Looking at real estate listing photos online is probably one of the most thrilling parts of the home-buying experience. It’s fantasy window-shopping at its best, plus a major time saver since you can suss out what a house looks like without leaving the comfort of your own couch. What’s not to love?
Yet sometimes, these gorgeous photos are hiding something. Something bad, even dangerous.
As proof, check out this listing pic above, which reveals a flaw in the home that should give you pause. Can anyone see what it is? Anyone? Anyone?
Give up? We’ll give you a hint: It has to do with that pretty chandelier above the regal tub. Not a good idea!
How to look at listing pics like a home inspector
Any savvy home buyer knows that houses are rarely as perfect as they first appear—online or in person. That’s why buyers typically hire a home inspector to check out the house to see what might be wrong or require repairs. It sure beats buying a place that looks great but morphs into a money pit once you move in, right?
While home inspectors typically visit houses to give them a thorough vetting, that doesn’t mean their trained eye can’t pick up problems in other ways. Welmoed Sisson of Frederick, MD–based Inspections By Bob has a knack for glancing at listing photos and immediately discerning where possible dangers and disasters await.
“I’ve always loved looking at houses for sale, even before becoming a home inspector,” Sisson explains. “I’ve learned to analyze the photos that are used, and especially ones that aren’t … like, why are there no pictures of a certain bathroom? Why is there no clear picture of the roof? Home inspectors will usually go through listing pictures to get an idea of what they’re in for.”
In realtor.com‘s new series, What’s Wrong With This Listing Pic?, we will challenge you to scrutinize photos from current real estate listings and see if you can spot the problem hiding within. Don’t worry, these flaws aren’t irreparable, but they could cost you a pretty penny to fix, so we’ll lay out those expenses so you can head into a real estate deal with your eyes open and negotiate with sellers accordingly.
Prepare to see listing pics in a whole new light!
So what’s wrong with this listing pic, anyway?
Sure, that chandelier above the tub is striking and adds instant elegance and illumination to the room, but it’s also a hazard.
“There should be no hanging light fixtures above or to the sides of the tub,” says Sisson, who offers up the image below to show the no-go zone for electrical fixtures in pink—8 feet up, and 3 feet to the sides of the tub.
Why chandeliers in bathrooms are a bad idea
In short, electricity and water don’t play well together.
“Any kind of moisture can cause wires to corrode, which can lead to arcing and short circuits,” Sisson says. While it’s highly unlikely that lighting bolts could jump from the chandelier to the tub, sparks and pops are certainly possible; or the short circuit could happen behind the walls or ceiling, where water can penetrate, starting a fire.
Most chandeliers and indoor wiring aren’t designed or rated for use in damp or wet locations like bathrooms. Another danger of a hanging electric fixture too close to the tub is the chance that someone could come into contact with it while standing in water.
“We use the example of where a tall person in a tub or shower reaches one arm up to scrub the armpit with the other hand,” Sisson explains. “If a metal component is within reach, and the person comes into contact with it, he could indeed be electrocuted.”
The above listing pic is hardly a fluke, either. Below are some other examples pulled fresh from listings.
How to fix it
If you have your heart set on a chandelier over or near the tub, Sisson explains that the lowest point of the fixture needs to be a minimum of 8 feet above the tub, and at least 3 feet to the side, as shown below.
“This includes any dangling crystals or fringe, so you’d better have high ceilings,” she says. “Otherwise, you can have the chandelier moved so it is completely outside the required clearance area.”
And while they might not be as stunning or dramatic, the safest lighting options in bathrooms are flush-mounted or recessed fixtures that are rated for wet locations, which typically means the bulbs are completely enclosed (see photo below), says Sisson.
“Lights in wet locations should be rated and designed for that location, which means the manufacturer has sealed the vulnerable wiring and any conductive material,” says Sisson. “Lights over tubs and showers are often recessed for this reason, with clear covers to protect the bulbs from being touched.”
How much will it cost to fix?
Luckily, the cost to move a chandelier to a safe distance won’t set you back that much.
“You can expect to pay an electrician anywhere from $100 to $250 for labor, plus the cost of any new fixtures,” Sisson says. “You will probably have to patch and paint some drywall afterward as well, so factor that in. While permits likely will not be required for this work, it’s always wise to check with your local building department to make sure.”
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