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Expecting the Unexpected: Inspecting Crazy Customized Homes

Architect Using Cell Phone With Blueprint At SiteEspecially if you have been keeping your education as a property inspector up to date, you have probably learned to anticipate even some of the more unusual things that can come up in a property inspection.  Strange lighting fixtures, custom paint jobs, and rooms reserved for “unusual” activities no longer bother you at all.  But what do you do when you come across something so unusual, it wasn’t covered in any of your courses?  From the animal-loving couple who installed hundreds of feet of elevated walkways for their cats, to the Polish businessman who built his entire house upside down, the world is full of eccentric people who love doing crazy and unexpected things to their properties.  If you have the strange fortune to be hired to inspect one of these weird and wacky properties, where do you even start?

Many things are exactly the same

No matter how weird the property, certain inspection details will always be the same.  You always have to make sure the plumbing, electricity and gas lines are functioning properly.  Fixtures and electrical outlets always have to be tested.  Even the strangest-looking property always has to have structural integrity, and problems like mold, subsidence and weather erosion can affect the zaniest and most unusual of buildings.  Once you get over your initial surprise at the custom basement Batcave-styled home theater, just remember that it is really only another room, and if everything functions the way it is supposed to then you can score it accordingly.

Understand whether the stranger parts are structural or superficial

Crazy customizations typically fall into two broad categories: superficial customizations that build on the existing structure of the property, and structural customizations that drastically alter or are integral to the structure of the property.  An upside-down house, for example, is definitely a structural customization: there is no way to turn that house the right way up without completely rebuilding it, so your inspection report has to report on it as an unchangeable part of the property.  In the cat house, on the other hand, the walkways can be taken down and the holes in the walls filled without significant remodeling, making the customization more superficial.  When inspecting a property with superficial customization, include in your report exactly how the custom features build on the original structure, since this can tell the buyer how much s/he would have to invest to return the property to its original state..

Take pictures – lots of pictures

Sometimes a really crazy and unusual property just defies description.  Stating that the bookcase swings out on a hinge to reveal a spiral staircase down to an underground climbing wall/wine cellar combo is one thing, but that kind of thing is so unusual it can be very hard for a client to visualize.  Take pictures of every unusual element, both in wide and closeup shots so that your client can clearly see not just the overall look of the crazy custom features, but how each one is built and integrated into the basic structure of the property.  If you are using a property inspection app, you can integrate the photos directly into the report, so that your client can both see and read about the more unusual details.


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