Inspecting the Wrong House



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Inspecting the Wrong House

by Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech

How could a home inspector inspect the wrong house? It’s not as hard as it sounds! I’ve done it twice myself, and at least one other person on my team did it recently…possibly several inspectors on my team, but only one that I know about.

My second “wrong home” inspection happened in 2008. I knew that I was supposed to inspect a home listed by Re/Max, so I drove down the street looking for the Re/Max sign. Boom. There it was. The home had a manual lockbox code of H-O-T or something like that, and it worked, so I proceeded to inspect the home as usual. You can guess what happened, right?

The house that I was supposed to be inspecting was about four houses away: same agency, same lockbox code. Luckily, my clients called to ask where I was about an hour into the inspection. That’s the last time I ever made that mistake. Lesson learned: double-check the darned house number! Just because the lockbox code works doesn’t mean you’re at the right house.

Lost in Translation
The first time I inspected the wrong house was for a Truth-In-Sale of Housing (TISH) evaluation, which is a pre-sale listing inspection that’s required in Minneapolis, MN. It’s also known as a “City Inspection” because we do these on behalf of the city of Minneapolis.

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The year was 2005, and we received a lot of referrals from an agent who would order inspections on behalf of her Spanish-speaking clients. She ordered a city inspection for a property located on Columbus Avenue, but I went to the same house number on Chicago Avenue, which is one block away. I knocked on the door and was greeted by Spanish-speaking occupants. They seemed confused and unsure of why I was there, but that was par for the course and I didn’t let it stop me. I cheerfully introducing myself as the Truth-In- Sale of Housing Evaluator, showed them my city ID card, and proceeded to inspect the home as usual, repeating “It’s ok” as needed. The occupants followed me around, looking confused and irritated, but I powered through. There were people sleeping throughout the home, and I did my best to not wake them up.

After I had been there for about 25 minutes, I received a call from the real estate agent asking where I was. I quickly figured out that I had bulldozed my way into the wrong house. I sheepishly apologized and left in a hurry. The occupants looked very relieved to see me leave. Lesson learned: everyone seems much more believable when they have an ID badge and they believe themselves.

New Construction
For new construction developments, the streets typically aren’t mapped out by Google right away, so we have to find these homes the old-fashioned way. No, not with a Hudson map book—we have to get directions. That’ll be a very confusing concept for my kids by the time they’re old enough to drive! Anyway, earlier this year one of the inspectors on my team was supposed to inspect a new construction home located at 7648 Archer Pl. He mistakenly ended up at 7648 Archer Pt, which is only one block away.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, that house was also listed for sale: same agency, same lockbox combination. We inspected that entire home from start to finish before getting a call from our client asking where we were. Ouch. At least our inspector hadn’t driven home yet.

Lesson learned: while “Pt” and “Pl” look very similar, they’re not at all the same street. I decided to write about this topic after commiserating with some other home inspectors from across the country. This kind of thing can happen to anyone, and it has happened to a lot of people. Hopefully, it only happens once. So why did it happen to me twice? I must have a high tolerance for self-inflicted pain!


About the Author
Reuben Saltzman is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work, and is the owner and president of Structure Tech. Visit his blog online at: homegarden/blogs/Reuben_Saltzman/


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Comments (6)

  1. My second “wrong home” inspection happened in 2008. I knew that I was supposed to inspect a home listed by Re/Max, so I drove down the street looking for the Re/Max sign. Boom. There it was. The home had a manual lockbox code of H-O-T or something like that, and it worked, so I proceeded to inspect the home as usual. You can guess what happened, right? – This is hilarious at the same time scary, you could end up getting smacked down by the real home owner.

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  2. I’m a home inspector in Washington D.C. One of my competitors inspected the wrong house totally on the other side of town and I ended up performing the real inspection. Worked well for me.

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  3. I had almost completed a new construction inspection when my agent called to ask where I was. Obviously, I was inspecting the home! Unfortunately, the builder had installed the same street address on two houses about three houses apart. GPS didn’t have the street and I didn’t notice the “other” street number farther down!

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  4. I did that too… and could have gotten SHOT. I was charged with checking out some supposedly “vacant” homes, and the house number was wrong, so I was directed to the wrong house. The address had a typo. Fortunately I explained to the occupant what was going on, and got the correct address, which was vacant.

    On other such occasions I’ve found the houses to be occupied by squatters. So whenever I do such inspections any more, I knock fist, and if somebody answers, I’ll tell them I must have the wrong address, go on my way, and report the situation accordingly.

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  5. It happened to me once. Not my fault though. The Realtor sent me the wrong listing info. He attached the MLS listing to an email requesting the inspection. But it was the wrong home. So there I am starting the inspection walking the exterior and wondering why there wasn’t anyone there. Then I get a call from the an upset Realtor wondering why I was late. Who soon became a very embarrassed Realtor. We all had a good laugh about it later. It happens. But I will never let him forget about it.
    Greg Swank
    Diligent Home Inspections Inc.
    Kenai, Alaska

    - Reply

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