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The not-so-hidden dangers of home inspections — duck and cover!

Another home inspection this week. Another grim reminder just how risky daily life really is.

Begs the question, doesn’t it: Will any of us even survive the night cowering in the un-protective custody of our not-so-safe houses?

They used to say most accidents occur within five miles of home. But after reading the last 60-page tome of a home inspection report I just received, I don’t see how anyone ever makes it out the front door in one piece (the threshhold has dry rot!) let alone all the way down the driveway (uneven pavement, a definite trip hazard!).

There’s nothing quite like a home inspection report when it comes to fostering incredibly insecure feelings about all the insidious little dangers that could be lurking in every room, closet and corner of your house — the one place in our lives that’s always supposed to keep us safe.

I call it the “60 Minutes Syndrome.” And it looks something like this:

Morley Safer (fictitious name?) does a riveting exposé on the dreaded scourge of automatic garage doors that’s sweeping the country — the nasty ones that pin unsuspecting children and small pets underneath themselves while administering great bodily harm and injury.

By the following week, consumer protection advocates across the nation are up in arms, calling for the installation of retroactive auto-reverse safety mechanisms on every garage door installed in America since the 1960s.

By the following year, auto-reverse mechanisms are the newfound fodder and cause celébrè of every home inspection service on the planet.

Home inspectors are the foot soldiers on the front line of the National Center for Dis-Ease Patrol. They are its code talkers. By necessity, home inspectors as well as a building consultant are trained to cite chapter-and-verse on every new building code initiative that comes out of the consumer protection pipeline.

They’ve come to understand, after an expensive lawsuit or two, that if they don’t warn everyone about every possible thing that could potentially harm anyone, their own butts may be in grave danger.

CYA rules. Absolute CYA rules absolutely.

And so the real estate process has moved into the strange new territory of the enlightened elimination of all risk in our lives. Where the good old caveat emptor (buyer beware) of the past is replaced by the new-and-improved version of today — a.k.a. caveat venditor.

Caveat venditor means “seller beware and be aware.” Of the entire universe of things that’s poised to scare you silly about your own home. And at the same time, scare the heck out of any potential homebuyers that come your way and consider purchasing it.

Here are just a few of the other home inspection favorites that sellers probably never knew they had to worry about — until now:

  • Does your oven have an anti-tip device installed? Ever see an oven fall over on someone out of the blue? Not pretty.
  • That naked light bulb in your closet? Stack those sweaters high enough and they’re a fire waiting to happen.
  • The dryer vent? It’s filling up with combustible layers of lint even as we speak.
  • And just how many dyslexic plumbers have installed hot and cold water lines backward at one time or another? And in doing so, have created an unsuspecting scalding incident to worry about in the future? Has there been water well testing done?
  • Is every stairway a potential stairway to heaven? Risers too high? Too wide? Treads uneven? Handrails too hard to grip? Careful — every single step in your own home has the potential to morph into one long, strange trip to the hospital.
  • Deck rails more than four inches apart? Wide enough for small heads to get stuck? My own baby crib had bars wider than that, and you are all now witnesses to the end result.
  • Ground fault circuit interruptors? Carbon monoxide detectors? Smoke alarms? Pool alarms? A ban on all extension cords? Tempered glass? Clamps to hold open the damper on your gas fireplace so you don’t blow yourself up for want of a single match?

When I was growing up, we nursed a healthy fear of the atomic bomb. But as long as we listened to Bert the Turtle and ducked and covered and didn’t stare directly into the blast, we were OK. Everything else was gravy.

Well, except for remembering not to run with sharp scissors in our hands. Chew on our lead pencils. Or to put those plastic dry cleaning bags over our heads.

But that was a different day and age. It was long before fear had come to rule the roost.

Tom Brezsny has been a top-selling Realtor in Santa Cruz since 1990 and has enough industry acknowledgements, achievement certificates and outstanding sales awards hanging on his office wall to shake a significant schtick at. He’s also the writer behind the Real Estate of Mind blog.

Email Tom Brezsny

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