“Wait…What’s a Hot Water Heater?”

A short (and very true) story:

There I was with my new seller. We were touring the home where I look for defects and ask questions. Upon entering the basement storage room where the various components of the home are located (HVAC, electrical, radon system etc.), I immediately asked my seller how old their hot water hear was. They came back with “Wait…What’s a hot water heater?” I pointed. “That”. Even more confused, I had to explain what it was and what it did. I went on to say they only last about 10-12 years… maybe 15 with a water softener. Out comes the flashlight phone and I go to work trying to find a manufacture date. Rare these days am I shocked and terrified at the same time in this business, but it can happen. And it happened on this sunny Thursday morning. The label read “1992”. Now I am no math expert, but I was in 7th grade when this thing was installed and it is about 15-17 years past its recommended replacement date. For those of you who are lost while reading this, let me clarify the problem. A hot water heater is a large tank filled with water which provides, you guessed it; your hot water. When it fails, instead of simply not heating your water, it usually leaks all over your basement. This is a problem for any basement but especially so for finished ones. It won’t just leak what’s in the tank… it will continue to leak until the water supply is turned off. Several people have horror stories of coming home from work to 2-3 feet in their basement. 

Now, my point is not to make fun of this certain client, but to point out that you must be aware and vigilant of the various components and aspects of your home which can produce devastating repair costs and unwanted hassles. See the list below for the main ones I encounter:

Attic Spaces: Homeowners often tell me they haven’t been in their attic in years. Not until they go to sell their home and have a home inspection do they find a problem. Either a slightly leaking roof or mold or both. Generally mold forms from either a roof that is actively leaking or not properly ventilated. Older building codes didn’t require ridge vents or vented soffits, so if your roof is on the older side, it might be worth busting out the flashlight and getting up there once a year to make sure things are in order.

Hot Water Heater: There’s practically no way to know when a hot water heater will fail, so it’s best to be proactive and replace every 10-12 years depending on how hard your water is. People I find most susceptible to being complacent on this one are people who bought new construction. Since everything is new when they buy, the psychology is that things will stay that way.

Crawl Spaces: Much like roofs, they’re areas not regularly visited by homeowners. Mold can form down here just as easily as attic spaces for the same reasons: water infiltration and/or poor ventilation. Again, grab a flashlight and get in there…

Underneath Sinks: Americans love their stuff and they love to stuff their stuff anywhere they can… including underneath sinks in kitchens and bathrooms. I’m assuming you don’t regularly empty these areas and inspect them but even a small drip can produce some really costly damage. Water destroys everything.

The Trees: Most realtors won’t mention this to their buyers, but do not forget to look up at your trees if you have some. Various invasive insects (Emerald Ash Borer, Spotted Lantern Fly, etc) & diseases can greatly affect their health. Little known fact is that if a tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s policy will cover it, but if it falls in your yard or on your driveway, the cleanup cost comes out of your pocket. A certified arborist can usually give you some guidance here.

If this seems daunting to you, there’s always the option of getting a home inspection even if you have no intention of moving. Like most inspections, they are worth their weight in gold as they almost always find something.

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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