Four costly issues to take seriously after the home inspection

Originally posted in The Columbus Dispatch


OK, homebuyers: You love the house, but the inspection turns up a hornets’ nest of problems — including actual hornets’ nests.

The seller has to fix the problems, right?


Sellers are under no obligation to make any repairs to a home. In today’s market in particular, where sellers hold the upper hand, owners might tell demanding potential buyers to take a hike.

Likewise, sellers are under no obligation to bring a house "up to code.” Building codes change constantly, and homes built more than a decade ago stand an excellent chance of not complying with some part of the current rules. But that doesn’t mean sellers are required to update the home.

Even though sellers are not required to make repairs, they might have an incentive to help fix a problem uncovered in an inspection because they must disclose that discovery to the buyer.

In addition, if the problem is severe enough, such as a bowed foundation or faulty electrical wiring, sellers may not be able to sell the house because the shortcomings will prevent buyers from securing financing or insurance for the house.

No matter who pays for the repairs, experts say certain problems should be addressed immediately — before buyers move in.

Here are the top four troublemakers:

Damaged foundation. A foundation is the bedrock of the house upon which everything rests.

Walk past the hairline cracks in the foundation wall. Those are a normal sign of settling. But large cracks, dramatically uneven blocks or bowed walls suggest potentially catastrophic and expensive issues.

Experts caution against moving forward on a deal until a structural engineer examines the foundation and recommends a fix.

Repairing a leak in a basement wall may be as simple as cleaning gutters to prevent water from soaking the soil outside the foundation. But repairing a bowed or seriously damaged foundation could run into tens of thousands of dollars.

"It could be very serious to repair," said Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors, a Chicago-based trade group that represents 7,700 inspectors across the nation. "The cost to repair really depends. It’s not like a furnace."

Mold. Mold is routine in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and anywhere else water is present. But large patches of mold should be remedied and diagnosed before the moving van arrives.

Mold not only leads to respiratory problems, it also means water is entering and collecting in a house. While the mold should be cleaned, the source of the mold must be addressed.

“If mold is on a tile or a hard surface, it can almost always be cleaned up with bleach and water,” Lesh said. “But in a basement, or on drywall, you can’t scrub it clean. What you see on the surface could be much worse behind the surface. ... You don’t want someone just to come in and replace the drywall; you have to find the source of the water."

Bad wiring. One of the simplest problems to spot in a home is knob-and-tube wiring, the exposed wire anchored by porcelain posts common in homes built from the 1880s to the 1930s.

Although the system can work well, inspectors recommend replacing it for several safety reasons, including the fact that the circuit isn't grounded, and the wires are sometimes covered in cloth that frays with age. Some insurers will not insure homes with knob-and-tube systems.

Do-it-yourself electrical projects can especially be red flags, experts say.

"I’ve seen electrical systems that I don’t know how they didn’t catch fire," said Dave Argabright, owner of Attic to Sidewalk Home Inspections in Pickaway County. "Everything in the world is wrong with them."

Pests. Mice and cockroaches can be dealt with. But termites, carpenter ants and powderpost beetles are another breed of problem. They can dangerously chew away on the wood that holds a home together.

Inspectors who spot signs of insect damage will frequently recommend a pest expert to more precisely identify the severity of the infestation. Before sealing the deal, buyers should know the extent of the pest damage and the cost to remedy it.

Inspectors see their jobs as simply reporting facts, not offering counsel. But when young buyers head blithely into a money pit, Argabright steps in.

"I don’t tell them to not buy or to buy the house, except on rare conditions, when I see kids with rose-colored glasses. They don’t know what they’re getting into. I try to emphasize that they will have thousands of dollars in these repairs."


Date : 8/14/2016