Buyer's vs. Seller's inspector

Background: Have a contract on an 115 year old house on Main St. in Pennington NJ. It’s is a duplex (just for fun: the other half is owned by the bank). The house has been passed through the family for ~30 years, so no inspections have been done for a while. Our inspector was hired from via a recommendation from our realtor. From what I’ve been able to glean, their “inspector” is a father of theirs that is an architect & planner.

This is our first time going through the home buying process so it’s still a bit overwhelming. As you might have been able to imagine the list of “necessary” repairs was decently hefty, but nothing too crazy for an old home (according to our lawyer). In their response a few discrepancies popped up and I’m not sure what to think. Which is what I’m hoping to get some advice on. Without further ado here are some of the bigger discrepancies.

  1. Us: Install a knee wall on the right side of the attic rafters to prevent the roof from sagging.

Them: The Buyer’s home inspector’s recommendation to install a knee-wall in the attic to address the minor rafter deflection should no be considered. By design the installation of a knee-wall will adversely change the structural integrity of the second floor ceiling joist system by providing a transferred point load from the rafter to each existing ceiling joist positioned below the installed wall. This additional point load will crack the existing ceiling plaster and as a result is not recommended. No other rafter repairs are required.

The neighbors have a knee-wall on their side (we know because there is no separating wall in the attic). But This seems like it could be logical. I could see an architect understanding the engineering of the house pretty well.

  1. Us: Have a qualified contractor remove all vermiculite insulation from the attic for personal safety. Vermiculite insulation may contain asbestos.

Them: Our assessment disclose a minor dusting of Vermiculite below the batt insulation within the attic area of the dwelling. Vermiculite was present and removed prior to the installation of batt insulation. Even if the Vermiculite was tested and proven to contain asbestos, which it was not, no hazard for air-born contamination exists since the batt insulation eliminated the potential for air-born contamination. The attic’s limited accessibility also minimizes any contamination concern. No remediation is required.

The Vermiculite appears to be migrating over from the other half of the house. There was not much of it, but there was some. It was also not all necessarily covered by the batt insulation.

  1. Us: Replace all knob and tube wiring in the attic. Observed live knob and tube wiring on the front attic floor at the time of the inspection.

Them: One area of this wiring method was noted within the front of the attic space. The wiring was tested and clearly determined to be not in service.

Our inspector touched and and burnt himself a bit. We also want to have an electrician come in and check in all the receptacles/switches/fixtures/etc for any of it in the wall.

  1. Us: Repair the heat supply to the radiators throughout the house. Did not observe heat supply to several radiators at the time of the inspection.

Them: All radiators were tested during our assessment and determined to be in proper working order. No repair system is required.

This I’m unsure about they did seem to heat up after waiting longer than the initial 5 minutes. Our realtor also fiddled with some valves on them that appeared to wake them up.

  1. Us: Have a qualified contractor make the necessary repairs to the windows throughout the house. Observed the following defects at the time of the inspection. 1) Unable to open several windows at the time of the inspection, due to the windows being painted shut. Have all windows opened and operational. 2) Replace all broken and missing sash cords on the windows throughout the house. 3- Replace all cracked panes.

Them: The Code requires one operable egress window from each sleeping area. The bedroom areas within this dwelling comply with this requirement. Any remaining windows which have broken sash cords are not operational will not be addressed. In addition, the one minor cracked pane will not be replaced.

I talked to our inspector and he said those would probably be township codes. But common knowledge and safety states that they should all be able to open.

Go with your inspector. The architect father is just minimizing costs.

Knob and tube if live must go, inspector got burned, then its live.

Vermiculite blowing around means asbestos blowing around unless proof the vermiculite has been tested and clear. No proof, then assume its asbestos.

Radiators may just need to be purged of air and water added to system.

Kneewall may or may not be a problem. I would get a second opinion.

Windows must operate, and meet egress unless original. Regardless they should operate.

Additionally to what Paul said, there may be other homes to purchase that you may be more pleased with.

Safety for you and your family should be the number one concern. Possibility of asbestos through a shared attic? Windows that don’t open? Electrical hazards like knob and tube wiring? IMO it is a fix it or forget it situation for the sellers. Not putting my family at risk no matter how hard the seller downplays safety issues.

even knob and tube tested as “not live” should be removed- who could know what may be on a switch somewhere that changes it to live instantly

asbestos undisturbed or encapsulated is not hazardous by epa standards. if disturbing it, precautions are definitely recommended

Just and FYI concerning vermiculite . . .

copy and paste the following path from New York State Department of Health concerning vermiculite testing

top of page 2 states:

If material is attic fill, block fill or other loose bulk vermiculite materials, it must
be designated and treated as ACM. No approved analytical method currently exists to
reliably confirm such vermiculite material as non-ACM.

EMSL is not allowed to test Vermiculite Attic Insulation from NY State Samples (Attic fill, block fill or other loose bulk vermiculite for Asbestos) but can accept from all other states.

Here is an article on vermiculite:

As Chris said above, they are trying to save money and in the process, screw you. The only thing that makes a shred of sense is about the knee wall, and I think that could even be argued if you had two different structural engineers assess the situation.

The knob and tube must be removed. Sure, they only “found” it in one small section. How much was covered by the batt insulation? I find that all the time. I would request that they have a licensed electrician put in writing that all of the wiring in the house is safe. While K&T is often only visible in the attic, people seem to forget that the whole house was wired with it at one point. It’s very common to find it removed in the attic, but still running throughout the rest of the house.

Oh, and when the electrician goes to look for the K&T in the attic, he will have to move the insulation, which will disturb the vermiculite. Hopefully you can see where this is going.

As for the windows, do you really want your family members to have to remember which window works if, god forbid, they should need to get out of one? Also, for the sash cords, egress windows are supposed to open, and STAY open.

For the radiators, they can be quite finicky to get going. If they were working after adjusting them and/or bleeding the air off, you might be ok. You might want to get a boiler tech in to go over the whole system though.

It sounds like this whole house might have a lot of deferred maintenance. If you really like the house, stick to your guns and get the obvious safety items taken care of by the seller and have a good reinspection done. If they are not going to do repairs, get your own people in and get estimates to repair and get the price adjusted. I will hazard a guess that you are not paying cash for the home, so beware that the mortgage company may require some of these repairs to be made. Some even go as far to say the seller has to make them. This sounds like a good opportunity for an FHA 203(k) loan as well.

I wish you the best, and if you have any more questions, you have definitely come to the right place. Let us know if you need anything else.

All the best!

Just realized this was from May…

Regardless of when posted, it was a great topic.

I’ve done this for 35 years and from day 1 its been the same. As soon as we say something is wrong and its gonna cost $$$$$ to fix OR kill the deal … a seller OR listing agent immediately go into the lets try to soft-soap the buyers inspector OR discredit his findings (sometimes even the buyers agent trys this crap)