids, MN

just goes to show you, we should stick  to what we know. Hire a professional, that's why we are hired to do what we do best and always  Remember to hire them for what they do best!!

Feb 01, 2009 03:21 PM
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

This sort of thing is happening more than we would all like to think what with the foreclosures and the banks shutting off all the utilities.

Feb 01, 2009 03:25 PM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Stephen, if I had my way it would be illegal to winterize homes.  Whatever money they think they are saving by turning off the heat will be more than offset by the damage that will happen to them by leaving them unheated in the winter.

Feb 01, 2009 03:25 PM
Stephen Stanczyk
Safe Haven Home Inspections - Puyallup, WA
Home Inspector - Puyallup WA

Charles,  I have to agree with you. Keep the heat on. It doesn't need to be set to 68 degrees.   No need to drain everything either.  A lot of these homes stay vacant for extended periods of time.  Seals harden and crack and that is why there are leaks when the water is eventually turned back on.

That being said, there are areas of the country where winterizing is absolutely necessary.

Feb 01, 2009 06:35 PM
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector


Good blog. We all wrestle with this one. If they get the water hooked up they forget the gas or the electrical. It never seems like all systems are go. Good to meet you finally at the meeting today.

Feb 17, 2009 02:57 PM