BOTHELL — A large explosion in a Bothell neighborhood this week shocked onlookers not just because it sent a house up in flames and blew out neighboring windows, but because the property’s owners had just spent their first night in the house.
No one was hurt in the explosion, likely related to a gas leak, that blew through the cream-colored four-bedroom home in the 19700 block of 25th Drive Southeast in Bothell Wednesday morning around 9 a.m., according to Snohomish County fire officials. But the Thrasher’s Corner house was heavily damaged.
The owners had closed on their purchase of the house just two days earlier, according to property records and online listings. The married couple and their two children stayed at the house for the first time the night before but left around 7 a.m., according to their real estate agent Ravinder Aluri with Skyline Properties in Bellevue.
“This is very shocking to us,” Aluri said.
The family previously rented in Bellevue and were first-time homebuyers preparing to finish moving in on Friday, Aluri said.
“The good thing is nobody got hurt, but emotionally and financially they are really stressed,” Aluri said.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the explosion, but believe it was a gas leak, said Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue spokesperson Peter Mongillo. “We’re all very confident it was a natural gas leak that caused an explosion, but the actual source we don’t know,” Mongillo said.
The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire and declined to comment.
Puget Sound Energy “conducted leak surveys in the area and no leaks have been identified,” spokesperson Gerald Tracy said in a statement Thursday.
“There is work in the vicinity of the house to replace a gas main. Based on what we know at this time, that work is unrelated to the incident,” Tracy said. PSE did not respond to further questions about the gas main work by publication time.
PSE is supporting those investigating the explosion, the statement said. “That process is underway and it will take time to fully understand what happened.”
While the cause of the explosion remains unclear, experts say the blast is a reminder for residents to exercise caution, particularly in homes with gas appliances.
Anyone living in a home with gas appliances should be sure they can recognize the sulfur-like smell of a gas leak. If you notice “that nasty egg smell, get out of the house and call 911,” Mongillo said. “Don’t try to locate the source yourself.”
Ensure that carbon monoxide detectors are working and get regular inspections and maintenance on gas appliances, Mongillo added.
While the cause of the Bothell explosion is still unknown, real estate experts have a word of advice for any homebuyer: Get the house inspected. State law requires home sellers to disclose any known defects with their property, but real estate attorneys say past court decisions make Washington a “buyer-beware state.”
That means that although sellers must disclose known issues, courts have also found buyers have a duty to investigate any potential issues, said Seattle real estate attorney Mike Spence. “When those duties overlap, courts have sided with the seller, if the buyer could have discovered the defect.”
In other words: “If you don’t have an inspection, you are taking a huge risk,” Spence said. Buyers should carefully read their inspection reports and investigate any issues the inspector identifies, he said.
But that protective step became much more difficult for buyers in Washington’s hot real estate market. In the face of bidding wars and limited inventory in the last few years, many Seattle-area homebuyers waived their inspections to make their offers more attractive to sellers. Some buyers instead relied on a seller’s inspection, also called a pre-inspection.
While few feel comfortable waiving an inspection on such a huge purchase, many buyers felt that was the only way to successfully secure a house at the height of the market. Now, Spence and other real estate attorneys say they’re hearing from buyers who skipped inspections and are now struggling to hold sellers responsible for issues with their new homes..
The welcome news for buyers is the Seattle-area housing market has cooled off in the last year, lessening pressure to waive inspections. But because inventory remains slim and prices remain high, some buyers are still encountering bidding wars and some are still waiving that protection.
On the flip side, legal experts advise home sellers to always disclose any issues with a home before a sale is final.
“I always just say, ‘over-disclose,’” said Scott Scher, a real estate attorney in Kirkland. For a seller, “fully disclosing essentially immunizes you from liability later.”
Lenders typically require homeowners with a mortgage to carry homeowners insurance. Those policies tend to be broad and to cover catastrophic events, Scher said.
With many unanswered questions in Bothell, there is no indication yet that further inspection could have prevented the blast.
The new owners relied on the seller’s inspection, which did not identify issues with the gas, said Aluri, their agent. The home was built in 1981 and later remodeled, according to property records and listings.
The couple that now owns the home has reported the explosion to their insurance company and is waiting to find out what happens next, Aluri said. For now, they are focused on trying to find a new place to live.
“We are still in the early stages of [determining] what we can do,” Aluri said.