Most buyers expect Condo inspections to be much cheaper than regular home inspections. For me they are somewhat cheaper, but not so much because they are condos, but more because they are smaller.
While there are many areas that are deferred to the Condo Association, it still takes a great deal of time to “describe” in the report exactly what is being deferred. And what if I see something “wrong” in one of the deferred components? I think it is helpful to my buyer if I note these things in the report so that the issue can be brought to the attention of the Condo Association. These items range from safety issues in common areas, to roofs that are toast. I want my buyer to be aware of the either the possibility of upcoming assessments or to verify that there are funds to make the repairs, and plans to make the repairs are already in place. This might also include any time-lines for getting the repairs done.
On a condo inspection a while back, I was checking the roof when I noticed that the chimney cap was completely corroded due to the chimney being improperly lined for the two water heaters. If you look at this picture you can see that a large metal cover has been created to cover the old brick chimney and two roof type vents have been installed to let the flue gasses out.
This chimney was originally designed for a central heating plant for the whole building—-perhaps a million BTU’s per hour or more. The two water heaters don’t need a flue anywhere near as large as this and as a result the flue gases are not hot enough to draft out of the 44 ft tall chimney. The result is that the flue gasses condense—turn into liquid. This acidic moisture corrodes the metal components, as well as the inside of the chimney.
In this case it was even back-drafting at the water heaters and corroding the tanks and fittings near the draft hoods. These are fairly new heaters and the top foot of one of the tanks was so rusted-out you could stick your finger through the metal. This next picture shows how the condensate has eaten away the galvanized coating of the water pipe fitting at the top of the tank and gotten inside the tank liner where it is eating through the tank covering. All the little orange specs are where the rust is just beginning to break through the surface from the inside.
This next picture shows the two heaters installed side by side and the vents running to the old chimney. Note the garbage can stuffed in the old vent location for the original furnace? The diameter of that garbage can is still smaller than the size of the chimney but still gives you an idea of the size of the chimney flue. One can see that it is WAY bigger than the diameter of the water heaters combined venting.
While these heaters are deferred to the Condo Association—this is the kind of information that I consider invaluable to my buyer—not to mention all of the occupants of the building—and therefore the Condo Association. In this particular case the Condo Association may not be aware that it has two “new” water heaters that are in need of replacement—not to mention the issues with the chimney itself.
So while condo inspections might cost a little less than a regular house due to the smaller size, some condos that compare in size to a regular house will likely cost just as much as a regular house.
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector