As our understanding of home safety improves, we could find insurance companies requiring us to meet new standards that address these issues. Swimming pools can be the main problem for many home buyers.
How safe is your home? Nothing bad has happened to you. You have not fallen through a window. You have not had an electrical fire. You have not tripped on that step. No one has drowned in the pool. Why is the home inspector making my home sound like a death trap? I was interviewed recently for a magazine article about safety, and we talked about escaping through windows. Did you realize that windows have to be positioned in your home to allow for a quick escape? Most people do not consider this fact. One of my recent clients was more concerned about a burglar than escaping from a fire. I have had a few phone calls from sellers informing me that I had broken the law by reporting on a possibility that something could happen or be a safety concern. I point out that in certain cases the law requires me to do just that type of reporting in certain instances (such as with arc fault circuit interrupters), so why would the fact of reporting on another possible safety issue be illegal? One area of concern is the swimming pool, and problems there may make finding homeowner’s insurance difficult.
I think this is a wonderful scene. You have a covered deck with ceiling fans. A garden that is pretty nice. A pool to enjoy on a hot summer’s day. I loved having a cup of coffee in the mornings by the pool when I was growing up. Afterwards, I could swim a few laps. If I enjoy this view so much, why would I as a home inspector state that this view is problematic? Because I know that the buyer might be in a predicament during closing: no insurance. Backing up a minute: not all home inspectors examine the pool. I do not inspect pools. My view is that to inspect a pool properly, you have to go through the equipment well. I could do that, but I am not familiar with every type of pool equipment set up, and I feel that I could miss too many issues. That being said, I always examine the pool for problems, but this examination is not a proper inspection. I frequently discover the same issues. Pool heaters probably need some repairs, or their could be broken/missing handles. My real concern focuses on pool safety, and that is why I want to ruin the idyllic scene in that photograph.
Small children feel like they can do everything, including swimming. My two year old is convinced that she can swim. These children will run out of our homes in excitement to go into that pool. This is why many homes now take two steps to ensure that these quick little water lovers do not hurt themselves. First, doors leading out to an area where there is a pool should have an alarm. A parent hearing the door alarm will know that the door has been opened. Secondly, there should be a fence blocking any direct route from the door into the pool. A toddler may not be able to open the gate, or the gate will slow them down enough for the parent to reach them before the child reaches the pool. Both items are simple, but most older pools were not designed with this idea. The issue becomes the insurance company for the buyer. A few of my clients found themselves having to make a quick correction to their homes to meet these two standards. If they did not, the clients could not obtain homeowner’s insurance. From the seller’s perspective, the repair was not needed, because they have insurance, so why is the buyer having a problem. Often, the seller obtained their insurance before insurers made such demands. Consider: does your insurance company send an official out to examine your home each year before renewal?
Knowing that this may be an issue for my clients, I mention this part of pool safety in my reports. If you have an alarm system, the alarm company could have a setting for these doors exiting to the pool area sound off an alarm when opened. I have found that homeowners turn the alarm off when they become annoyed with the beeps. The fence is a bit harder, but a small metal fence would suffice. I mean a fence that cannot be easily crossed, so the height is important. I mention the metal fence, since there is a type with a post that can be screwed into the pool deck. when you have those cement decks. Wood fences can be affixed as well with the aid of proper fasteners. This situation is not the end of the sale, but would you not want your home inspector to inform you of this problem?