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Burn, Baby, Burn!


Luxury homes are lots of fun to inspect. Sure, the pay is better too, but mostly it's just fun to see how the other half lives! I also get to meet those people who have reached such a level of financial success that they are buying a home that seems like it could have been a boarding school!

One of the fun aspects of inspecting large and expensive homes is seeing furnishing and interior design work at the highest level. Unfortunately, that high level does not always translate to attractive! Good-sized decorating budgets does not always mean good taste. One such mansion sticks always in my mind.

Among the oldest and most prestigious sections of Jacksonville, Florida is Ortega. Situated along a wide expanse of the St. Johns River with a fabulous view of the downtown skyline is Ortega Boulevard. In our fair town, that address spells success!

It is always a thrill to inspect on Ortega Boulevard. The homes were built during the 1920's and 30's by the business and political leaders of the time. In a state not known for architecture, homes on Ortega Boulevard can be compared proudly with any in America. But that does not mean that some folks don't commit creative crimes in the decorating department!

The listing agent was thrilled to have this home as the corner piece of an envious listing portfolio. One point, though, kept coming up in comments made by would-be buyers after being shown the beautiful home. The plum-painted walls on nearly the entire first floor made the interior look like the set from the old "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" television show! This simply had to be corrected to attract a buyer to the home.

Upon arrival at the home, I parked behind the painter's truck. When I went into the home, a team of painters was busy working to cover "plum" with "eggshell". Their best guess was that three coats would do it; I was betting on five!

As is always the protocol, all the lights, appliances, and heating were turned on for the home inspection. My company calls this our "Super Bowl" check. Seems that the greatest stresses a home undergoes is during the Super Bowl. There are usually dozens of people around, all of whom are using multiple televisions, cooking, washing, showering, and consuming every possible stitch of electricity. And all of this is going on simultaneously! If the systems continue to work during the Super Bowl, they will work fine during routine family use, or so the theory goes.

So, while zipping about the house checking here and checking there, one of the painters called out that he smelled smoke! If the home catches on fire during the Super Bowl that is most certainly a penalty.

Upon my arrival to the electrical panel, I smelled heat and burning wire. I then ran to the exterior to disconnect power at the switch adjacent to the meter, which was on fire! I told the real estate agent to call the fire department while I secured the power to the home. Things were going to be fine.

To my surprise and confusion, she became upset with me for securing power to the home. When I asked her why she is upset that I had secured power to the burning electrical panel, she exclaimed, "Wally, if you turn off the power, the painters won't be finished today!" I reminded her that if the home continued to burn, it wouldn't need paint!

The old adage "when you're surrounded by alligators, sometimes it's hard to remember that you came here to drain the swamp" must have been coined by a guy who was working for a real estate agent in Florida.

Wally Conway is President of Florida HomePro Inspections, and has recently written a book entitled "Secrets of the Happy Home Inspector", available at GoHomePro.com or Amazon.com. Wally's expertise and experience has been sought after by HGTV's "House Detective", the Florida Times Union, and many real estate boards and associations. As a speaker, writer, instructor, and host of The Happy Home Inspector radio show every Saturday at 3 PM on WOKV 690, Wally blends the right amount of up-to-date information with just the right amount of humor, insight, motivation, and real-world application. Visit WallyConway.com for more information!


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