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Old 07-25-2005, 02:44 PM   #1
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Need advice...rotten floor joists on house I'm buying

Hi all,
I have a 90 year old house under contract. The inspection showed that 75% of the joists underneath the house showed significant wood rot. The inspector said that the problem was moisture, that there is inadequate ventilation and a wet environment (coastal region). He gave the seller a ball park figure of $25-30K to fix it. We are in the process of getting estimates now for the work.

I am concerned that even if the seller has the work done and we proceed to closing, it will just reoccur over a span of many years. Also, don't they have to jack the house up off of the foundation, remove flooring, etc? I am worried that the house will not withstand the repairs, given the age of it. It has plaster walls. Won't they crack?

Like I said, it is under contract so I am really obligated to buy it if the seller agrees to do the repairs. I am worried that this will come back to haunt me in the long run. I am pretty handy with painting and minor repairs around the house, but I really know nothing about this structural stuff. Is this not such a big deal, or should I try my best to get out of this contract?

Thanks in advance,
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Old 07-25-2005, 05:40 PM   #2
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75% of the joists are rotten I would walk away. You should not be under any obligation to buy a property when things like this show up in a home inspection. This is the reason you get home inspections.
Good luck. and Keep looking.
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Old 07-25-2005, 06:08 PM   #3
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MinConst is right WALK AWAY NOW!! While this problem can be resolved, I assure you that it will cost more than $30K.

I do historic renovation & restoration for a living and I have replaced quite a few rotten flooring joist systems. It averages between $40K and $60K for a job like that, "done properly" that is. If it is not done properly then you will have the same problem re-occur down the's not worth it!! If the house has hardwood floors it will cost more and the flooring may be rotting as well? Since the joists are.

And no you are not under any obligation to buy the house when a problem like that shows up, you have the right to back out of the deal and your realtor should advise you of this if they are worth their salt as an agent!?!

Last edited by CarpenterDon; 07-25-2005 at 06:13 PM.
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Old 07-25-2005, 06:47 PM   #4
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Was the repair in your counter offer?

Last edited by Humble Abode; 07-25-2005 at 06:51 PM.
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Old 07-26-2005, 11:44 AM   #5
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If the contract was written properly, you should have the right to walk away regardless of whether or not the seller agrees to make the fix. If not, and you ARE obligated, your liability only goes as far as the deposit you put down with your offer. If it was small, it would still be better to lose a little bit now than to be saddled with a lifetime of nightmare repairs - plus you could probably recoup your loss from the incompetent realtor.
If you love the house and absolutely must have it, make sure the new contract requires full repair of not just the joists, but also the moisture problems that caused the rotten joists in the first place, and any incidental damage (cracked plaster, etc) caused by the repairs. In addition, make provisions for periodic inspections by your own inspector to make sure the job is done right.

If the Seller chooses not to fix it, but instead offers an "allowance" of 30k for example, then you probably want to walk away.
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Old 08-01-2005, 09:14 PM   #6
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Most standard real estate contracts predicate the sale on the house passing inspection. Unless your agent has lived in a cave his or her whole life, the agreement to purchase is automatically invalidated by the failed inspection.

I'm not a pro craftsman like many of the people here, but I do have some experience buying and selling old (80-150 y.o.) homes in New Orleans. In addition to the concerns that the posters before me raised, I would be concerned that the previous owner's failure to notice and address the floor joist problem indicates a pattern of ignorance and/or neglect on his part, and I would be concerned that I would uncover one neglected major problem after another as I began to address what should be minor upkeep and repair issues that homes of this age commonly have.

The craftsmen here may disagree, because it's true that a moisture problem in the crawlspace does not imply a moisture problem in the bathroom wall, window sill, etc. However, for the owner not to notice or care that his floor was rotting out, you have to assume that he probably allowed many other minor issues grow into major problems over the lifespan of the house.

I learned this lesson the hard way!
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