12 of the Craziest Things Ever Found During Home Inspections
Home inspectors, real estate professionals, estate-sale professionals, and undertakers all have one thing in common: They know your secrets—the ones you've been trying to keep hidden your entire life.
Exploding smoke detector
This story of a smoke detector turned out to be more of a smoke-effector, shares Jeff Miller, co-founder of AE Home Group, a team of local Maryland real estate agents who help buyers and sellers navigate the Baltimore real estate market. The previous owners of the house had moved out only one day earlier, but had not turned off their electricity or the air conditioning, recalls Miller. In fact, the air conditioning was set to high, which at first seemed like a good thing, because the day of their inspection happened to be the hottest and most humid day of the summer. Then, they started to smell smoke. “Rushing down to the basement we found that condensation caused the smoke detector to short out.” In fact, the smoke detector was now on fire. “Ironically, the smoke detector almost burned that house down,” says Miller.
Fifi’s final resting place
Jamie Green, of WIN Home Inspection, a Seattle, Washington home inspection company, was making his way on all-fours through a crawl space of a 70-year-old house. “Crawl spaces are generally pretty spooky because you never know what you’re going to find,” Green tells Reader’s Digest. Green stumbled on something strange as his hand touched down on something both bony and furry. Turns out, it was a stiff cat skeleton with fur still intact. Unfortunately, the home sellers now had an answer for what had happened to their missing feline friend who they’d believed had “run off” years earlier.
An old and rather dilapidated property was being sold as part of the estate of the deceased homeowners. Kris Lippi, a realtor with Get Listed Realty, had buyers lined up who were really excited, although they knew they were going to have to do a lot of work to get the house into decent shape, so it wasn’t surprising when they learned that the home inspections turned up “a bunch of patched holes in the concrete floor in the basement—probably about seven or eight of them,” Lippi recalls. Since the inspector couldn’t figure out any explanation for them, he noted in the inspection documents, “inconclusive concern requiring further investigation.”
Seeing the notation on the inspection documents, the adult children of the deceased homeowners cleared up the mystery. Turns out: it was a pet cemetery. Every pet the family ever had was now dead and gone and buried beneath the house. The adult children didn’t think there was anything weird about this at all. In fact, they asked that the buyers agree to never disturb the home’s makeshift pet burial ground.
Needless to say, the buyers were totally creeped out and canceled the contract.
The mystery… um… pet?
Green was inspecting what he recalls was a “big beautiful three-story mansion” when he crept through the attic and came face to face with a skull. It wasn’t human, but it was jarring just the same. It also came with two feet of skin, but no limbs. “The creature—whatever it was—had been long dead and now the bats were having their way with the carcass,” Green explains. He never did figure out what died up there, and no one mentioned anything about any missing pets. As for the purchasers? They were happy to be rid of it and closed on their sale.
“It’s not uncommon to find creepy crawlers, whether it’s poisonous newts, insect infestations, or rodents during an inspection,” shares Green. Once, when he was inspecting a home at twilight, he noticed some moisture stains on the ceiling, looked up and realized there was a ruckus coming from above. So Green headed up to the attic, whereupon he discovered that “a family of raccoons had taken over the space—nesting, urinating, dropping feces, and generally making a big, smelly, dangerous mess.” Yuck.
Not your choice for pet snakes
Jason Jones is a colleague of Green’s who was once inspecting the outside of a home that had a dark and spooky shed in the backyard. Upon starting a termite inspection, Jones saw the head of a creature pop up under the shelf in the shed. Startled, Jones ran out shouting for his coworker. The duo called the fire department. Arriving in full gear, the firefighters found that the snake wasn’t just any snake: it was a rattlesnake. And there wasn’t just one: there were two. And they were mating. “Luckily the slithering lovebirds were caught when they were, or else the new homeowners would have had to take on a whole family of rattlesnakes,” says Jones.
Ants at the gate
Ah, another ant story, and you’d think this one would be less repulsive simply because it took place outside the home, rather than inside it. Matt Prato at Tri State Gate in Bedford Hills, New York was called to inspect and repair an automated driveway gate as part of a pre-sale renovation. In this case, the driveway gate was said to be “glitchy,” so Prato opened up the control panel. “The technician found ants. Lots and lots of ants. And then more ants.” It wasn’t the first time a control panel had been taken over by wildlife. Prato has seen mice nests inside control boxes, and frogs and snakes as well. “But being that ants are so small and quite persistent, they are often able to eat away at normal protective barriers and squeeze in tiny holes. Once they’re in the enclosure, serious damage usually isn’t far off.”
“The furnace is in an important area of home inspections. It’s also a popular spot for rodents to explore,” Green tells Reader’s Digest. During one otherwise routine home inspection, Green came across the dead bodies of several bats, squirrels, and mice that had been electrocuted.
An army of ants
One of professional home organizer Ben Soreff’s craziest stories involved a seemingly normal family with a seemingly normal home, who hired him to clean and organize for them. He went into the unfinished basement to clear out some space for storage, and there he saw it: thousands upon thousands of ants pouring out of a cardboard box. The people who lived in the house hadn’t been in the basement in years, and this was quite the terrifying discovery for them.
If you’re refrigerator’s running, you better catch it
In a home owned by hoarders, Soreff found a refrigerator that had been blocked and out of use for many years. “If a person with hoarding disorder doesn’t get help on their own there is usually an event that brings in the fire marshall and social services,” Soreff explains to Reader’s Digest. In this case, there was untreated and unrepaired water damage and structural damage. It was a terrible mess, and like most things in the house, the fridge was virtually unrecognizable as a fridge.
Ghost of pilgrim woman past
Mike McGonigle is a licensed home inspector with Homestead Inspection Services, Inc. in southern New Jersey, and once did home inspections in Thompson, Connecticut, that still haunts him to this day. “The house was built in the early 1800s and was listed as an ‘antique farmhouse.’ I didn’t notice anything odd about the picture or the home the entire time I was there. I only noticed what appears as a figure in the window when I sat down the following day and downloaded the pictures in order to write the report,” he shares. The thing is, McGonigle was solo during the inspection, or so he thought. “My interpretation of the picture is a ‘portly’ woman dressed in pilgrim type attire appears to be looking in the window.” Worried your someone or something ‘inexplicable’ is lurking in your home? Learn how to find out if your house is haunted now.
Plastic wrapped plumbing repair
McGonigle also recalls a story from home inspections in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Simply stated, the homeowners obviously couldn’t be bothered to maintain their waste line properly. Instead, they used cellophane to patch and repair the line. “Talk about amateur workmanship,” McGonigle says, “not to mention a gross, potential health hazard.”