Thursday, January 3, 2008

Braving the Elements

With a big winter storm heading our way, this topic seemed relevant.

Things I pay particular attention to when looking at a houses in the foothills:

1) If house is on the down slope, is there sufficient drainage so that it won't get localized flooding? 2) Is the hill the house is built on stable, or has it shifted so that the foundation needs attention? 3) Is the house built to sustain wind damage (I know the Stonebriar development south of 50 has had to do massive retrofitting due to faulty standards)?

I haven't heard much about items 1 or 2 since I have been here.

Where I grew up on the Central Coast, my grandmas driveway was on a slight down slope, and when it rained really hard, she would get flooding where here garage was. I would imagine this must happen, at least with some of the older homes here in the hills.

I have heard that in CA the sellers must disclose all this should help (they don't do it that way in VA, much to our chagrin. We found a totally rotten wall in our townhouse that the owner must have known about, caused by the neighbors drainage and soil level).


AgentBubble said...

Yes, sellers are required to disclose all "known" defects. The problem is proving the sellers were aware of a defect once you (the buyer) discover it. The Transfer Disclosure Statement and the Seller Property Questionnaire are two excellent disclosures (and quite lengthy) that do a very good job of asking the sellers a ton of questions about the home.

A different issue is REO homes that are not covered by the above disclosures. Same thing with probate sales. You'll hear the words "as is" in those sales.

Patient Renter said...

#3 was also said to have effected many homes in Serrano. I believe there was a Sac Bee article about this, perhaps a year ago - many homes with severely cracked walls, plaster/dust problems, etc.

big n rich said...

Sellers often don't disclose known defects.Their motto is prove they knew about it which can be quite difficult.It is worth the money to get a home inspection as well as pest inspection.For less than 1000.00 you gave have professional judgements.If you are not very handy the money is well spent.This is especially true w/ older homes.You can open up a can of worms sometimes.

Caveat emptor

Paul said...

Agentbubble is right on the money. Proving that the sellers knew and did not disclose. And from my personal experience, many sellers don't even attempt to disclose. (It is the nature of my work to see the worst examples. In one instance, the seller "didn't know" that someone had died in their rock grotto adjacent to the swimming pool.)

And bignrich is also right on the money. The problem is finding a qualified, competent person to do a thorough inspection. Many simply look at a check list of items they got with their $25 certification course. For example, I have seen inspectors "limitations" that state the inspector is "not responsible for finding building code violations." What on earth do they think we are hiring them to find, then? Pay more money and hire an engineer who does that kind of work. If you are only paying $300-400 for a home inspection, you are likely not paying enough to get what you want.

And the drainage issue you point out can be a very big deal. When I visit Street of Dreams and BIA home tours, I am amazed at the number of downhill driveways that have no or inadequate protection to prevent the rainwater from running right into the garage!

And visit the County office to verify that permits were taken out for all of that work the prior owner did. It is not the job of the agent or home inspector to do that, and many flippers and normal homeowners, choose to save that money and hassle.

Gwynster said...

When I was looking for a house in 99, I knew exactly who to call for an inspection. He was someone we worked with at SOCA and he would only do inspections on pre-30s houses. I spent 4 hours with him while he inspected a friends 1909 house.

I just can't for the life of me remember his name now and I may need to.

After our Xmas plumbing crisis, we're resolved to only look at homes with raised foundations. Mr. Gwynster was unimpressed with Strengs before. Now he downright loathes them.

AgentBubble said...

Prospective buyers should really pay attention to Paul's comments. Most $300 home inspectors simply follow a checklist and have never held a hammer. On the last home we were looking at in EDH, we had some concerns about cracks and white buildup (efflorescence) on the foundation, so we paid $300 just for an engineer to take a look at it. Money well spent too, and I don't regret it one bit.

Cmyst said...

"After our Xmas plumbing crisis, we're resolved to only look at homes with raised foundations. Mr. Gwynster was unimpressed with Strengs before. Now he downright loathes them."

What plumbing crisis?! Did I miss something?

Gwynster said...

LOL we had sewage coming up into the bathtubs. The Landy of course tried to tell us it was our fault. After calling out the city, 3 days, and endoscopic camera, we found the problem was roots and collapsed plumbing down near the main.

We did find out some surprising things. Instead of a Y join where the duplex sewage lines meet before going to the city lines, they used a T.

They also neglected to install a cleanout on the main. We now have one, after much grumbling and the landy paid $2k to a plumber. $2k was cheap because the landy came out on Xmas eve and dung the 9ft deep hole himself.

That's just the issues off the top of my head. Streng are pretty to look at but structurally a nightmare. A total Monet.

Homeownership is not for the weakhearted but being a landlord is not for procrastinators unless you have wads of cash.

anon1137 said...

I think the buyer should handle the entire inspection process on their own, without the involvement of any agent. Agents tend to recommend inspectors who wouldn't dream of finding anything that might scuttle the deal - they have lists of these guys. Some inspectors will eliminate the most problem-prone areas of the house from the scope of work and they usually say they can't look at it because of access - decks, attics, crawlspaces, etc. I think the truth is that they don't want to find problems or be liable for problems in these areas that they should have seen but missed - competence is an issue. They'd rather walk around the house and stick testers in outlets and turn on faucets and other safe, fast, and easy items. Also, be sure to check for permits if you can tell, or your inspector tells you, that work has been done.

The owner and listing agent get a copy of the inspection report and, even if you back out of the deal, it must be disclosed to potential buyers. So ask early on for any existing pest or other inspection reports.

Cmyst said...

There are times when having a family of plumbers comes in handy. I can't believe they didn't have a clean-out.

And on home inspections: when I paid for the inspection on my condo, the guy pointed out a lot of stuff that was very helpful and minor things that it would be better to think about fixing before they actually went wrong. I didn't fix any of them; I was just too busy, kept putting it off. When the buyers inspector came out, he didn't catch any of those things.
(I fixed them AFTER the inspection, because I had assumed I would be asked to fix them and had prepared for it.)