Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


I think I need a shower now!

    Distressed properties are not fun to inspect on so many different levels.

    Once you get past the initial curiosity, one must face the reality that the condition of the house somehow reflects how messed up we can make our lives.  Behind all the "theories" of failed mortgages in the media, is the harsh reality of the people's actual lives----making the "reasons" seem kind of shallow----and in themselves a sort of emotional/cultural bankruptcy. 

     Sometimes when I am wading through the debris of a severely distressed property I can't help but think about whether I should be dressed in "hazmat" gear or not.  Instead of the customary taking off of the shoes at the door, it becomes more about making sure I leave them on.

     Today's adventure was about as bad as they get in terms of filth.  There were pet feces (if not something worse) everywhere.  All interior surfaces where totally distressed.  To know that the only thing missing was the inhabitants made the scene even more horrific.

     Seeing rodent activity within any home is not uncommon, but is pretty much guaranteed in these severely distressed properties.  There were several attic spaces all packed with years worth of the owner's belongings----most were riddled with rodent tunnels, feces and nesting materials.  Nests made of family photos and stored clothing. 

     While finding the carcasses of dead rats is very common, I had never found anything quite this large and dead in an attic space before. 

Something dead in the attic

     My first reaction (kept to myself) was to wonder why it didn't stink to high heaven (I also wondered, to myself, how the inhabitants could have lived with such a stench).  I am pretty sure my buyer "freaked" more than I did----but he was already aware that we were very likely looking at tear-down.  For confusing reasons, we were greatly relieved to find that, rather than being some dead cat or something, it was merely another sign of the "dead-ownership." 

No monkey business here    

     It is always the mental picture of the children of these distressed properties that bothers me the most.

Charles Buell  

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Comment balloon 33 commentsCharles Buell • September 18 2008 05:34PM


This was distressed.  You must have had more fear here than on the roof-tops!

Posted by Barbara S. Duncan, GRI, e-PRO, Executive Broker, Searcy AR (RE/MAX Advantage) almost 11 years ago

I had the unfortunate luck to find a deceased pet in a cupboard over a refrigerator in a foreclosure years horrified my buyers were!! Such a horrible thing and so many unexpected victims in a poor market!

Posted by Samantha Nichols, Massachusetts Real Estate Specialist (ERA Belsito and Associates) almost 11 years ago

Barbara, after these inspections I am not sure what is more distressed---the house----or me:)

Samantha, that would be yucky to say the least!  At least my buyer didn't have to recover from an "actual" critter.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Hi Charles. I have seen dead cats, rats and mice, but never a dead snow monkey! That is a rare beast, and rigor mortis has set in. Hope all is well with you! - Ray

Posted by Ray Wilson almost 11 years ago

That is so sad to see the stuffed monkey and to think that a child played there once and it was left behind. What a mess things are sometimes!

Posted by Sharon Young (Ivy League Mortgage Philadelphia, Pa) almost 11 years ago


I know how icky my clients and I feel after showing some of these properties. It has to be much worse for you, I am sure. Never found a dead monkey tho.

Posted by Rich Mielke, REALTOR, Frederick Maryland Real Estate (REMAX Results, Frederick MD) almost 11 years ago

Charles... Good post. I know exactly what you mean about people living in filth and squalor. I did a house last year that was so nasty, I went out and put on my coveralls and gloves. I could not fathom how people could live in those conditions. The floor was so sticky with shi.. that I thought that the bottoms of my shoes were going to come off...

Posted by Bubba Fife (Complete Property Maintenance) almost 11 years ago

I really can't believe how filthy some people actually live.  I just can't imagine this.

Posted by John Walters, Licensed in Louisiana (Frank Rubi Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Ray---my first snow monkey as well:)

Sharon, some of these house are like if you could imagine going to work one day and then just never going home.  What would people find at your house? Pretty sad.  I wonder if we knew the whole story of where the people are now it would make it any better/easier?

Rich, the crawl spaces in these places are ALWAYS the pits.

Bubba, I am glad to hear you are "spectin" now instead of "Bubizing" things all over Tennesee:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Very sad. Yes there are so many homes where you know you need a shower after being there. We carry around large containers of the gel to "wash" ones hands. And also gloves.

Posted by Bob & Carolin Benjamin, East Phoenix Arizona Homes (Benjamin Realty LLC) almost 11 years ago

John, there is a large "3rd-World" hidden within the abundance of America.

