Water is Your Worst Enemy

How To Check a House For Water Problems

water on stairs and building.jpg

 

Earlier this summer, I was with my client on a home inspection. The home was a Baltimore rowhouse on Federal Hill, built in 1900. After discovering that three of the four walls of the house were wet and there was mold in the crawlspace under the kitchen, my client voided the contract. 

The sellers said they were not aware of water issues in the basement and offered a home warranty to the buyer.

However, no home warranty could fix this problem. The moisture in the basement walls had been there long enough to buckle the drywall. The linoleum flooring was peeling up in the corners. And where there was wall-to-wall carpeting, it felt damp to the touch.

We used the walk away option in the home inspection addendum and the home inspector did not charge my clients.

I hope the sellers used the information in the home inspection report to address the serious water issues but we will never know for sure. I did notice the house was back on the market just a few days after we voided our contract. This is one of the main reasons why we, almost always advise our clients to use a home inspection addendum in their offer. In rare occasions, when there is competition for a good condition condominium, we will recommend waiving the home inspection contingency but we still recommend having one for informational purposes.

We will never know if they corrected the water intrusion problem because we walked away from the deal. 

On a home inspection this week, the inspector used a moisture meter on the back wall of the house. The meter turned yellow indicating that some moisture was present. We walked outside to check the grading against the back wall and sure enough, it wasn't done properly. With this property, my client decided to stay in the deal. He plans to properly grade the yard and caulk around the windows to keep moisture out of the home. 

What should you look for while touring houses?

low area next to house.jpg
  • Look at the soil around the base of the house. 

  • You want to see grading that moves water away, not toward the exterior walls.

  • Are there low areas next to the exterior walls like in the picture above? If so, the area needs to be filled with dirt and graded so it slopes away from the house.

  • Are the downspouts directing water away from the home? 

  • If there is a patio or concrete walkway next to an exterior wall, is the seam properly caulked? Anywhere there is a crack or open area between concrete and an exterior wall, there is an opportunity for water intrusion. 

  • Look at the roof. Are the shingles curled? If so, the roof may be old and near the end of its useful life. 

  • Is there a sump pump in the basement? This is good since the pump works to move water from under the house to the outside. 

  • Check under the stairs in the basement. Look for any original or older wood to see if water has wicked up from the floor. 

  • How does the house smell? Moisture has a distinct smell so pay close attention to what your nose is telling you! 

  • Look up! Check the ceilings in every room to see if there are water stains or recent patching.

Beware of flipped properties!

The bad flips always update the kitchen and bathrooms and ignore the HVAC, roof, water heater and electrical panel.

In other words, some flippers focus on what catches a buyers eye. They’ll install granite countertops in the kitchen, subway tile in the bathroom and leave the old HVAC, roof and water heater. In many older homes, flippers will leave the old 100 amp electrical system and opt to save money not installing a heavy up for the house. A heavy up increases the amperage coming into the house at the service panel or electrical box. This means the electrical system in the house can handle the needs of current homeowners today.

Condo or Co-op, what's the difference?

N.W. Washington D.C. view from the roof of a co-op.

N.W. Washington D.C. view from the roof of a co-op.

Condominiums and Cooperatives are different types of ownership. A condominium is a building or complex of individually owned units.

A condominium is owned outright with the owners sharing ownership of common areas like hallways, entryways, and rooftops. 

 

A co-op is a legal entity usually a corporation or cooperative which owns real estate. The corporation is membership based and each member or shareholder is granted the right to own one housing unit. Monthly payments to the co-op are used to pay taxes, in addition to paying other building expenses. In addition, shareholders have elected representatives who screen and select new applicants to the cooperative. 

 Co-op's are very different type of ownership as compared to owning a single family home, townhouse or condo. 

With condo's and co-op's, buyers should check the rules and regulations. 

  1. Are pets allowed? If so, is there a size limit or are only cats allowed and not dogs?
  2. What are the rules regarding remodeling the co-op or condo?
  3. Can you rent out your condo or co-op?
  4. What are the monthly condo or co-op fees and what is covered? 
Cooperatively Speaking, written by Edmund J Flynn Company based in Washington D.C., is a 28 page book. It's an excellent go-to manual on housing cooperatives. This page is a side by side comparison of condo's and co-ops. 

When searching for a condo or co-op in Washington D.C., remember you have a period of 3 business days to review the condo or co-op documents.

These "docs" give a description of the rules and bylaws, the budget, which is very important to review, minutes from previous meetings and a description of special assessments.

As a buyer, you will want to carefully review these documents because you will be buying into this living situation. When you buy a condo you share the maintenance expenses for common areas. When you buy a co-op, you are buying into a community that shares the entire buildings operations. 

Links for more information

Search for a home with Buyer's Edge

Co-op D.C. 

National Association of Housing Cooperatives

Inspection of a Crawlspace

A home inspection is a vital part of the home buying process. We recommend several home inspectors who are licensed, experienced and highly qualified but remember it's always the home buyers choice. 

Last summer, one of our buyers hired a home inspector we didn't know. The inspector, Glenford Blanc, is with Pro-Spex. We were impressed by Glen's knowledge about homes. He patiently answered all of our buyers questions and showed him what was right and wrong with the home. He also uses a drone during home inspections when roofs are too steep to climb.  Pro-Spex made our "cut" and the company, which employs about 8 home inspectors, is now on our preferred home inspectors list. We also recommend Jeff Pearce with The Pearce Group who is licensed in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. In addition to being a licensed home inspector, Jeff has a background in HVAC installation. 

Bobby Mayberry owns RPM Home Inspect. He is licensed in Washington D.C. and Virginia. Bobby stars in our video titled, "Inspection of a Crawlspace" 

Marshall and I enjoy working with Bobby because he goes through the house with our home buyers explaining how everything works. He encourages buyers to ask questions and like our other preferred home inspectors, he provides a detailed home inspection report. If you are buying a home in the Greater Washington D.C area, consider working with exclusive buyer agents with Buyer's Edge. We are licensed in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. and advocate for home buyers through the entire home buying process. 

Bobby Mayberry with RPM inspecting a crawlspace. He recommends conditioning crawlspaces. If you DIY $500 If you hire someone to do the work $1500 a $2000 Buyer's Edge 4849 Rugby Avenue Bethesda, MD 20814 301.657.1475 or 301.922.1677

Thank you for watching our video on the inspection of a crawlspace. Watch other videos on our YouTube Channel and have a great day!