The good, the bad, the strange: Home inspectors discover it all

Originally posted at the Stowe Reporter

By Kayla Collier

Of all the things that Hans Cramer has found in his 30 years in the home inspection business, a small, hidden room flustered him the most.

Inside a house in the Morrisville area, Cramer found a small hatch during a routine inspection. He opened it up to inspect the contents and uncovered a small room.

“There were kids’ drawings on the walls,” Cramer said. “It looked as though the previous owners had been hiding children. It was creepy.”

When a home is sold, any secrets within are often discovered, and there are some that Cramer would almost rather have kept hidden.

Brokers, potential buyers and home inspectors step inside properties that may have been kept private for years. They check each room; peer into basements, attics and electrical panels; look at ceilings for signs of water damage; and generally hunt for any shortcomings.

These moments offer a glimpse into the life of the owner, and can uncover bewildering remnants of the lives of former occupants.

Sometimes the home inspector uncovers hidden flaws, live animals and creative repairs. They might discover that squatters have taken up residence in a vacant property, or they might find snakes in the ceiling.

And so begins the bargaining between buyer and seller, once it’s discovered that the buyer’s dream home is not so perfect after all. How much will buyers ask the sellers to fix? What will they decide they can live with?

Creative repairs

Home inspectors cover wide territories. Cramer is based in Montgomery, but has been inside houses all over northern and central Vermont.

Same with Jeff Belrose, owner of Belrose Home Inspections in St. Albans.

“I have found some really creative repairs that became safety issues, but had worked for the seller,” Belrose said. “And there are plenty of those in Vermont.”

Sometimes people even find creative ways of hiding things.

In a home in Georgia, Vt., Belrose found a drilled well — inside a living room. The homeowners had expanded one side of the house, but the well was in the way, and they didn’t want to move it.

The solution?

The homeowners built over it, but added an access in the living room floor where the carpet could be peeled back.

He also was inspecting a “beautiful man-cave” and opened what appeared to be a closet, but behind the door was a urinal.

“Apparently the owner didn’t want to have to go back upstairs to use the bathroom,” Belrose said.

Belrose has come across a Murphy bed that did not fold out of the wall like most, but was instead suspended from the ceiling using a pulley system.

One house had stacked parking, with one vehicle on a lift over the other to save space.

Footsteps

Things can get way weirder than that, though, like the secret room that Cramer found in a home in the Morrisville area.

In older houses, Cramer has come across coffins that he thinks people were planning to use when they died.

“The coffins remain, but the people are long gone,” Cramer said — or are they?

In one home, where Cramer was positive he was alone, he went down into the basement to check the foundation, and could hear footsteps overhead. Walking upstairs, Cramer looked around — finding only an empty house. He locked the doors and went back downstairs, at which point he could hear footsteps again. This time, voices accompanied them, but still he found no one. Not even a squatter, which has happened before.

“Sometimes you can almost feel a life in a place. You can feel how people lived inside their home,” said Belrose, who doesn’t believe in ghosts.

Other times there are still people there that the home inspector didn’t expect.

At one home, the husband met with Belrose to go over a few things before the inspection, but he neglected to tell anyone that his wife would be home.

“I walked into the bedroom with about four other guys, and the wife was there, asleep. He never told us,” Belrose said.

What lies above

Cramer has found squatters hiding in the attic. One was rolled up in insulation with only his head sticking out.

“I’ve also come across a rattlesnake in the attic,” said Cramer. “It used to be a pet,” but got loose from the tank. “I hate snakes.”

In Stowe, Belrose could hear scurrying feet up above, and it turned out a family of raccoons had moved into the attic. They had squeezed in through a hole under the eaves and had defecated everywhere.

All of the insulation had to be redone.

Speaking of attics, “every once in a while, I get a call about mold,” Belrose said. “And one time I found a grow lab hidden in the attic.”

“Being a home inspector is all about being observant,” Belrose said.

“I’ve found kids hiding weed from their parents. I’ve found money, guns, anything people try to hide,” Cramer said. “One of the reasons I started doing this job is because I’m nosy.”

Date : 5/19/2017