The adventures of agringo home inspector
A common device is a showerhead better calleda 'hydraulically actuated rain of death’
By Bodie Kellogg
Mexico NewsDaily | Saturday, May 20, 2017
When Irelocated my life to Mexico with only the shell fragments of my modest nest eggI knew I would eventually need to generate a few extra pesos to sustain myhigh-quality lifestyle, even though I had retired.
Plus, swilling cerveza and feasting on shrimp would only hold myinterest for several months or so.
After a year ofacclimation, during which I watched buyers from the States and Canada gobble upreal estate at a level which seemed insatiable, I spotted a niche. Afterspeaking with a number of realtors, I found that no one was offering acomprehensive home inspection report.
Of course, there were a few Mexican architects or engineers who would walkthrough a house and assure the nervous buyers that the structure would notspontaneously combust or collapse, but there was nothing available which was indepth, and certainly not in writing.
To most North Americanbuyers, Mexican real estate is a minefield of unregulated commerce with thepotential to part you from your money quicker than a crooked casino. And a partof that minefield is the total lack of any meaningful disclosure as to theactual condition of the property or any issues arising from it.
Since there are no buildingcodes, no inspectors, no properly licensed contractors or subcontractors, anystructure built in Mexico can be plagued with numerous maladies, or not — buthow do you know?
With four decades in the construction industry I knew I could provide avaluable service for gringos buying in Mexico. The major problem I faced wasthat the real estate salespeople did not want a home inspector to kill theirpotential sales.
Since home inspections arenot required by law who wants to open that can of worms? The key to gettingthis enterprise up and running was to convince the salespeople that I was notthe enemy and that I could provide positive feedback to the seller.
Of course, north of theborder there are laws that govern the actions of home inspectors, which onlyallow them to provide a detailed list of discrepancies, and never, under anycircumstances, divulge information or advice on correcting the problem.
Since Mexico has no peskyregulations restricting the actions of anyone, well hardly anyone, especiallyhome inspectors, I could provide the buyers with solutions to problems outlinedin the report. What a bonus!
For example, if I found aproblem in an electrical service I could give the buyer detailed instructionson the correction. That way they would not have to trust an electrician who mayor may not know what he is doing. In addition, at the end of my writtenreports, I carefully explained, in detail, how property in Mexico is mostlysold as is, with no guarantees.
This proclamation from anindependent source helped to strengthen the relationship between thesalespeople and prospective buyers. Therefore, with my strategies intact andthe tools of my new trade collected and tested, I was ready to play my part inthe Great Mexican Real Estate Boom of the Early 21st Century.
In the inaugural months of my new operation I was continually dazed, oftenactually stupefied, by what I was finding in both new construction, as well asthe 150-year-old relics.
While having a few beerswith the boys I raised the theory that a gringo building inspector should neverretire to Mexico because the looming specter that some type of code violationwould always be staring him in the face, no matter where he went, would be toodisconcerting to contemplate.
Please don’t get me wrong,I am not a fan of excessive government regulation, but a few rules in supportof basic health and safety can be beneficial to all.
A favorite device thatkept popping up was a high-voltage, electrical water heating showerhead, whichI referred to in my written report as the “hydraulically actuated rain ofdeath.” I came across the 120-volt model quite often, and the much older240-volt models were sometimes found in the older homes.
The difference between thetwo is that the 120-volt model could knock you on your ***, but if the 240-voltmodel malfunctioned it would cook you like a Christmas turkey. The mostcommon problem with these lethal devices is the lack of a properly bondedground connection.
I did an inspection on aplace in town that had been continuously occupied for the last 157 years andthe owner claimed everything worked just fine. In the course of the inspectionI noted the entire upstairs was ancient knob-and-tube wiring with lever styledisconnects, each with a glass fuse, which were being used as light switches.
When I got to the upstairsbathroom I noted the high-voltage showerhead was accompanied by its own leverstyle disconnect switch conveniently located next to the shower control valve.Having 240 volts in a rusty steel box, within easy reach while under theshower, conjured visions of Larry, Moe and Curly in a smoldering heap.
To top it all off, as Iopened the disconnect box I felt a slight tingle of voltage. Each time I touchedit, in fact. I checked it with the electrical meter and found it to behemorrhaging 17 volts between the rusty box and any handy ground,including myself.
Just when I thought it could not get any worse I noticed the two fuse socketswere devoid of fuses, and instead held Mexican coins that dated to the 50s.Moreover, the vile contraption had no ground whatsoever.
When questioned about thecoins, the older woman who was selling the house told me her father put them inmany years ago because the fuses kept blowing, and they were expensive backthen. She went on to explain that no one had used that shower in a long timebecause the shower downstairs had much more water pressure.
Whenever I think back onthis incident, I have to wonder if a life was saved because of a gravity flowwater system.
This, then, is the firstinstallment of the series “The Joy of Construction in Mexico,” which willchronicle my journey from home inspector to reluctant contractor and thevarious quagmires traversed in the process.
Bodie Kellogg describeshimself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with acaptured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to givehim cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reachedat email@example.com.