What’s That Smell?

I go to an inspection on a vacant, realtor owned home with some typical improvements like; fresh paint, new carpet, hot water heater, etc.

My client and his realtor come on time. As we chat going to the door, we’re all anxious to go in and see the interior. Of course, ladies and client first. I look around and think, “this should be fairly easy.” Within a few minutes I noticed a fairly strong, foul odor in the large living room. It was difficult to pinpoint the source of the smell. The realtor says “it must be the new carpet and paint fumes lingering.” I’m thinking “possibly, but there is a lingering gas smell in the mix as well.” I’ve learned; lingering gas doesn’t always smell like rotten eggs. I decide to fire up my gas leak detector and see if a leak was slowly filling the air with gas. When I ran the detector over a heat register on the floor, my detector went crazy. The gas pipes are below in the crawlspace.

I said “let’s open the doors and get this place cleared out.” The realtor decides to call the selling agent and give them a heads up while I played it safe and turned off the main gas valve and red tag it. At this point I figure I’ll need to comeback after the leak is found and fixed so I can inspect the water heater and furnace.

The next day I get a call from the realtor who says “there was no gas leak, you can finish the inspection.” What!!!

You can imagine what’s going through my head as I headed out the door to meet the realtor back at the house. She shows up with the buyer as I’m getting out of my truck. Feeling stupid, I apologized to them for needing to come back out. We walk to the front door and went inside.

Of course, the fairly strong pungent smell is still present and I’m not convinced there’s not a gas leak. The realtor explains the person who installed the new water heater came out turned the gas back on and said there is no gas leak. Again, I pull out my gas leak detector and asked the realtor to humor me. She’s also not convinced there’s no leak and say’s “go for it.” Once I verified a gas leak was present and narrowed down the location. We decided it would be best to call the local utility and report the problem. Rather than put our faith in the seller’s handyman.

45 minutes later the gas man came out verified the leakage and turned off the gas.

Even though I was vindicated; there was a lesson to be learned. If at all possible find the exact location of a gas leak, document it with photo’s and insist the issue be resolved asap. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. I’m glad I was safe and not sorry!

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