I like to inspect vacant homes since I don’t have to worry about breaking the priceless antiques, but it does present its own types of problems. Homes that are vacant for any period of time can be expected to present problems when one moves in. Some structural and mechanical components and systems that have not been used on a daily basis can be expected to fail when you first use them, and deferred maintenance items may be present by the time escrow closes due to lack of daily use and care.
A home and its systems and components are meant to be used, meaning that a fully functioning home requires proper use, care, and maintenance. When a home is vacant, there is no one to take care of it. Think about the “haunted house” in your neighborhood when you were growing up.
It was vacant and dilapidated, and deterioration was continuing on a daily basis because no one was there to take care of it. Same thing with any vacant home, new or used. Deterioration is an ongoing process. It starts immediately, new or used, and it does not quit simply because the home is vacant.
If the home has been vacant for more than a few days prior to the home inspection, something that I did during the inspection might cause problems. For example, the most common problem caused by inspections of vacant homes are plumbing leaks. When water faucets are not used for a long time, their rubber o-rings can dry out and harden. The simple act of turning the faucet on at the inspection, then, might damage the hardened o-ring.
When you move in, your first operation of the same faucet actually dislodges the o-ring fragments and the faucet starts leaking. So you call your inspector and complain about him missing the leak at the kitchen faucet.
It’s no one’s “fault” really; it’s just a consequence of what happens with vacant homes when they are not lived in. I recommend that, before moving in, you compile a list of qualified service personnel (plumber, electrician, appliance repair, etc.) and telephone numbers to assist you in the event of any emergency.
There are several sources to find good, qualified professionals if you don’t already have your own list:
Referrals from your home inspector
Referrals from your Realtor
Referrals from your family, friends, and business associates
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