Real estate listing descriptions lead to rude awakening

I wish I had a dollar for every time I have read a listing description on a property that stated the home is “completely remodeled inside and out”, “everything is new from top to bottom”, “move in ready” and my personal favorite “the only thing this home needs is you”. As a home inspector, I can tell you that these statements can be very deceiving to uneducated home-buyers, particularly first timers.

Ever since the “mortgage meltdown”, there have been a plethora of foreclosed homes flooding the market. Many would be investors purchase these homes, make a few cheap and easy fixes, and then list the property with an agent who inevitably will describe the home as being a complete rehab in the listing. Potential home-buyers read these descriptions, go out and look at the home and see all of the new, bright and shiny cosmetic items and then enthusiastically write up an offer.

(Queue suspenseful music)

Then comes inspection day. This is the day that more often than not, brings everyone involved in the transaction back to reality. Most often in real estate, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. I recently performed a home inspection on a home built in 1922. The listing described the home as a “complete rehab inside and out”. One thing I should mention to watch out for in particular, are older homes sporting these descriptions. If you are looking to purchase an older home and you read a description like the ones listed above, there are some things you really need to think about.

Here in the Midwest for instance, there are a significant number of older homes with dates ranging from 1900 to 1935. Many of these homes have brick foundations. The typical life expectancy of a brick foundation is about 100 years if nothing has ever been done to it. Structural and foundation issues are the most expensive items in a home to repair. Properly repairing a failing foundation can run anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000 depending on the extent of repair needed.

Now let’s get back to my 1922 inspection. Here we had a home that was listed for $50,000 and sat in a $30,000 neighborhood. The listing description boasted how the home had just been completely rehabbed inside and out and that EVERYTHING was new. When first walking into the home, I noticed all of the new items such as flooring, kitchen cabinets, appliances, bathroom fixtures etc. Unfortunately, as I stood in the living room, I couldn’t help but notice the slope in the floor to the front corner of the home. After walking into some of the other rooms on the first floor and seeing the same slope on those floors as well, I thought it was high time to head into the basement for a closer look at the sub-structure.

(Queue suspenseful music)

Here are just a few of the items that were completely visible in the basement of this completely rehabbed inside and out home.

·Crumbling brick foundation walls on either side of the home.

·Extensive termite damage on floor joists, beams and subflooring.

·Several makeshift temporary supports holding up the termite damaged floor joists and beams. The makeshift supports were sagging under the tremendous weight of this two story home.

·The electrical was new, unfortunately it was not installed by a licensed electrician as evident by the improper wiring, open junction boxes, multiple splices in wiring, open grounds and reversed polarity outlets and somewhat hidden was the live knob and tube wiring which is a significant safety hazard.

·The plumbing was new, unfortunately it was not installed by a licensed plumber as evident by the improperly supported plumbing lines and improperly pitched waste piping which was causing sewer gasses to back up in the drains.

These were just some of the highlights found in the basement alone. Upon entering the attic of this completely rehabbed inside and out home, there was yet another list of items.

·Open electrical junction boxes.

·Multiple splices in electrical wiring.

·Live knob and tube wiring which is a significant safety hazard.

·Not one shred of insulation in between the ceiling joists.

I was wondering why it was so cold on the second floor!

This particular completely rehabbed inside and out home realistically needed somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 in repairs. Now the potential home-buyer is looking at a $75,000 home in a $30,000 neighborhood. Imagine the potential home-buyers surprise and reaction after the home inspection was completed and the information was relayed to him. Both the potential home-buyer as well as the listing agent just stared at me with jaws dropped and deer in the headlight eyes as I ran down the list of items in need of repair. Was I the bad guy? Was I the “deal killer”? Nope, I was just the messenger. The previous owner had simply slapped some lipstick on a pig and the home committed suicide.

This is far from an isolated case. We have encountered this very same scenario literally hundreds if not thousands of times over the course of the past few years. Cases like this illustrate the dire importance of having a home inspection prior to purchasing ANY home, especially older homes in which the listing description sounds a bit too good to be true. Do not be fooled by deceptive listing descriptions. Hire a licensed InterNACHI inspector to give you the real skinny on the home you are about to purchase. A few hundred bucks for a proper home inspection is well worth saving yourself thousands of dollars in repairs and trips to the doctor for high blood pressure.

Mike Chamberlain, Owner

IN. Lic# HI00700108


MC² Home Inspections LLC