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More Home Inspection Surprises

When inspecting houses, ordinary doors can come as a surprise. Some doors lead to rooms, some doors lead to a dark void, and some doors are curiously closed. Sometimes you have all three.

He was inspecting a large vacation home north of Cashiers, North Carolina, on a fast-flowing creek. It was full of rocks, twists and turns and waterfalls. The path to the house was narrow and steep, leading to a heavy door. The remote control the agent gave me worked, and the doors slowly opened on whining hinges.

The house was beautifully built on the granite ledge side, with impressive floor to ceiling windows. Although the house had a small footprint, perhaps 1500 square feet, it rose two stories up, taking advantage of the very steep lot. The house had been repossessed and was now vacant.

The first part of the inspection on the first floor revealed no abnormalities. I started up the stairs to move upstairs and noticed a closet door with a deadbolt lock. When you see something like this, the owners are usually trying to protect something. I usually note on the report that I couldn’t get into the closet or the room, but in this case the bank owned it and I doubted they knew anything about this locked door.

I quickly phoned the real estate agent.

“I’m going to call the bank,” he said.

Three minutes later the phone line.

“Nobody has a key to that door. If we did, I’d tell you to go inside and report what you find. Can you open it?”

“I’m not a locksmith. No problem, I’ll put it on my report,” I said and hung up.

But I was curious.

I ran my hand along the top of the door trim, which is where I “hide” a key. My fingers found an object with Velcro attached to the edge. A key! I put the key in the lock and tried to turn it. It worked! I put the key in the glass, turned the knob and opened the door.

A black void.

I took out my flashlight and pointed it at the area. A circular black metal staircase came into view. Now I felt like Nancy Drew. I began to slowly go down the narrow stairs and began to hear the sound of water. When I got to the bottom, my feet were on an uneven stone floor and I was in a room about six by six feet with two more doors in the walls. I looked around for a switch. I found it on the opposite wall. I flipped the switch and light filled the room. I was surprised to see that the walls were carved out of the cliff.

A closet was a tiny space with an electrical box. The other door was locked with a bolt like the one above.

“Oh! I left the key upstairs,” I said to myself. “Shoot, I’ll have to go back up and get it.”

I went back up the circular staircase to retrieve it. I went back down the stairs to the closed door. The key worked and I opened the door. I was in a very narrow hallway. The walls were solid rock and I could see the grooves where the detonators had been used. I was feeling a bit claustrophobic. Should I continue?

The sound of the water grew louder as he slowly made his way down the cavern path. After traveling 12 feet, suddenly I was outside! The waterfall that was visible from inside the house was directly in front of me.

What a surprise! Never underestimate what could be behind a closed door.

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