Bob & Carolin----good idea.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

OOPS! Now don't cha tell the boss man, he'd get real POed at me ifen he new I was playin home inspector an all... He just might give me da boot...

Posted by Bubba Fife (Complete Property Maintenance) almost 11 years ago

I have yet to see a dead animal, like samantha and ray above, but I did have a buyer ask me that today.  I have seen many toys and it makes me really sad.

Posted by Sidney Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula Kutchuk - Realty Works Temecula, Realty Works Temecula (Realty Works Temecula) almost 11 years ago

Bubba, maybe you need to look in the mirror in the morning and remember which hat you have on:)

Jane, here is another classic picture from a "distressed" property that tells a story" or "asks a question"

Kids toys

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

WOW .... I sure did think the first picture was a dead cat and then I was in amazement that you would post a picture of the dead animal....THEN reality came to light!!!

Sean Allen

Posted by Sean Allen, International Financing Solutions (International Financing Solutions ) almost 11 years ago

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - City by the LakeCharles, I've shown and sold some of these types of distressed properties.  From the time you pull up in the drive to the time you leave you have a really erie feeling almost creepy.  I do feel badly for the children of these properties.

Also, thanks for commenting on my Post!

Posted by Pam Jank, Your Coeur d'Alene & North Idaho Real Estate Pro (Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Realty) almost 11 years ago

Sean, I think anyone when they first see this thinks it is real----I couldn't even tell till I flipped it over in the attic (with a stick:)

Pam, they do have sort of a "haunted" feel to them.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago's a shame to see the remnants left behind...the children. Oh...the children...and the innocent that are suffering.

Posted by Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman, (RA) AHWD CRS ePRO OAHU HAWAII REAL ESTATE (Liberty Homes) almost 11 years ago

Sally, thanks for commenting.  I wrestled for some time trying to decide whether to post this to your group----what do you think?  While it is not the happiest of topics it is thought provoking I hope.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

I used to work at a county morgue... still remember the smell, never forget it. Anyway, enough memory lane. I was happy to see that it wasn't a dead cat! ~Rita

Posted by Brian Burke, Broker & Advising Expert-Denver Luxury Real Estate (Kenna Real Estate) almost 11 years ago


Your calamity would have been easily remedied if you had an assistant. Make fun, tease, ridicule him all you want but Nutsy would have been your first line of defense in that attic.

Squirrel Commando

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) almost 11 years ago

There were a lot of "signs" that he had already been there and went in many places.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Charlie - Why were yYou were monkeying around on the job???

Posted by Carol Culkin, Overland Park (Reece & Nichols) almost 11 years ago

I'v had my share of dirty jobs though nothing like what dad goes through.  I do remember one job that involved a damp basement, a putty knife and an unbelivably large collection of fossilised cat poo.  But as I recall I was kinda working for you on that job remember? No? well I can't forget.  I wonder if that makes me the early stand in for Nutzy...  who needs a rodent when you have a son.  Hehehe...   

Posted by Klee B. Patel almost 11 years ago

Charles, Oh my, it is horrific what people are going through but really horrible to see how things are left. I know I have seen much on the news and we bought a rental house years ago where the owner left the rooms piled full, mostly her kids clothes and toys. It seems opposite of most of the foreclosed properties where the house is stripped of everything even the carpet sometimes. God bless you Charles, I really don't think that I have the stomach for your work.

Posted by No Longer Active in Staging. No Longer Staging almost 11 years ago

What a stressful inspection it must have been for you. It is good to see that you could still find a little bit of humor in the situation, but I hope you don't have to do too many more of these.

Posted by Ilyce Glink, Best-selling author, award-winning TV/radio host. (Think Glink Media) almost 11 years ago

Carol, isn't it my job to "monkey around":)

Klee, I suspect I would have been right down there on my hands and knees as well----at least to show you how:)

Cheryl, yes, I see them both ways, from everything gone including the kitchen sink to everything left like they never came home from work.

Ilyce, humor always must remain in all things:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Oh my goodness, Charles.  I went from "EWWWWWW" to "awwwwwwww."  I hate to see neglected homes.

Posted by Margaret Mitchell, Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty) almost 11 years ago

Margaret, at some point neglected homes can be equated to neglected lives:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Charles, that is pretty nasty stuff!  Inspecting a few of these each week could make me turn to anti-depressant pharmaceuticals.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) almost 11 years ago

Patricia, or at least crank up the dosage:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 11 years ago

Here is a pic from a "distressed" inspection yesterday:

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Nasty mummy you got there Jim

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago