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Old 01-23-2012, 11:11 PM   #16
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How to avoid surprises when buying a house


Great post - and great follow-up comments, everybody. And I've got a minor horror story I want to share with everyone.

My wife and I are currently living a home (2nd floor of a triple decker condo in Eastern MA) that is our second purchase, and boy have we learned a lot. First off, we had a terrific home inspector (if anyone needs the name of a hyper-detailed and conservative home inspector in the Boston area, let me know) who highlighted some not-so-terrific red flags. They weren't enough for us to not buy the home, but a red flag is a red flag. In hindsight, we shouldn't have bought the place.

In the 8+ months that we've lived here, we've uncovered a lot of shortcuts that were taken when the unit was redone some years ago. The guy who did it was a carpenter by trade, and really did some lovely woodwork in the place, enough to really up the value of the home and enough to make us put in an offer almost immediately, but he also did a lot of unpermitted work himself, which we're paying through the nose to repair.

We've found: outlet boxes that are coming out of the wall, illegal plumbing under sinks, and major problems with the vent stack in the bathroom.

The worst part is just too crazy: last summer, our neighbor below us was complaining that we were leaking from our bathroom. After some detective work by the plumbers, we decided that we needed to open up the wood-covered hot tub (a red flag was that the inspector couldn't open up the tub to look at the fixtures!), and see underneath the shower. When we finally did, we uncovered a slew of problems that were not visible to the inspector, and if we had, we wouldn't have bought the place. SO... an incorrect vent stack was used and was not placed high enough, tubing from the shower and bath were too skinny, and, to take the cake - there was no copper pan under the walk-in shower! So water was literally seeping through the grouting and through the joists under the shower and through our neighbor's ceiling. It was jaw-droppingly awful. Overall we ended up paying 5k to get the shower tiles taken apart from the waist below just so a copper pan could be put in place, mudded, and tiled up again.

Lesson: if it looks like some things are hard for the inspector to get to, it may be because some scary things are hidden. Watch those red flags - don't let your feelings for a new house get in the way of common sense!

We're renting next time...

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Old 07-15-2012, 07:43 PM   #17
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How to avoid surprises when buying a house


Here's another good tip. If you are going it alone (without an inspector - which I don't recommend), take a nail set or a moisture meter tester with you when you do the first walk-through of the property (before you even offer). When you look in the bathroom, finished basement, and the kitchen, carefully push the nail set or the tester in a questionable area to detect a possible moisture issue. Solid drywall should not crumble or be soft. If you find soft areas especially in a basement remodel (red-flag), the work was probably done wrong.

You don't have to be a negative Nancy with your realtor, but there is nothing wrong with being thorough before you make an offer. Save some inspection money up front by doing a pre-inspection. Don't rely on the inspector to root out every problem. If you find a solid contender that you want to make an offer on, then definitely line up your inspector. Know what to look for.

Basements: Moisture, mold, window egress rot, framing and foundation issues.
Attics: Insulation, water leaks, roof issues (how many layers?), water heaters, ducts, air flow for heating
Kitchens: GFCIs, dishwasher drains, crappy remodels (permit issues).
Bathrooms: same as kitchens (permit issues), moisture, mold, venting fan (decibel level and recycling ability)

If the house is advertised as completely re-modeled, be wary of flippers. Go over every inch of the remodel and get the permit approval copies.

Just a few tips from a person who watches a lot of Holmes on Homes and Holmes Inspection.
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Old 07-17-2012, 07:05 AM   #18
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How to avoid surprises when buying a house


Great piece of advice shadytrake and very useful thread as a whole. People should know where to look when buying a house, doing your homework really matters.
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:15 AM   #19
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How to avoid surprises when buying a house


Buyer Beware! Knowing someone that took, passed and became a home inspector, I am not going to spend my money on one! This person while well meaning, and a good person knows nothing about homes. But they are a licensed home inspector.

Moving to FL I do not know anything about Concrete Block Stucco construction, so I asked a real estate agent acquaintance to recommend an inspector. He told me while he always recommends an inspection, to his buyers, he never pays for one for property he is buying as it is a waste of money!

I am sure there are competent inspectors out there, but just because they are licensed does not mean they know anything!

In the meantime I met a contractor who seems competent, he is also a long term Florida resident, so I paid him to go over a house for me. I feel much better about our (I did it with him) inspection than some yahoo that took a 90 day inspector course!

So how does one find a knowledgeable competent inspector? JIm
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Old 03-31-2014, 02:22 AM   #20
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This is great! Being in the process of searching for my first home, it gave me the idea to find a home inspection checklist to take with me on my visits to houses prior to a home inspector. I'm not certified but it will help me understand what I should look for and notice things I normally overlooked but someone else has pointed out. Thanks! Keep it going, any tips for a first time buyer are welcomed!


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Old 03-31-2014, 07:48 AM   #21
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Finding a competent inspector is difficult. I bought a 25 year old house last year with the original roof on it. The owner has an inspection report that says the roof has three years life left in it. I can see water stains in the attic and holes in the roof! I am in the attic and I can see daylight through the roof.

But he has an inspection report that says the roof has 3 years left and does not want to negotiate. I did not want to pay for an inspection, but I need an licensed inspector to say the roof has holes in it.

I found a decent inspector through my insurance agent. In FL agents deal with many inspectors and may be able to guide you to a good one??

Question the inspector and make sure they have a construction back ground.
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Old 03-31-2014, 11:03 AM   #22
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Thanks. My realtor happens to be a family friend, which means the trust level is higher with them than someone else. I'm going to see who she recommends but I'll also do my own research into the inspector.


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Old 04-10-2014, 08:30 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by gmwilkes View Post
This is great! Being in the process of searching for my first home, it gave me the idea to find a home inspection checklist to take with me on my visits to houses prior to a home inspector. I'm not certified but it will help me understand what I should look for and notice things I normally overlooked but someone else has pointed out. Thanks! Keep it going, any tips for a first time buyer are welcomed!
Excellent idea. I'm in the same boat and an inspection checklist is definitely getting made after reading this thread.
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Old 05-05-2014, 10:09 AM   #24
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I avoid any house that has had an addition, most of the time they arent of the same quality as the rest of the house.

Also beware of a closed in porch, rarely do they ever seem insulated properly costing $$$ in hvac bills.
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Old 05-05-2014, 10:31 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by FlyingHammer View Post
It's also a good idea to talk to a few neighbors, either before or after the inspection, to see what they'll tell you about the house. This is probably the fastest/easiest way to learn about any problems with the house or neighborhood.

Good luck.
Flying...... Excellent advice to newbies, as to the practical and real world operation of Home Inspections......

And I highlight your last point....

(I trade/rehab/flip and always go to introduce myself to neighbors and just tell them the truth that I'm looking at the property next door/accross the street, wonder how they like the neighborhood etc.

Most people are most accomadating and forthcoming.

Besides potential structural issues, you often find out valuable negotiating related information relative to the seller.

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Old 05-05-2014, 10:47 AM   #26
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How to avoid surprises when buying a house


I would just reinforce the previous advice for a non-informed buyer to really check out your inspector before hiring him/her.

I don't use one, but my wife is a RE agent, and I respond to many inspection reports on behalf of both her buyers and her sellers.

Unquestionably, the quality of inspectors varies dramatically in our area.
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Old 05-10-2014, 05:16 PM   #27
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Very helpful thread. I am compiling a list of things to personally check, and I now plan to be involved in the inspection.

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Old 05-10-2014, 07:24 PM   #28
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I am a remodeling contractor--I frequently inspect homes for my regular customers.

I am not a 'home inspector'--but I can inspect the 'bones' of a house in short order.

This process saves the customer from falling in love with a house with structural or major system failures---if they want to move further --then they can hire an inspector----

I've looked at three in the last month for one of my regulars
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Old 05-11-2014, 02:12 AM   #29
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What are some of the worst things you've found Mike?
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Old 05-11-2014, 08:27 AM   #30
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I start at the bottom---if the foundation is in trouble--that is a deal killer---

Then I look for grading issues---all to often the earth has been piled up against the siding or brick---that leads to termite damage and rotten sills---

Also ,I look for sagging and settling of the center beam---that is another very expensive problem---

From there I go up---look for water damage from bad windows and roofing/siding--another very expensive mess---

I look at how the structure was built--stick built? Truss roof? Floor joist type and span?

Was this a high quality home when erected or a cheap structure?

Then I check out the mechanical----age and condition of the plumbing/electrical--

I look for the deal killers---things easily replaced like furnaces and appliances--floor coverings and trim? I don't look at to carefully---

A good friend just bought a 90 year old place and did not want impose on my friendship---She had the home inspected---but did not mention that she planned on some structural changes---

Disturbing the old plumbing and electrical lead to my repiping and rewiring the entire house---She has a nice place now---but the budget she had in mind went right out of the window----

I am leaving the shop in a few minutes to install the kitchen cabinets at her place.

She has a nice home now---and I would have given her a thumps up on the place if I had seen it before the purchace---but she would have known about the mechanical problems and costs before she owned it----Mike---

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