After months of looking, you’ve finally found your dream home, completed the requisite inspection, signed on the dotted line at the closing and have officially moved in. Phew! But now that you’re starting to decorate, you begin to notice some ... interesting home features. Whether you’re discovering a patchwork paint job, tiles stuck haphazardly to the bathroom wall with Super Glue or a dangerous electrical fix, it suddenly occurs to you how much it’s going to cost to undo a bad DIY project done by the previous owner.
This scenario can be easily avoided by learning to detect telltale signs of botched DIY home improvements before you buy. Here are a few things to keep in mind so you and your family can feel comfortable and content in your new home.
Pay attention to four key areas
A home inspector’s report will focus on maintenance recommendations, life expectancies for various systems and components and minor imperfections, notes Nick Gromicko, executive director at Master Inspector Certification Board, which certifies home inspectors. While this is all useful information, the issues that really matter will fall into four categories:
- Major defects, such as a structural failure;
- Situations that may lead to major defects, such as a small roof-flashing leak;
- Factors that may hinder your ability to finance, legally occupy or insure the home;
- Safety hazards, such as exposed connections at the electrical panel.
If your home inspector calls attention to any of these things during the home buying process, make sure you ask him or her to provide a thorough explanation. As a potential homeowner, it’s important to understand your choices when confronted with one (or all) of these scenarios.
One option is asking the seller to hire a professional to fix it. Another option is to negotiate a credit at closing with the seller so that you can afford to fix it. “The third option is to walk from the deal,” Gromicko says. While not ideal, that option is worth considering if you are looking at repairs that will be very costly or could impact your insurance rates.
Get a second opinion
If it turns out your home inspector failed to catch these unorthodox fixes, consider bringing in a general contractor to survey the situation and make recommendations.
“The projects that go awry the most often are the ones that incorporate more than one skill set,” says Gromicko. For instance, a bathroom remodel requires a plumber, a tile setter and an electrician. Most homeowners can’t integrate these skills, he says. Hiring a general contractor can help you spot hidden repairs gone awry.
After you’ve settled in
You might think you have no recourse if you discover a problem after the closing – not so. Each state has a list of known issues sellers must disclose. You can usually get it from your state department of real estate or your mortgage broker. Common issues that must be disclosed are lead-based paint, roof leaks, foundation cracks and sinking. If you think the sellers were less than forthright about such issues, it may be worthwhile to get advice from an attorney.