Real estate season and chimney inspections

 Spring is a time of nesting —  and we aren’t just talking about birds; as the weather improves and the calendar turns to May, people are buying and selling homes.

Realtors have an important job at both ends of the real estate transaction. The fireplace (or wood stove), furnace or boiler, water heater, and chimney system are integral parts of the marketing involved in transfers of property.  

In my post, “What the home inspector missed, a chimney sweep caught” I detailed how my spouse and I saw a house we liked (in February) and made an offer on it, which was accepted. Of course we paid for a home inspection, around $350, but I knew enough to seek out the services of a qualified chimney sweep to see if the wood-burning fireplace was in good condition, from inside to out. (I practice what I preach: I used our zip-code finder on CSIA.org and got on the busy schedule of two CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps.) Well, you know from my post that the sweeps’ video scan showed no defects in the metal flue of my prefab Heatilator. But my sweeps found issues with the rooftop chimney height, drywall exposure, and separation of the hearth from the wall. 

At least I knew what was wrong, and though it was disappointing, that knowledge about the fireplace issues did NOT kill the sale. 

At the same time as the offer we made on the new house, we put our existing house on the market. 

Our wonderful Realtor, in his print marketing literature, highlighted the gems in our household as he saw them … from our new kitchen … to the big deck … to the windows. Guess what phrase also made his print brochure? This line: “Enjoy the glow of the fireplace by night.”

 

That language is right up my alley. I mean, even though my HVAC system had been updated in 2013, who doesn’t want the cozy ambiance of a fireplace, a few seasoned logs stacked a well-maintained chimney, ready to warm up a chilly evening? 

Now, I’ve had my home used as a Guinea pig by trainees of the AHIT [American Home Inspectors Institute], then last summer had my home used as part of the National Chimney Sweep Training School. But a Level II inspection is required upon the sale or transfer of property. That’s a National Fire Protection Administration standard. Level II is the examination of all accessible portions of the chimney exterior and interior, including attics, crawl spaces, and basement. It includes a visual inspection by video scanning.

Being the seller, even if there are fixes to be made, it is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, you might have an animal or critter living in your chimney. Ashbusters of Charleston states, “Now you can actually tout the fact that the chimney has recently been restored and is 100 percent operational and ready for use.”

MORE: From csia.org: What to look for during a Level I, Level II or Level III inspection.

As the buyer, regardless if the owner is supplying you with a copy of the inspection report or not, you should hire your own company to inspect (as I did.) 

If issues are found, the homeowner should be responsible for the cost of the repair, put the money in escrow, or deduct the costs from the selling price, suggests Ashley Eldridge, CSIA Director of Education. (In my situation, I am going to eventually fix and reface our new home’s fireplace anyway. My old home also passed muster.)

Obviously, you should look to find a chimney sweep trained on Level II inspections, which CSIA certified sweeps are (CSIA.org/search). That way, when you get to the point where you are enjoying the glow of the fireplace at night in the new house, you can take comfort in knowing you’ve lessened your risk! 


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