I recently discovered the latest in many issues we have had with our home since we purchased it a little over 3 years ago. I say ‘the latest in many’, because throughout the past 3 years we have stumbled upon or found small repair and mechanical issues. Take for instance a leak somewhere in the roof that caused moisture damage in a wall, and not anything recent but rather ongoing since before we closed the deal. Or, rot that was overlooked in the home inspection and as well as a myriad of other small issues. The most recent is a little more structural and has me a bit miffed! Our home is a log home, and one log that is a top runner, juts out beyond the fascia by about 8 inches on a corner, and looks as though it began to rot…some time ago by the looks of all of the caulking and silicone used on the top of it! The rot has spread about 3 feet into the log now. That is, 3 feet that I can tell just by looking at it! I also discovered another small area of log, near the water damaged wall in fact, that looks like it has been plagued with moisture for quit some time. I am praying that it stayed within that small area and has not spread into the log below it, as I am trying to figure out the best way to surgically remove the cancer area and replace it with a new log section.
Now I am not trying to justify or make excuses, but when we purchased this home in Alaska, we were in the middle of the sale of our cabin in the lower 48, trying to pack to move, and of course being about 3000 miles away from the new purchase. Fact is, I wish I would have been able to fly up during the home inspection. But since I couldn’t due to unmitigated circumstances, I trusted my Realtor to be on top of it. What I have learned, is that nobody but “you” should be on top of the condition of your new home during inspection and the purchasing process! Trust is a valiant emotion but quite possibly one to be left for situations other than a home purchase. Not to say that I may have been able to pin all of these issues myself had I been there during, before, or after the inspection, because frankly, I probably would have missed some of them due to their locations and or being masked…much in the same way the inspector did. Which leads into another subject that irks me.
When we purchased our cabin in California many years ago, we were renting it for a couple of years before we were offered the chance to buy it from the owners. So, we knew it pretty much inside and out! A huge plus to pre-living in your purchase! But when you are 3000 miles away from a home you are buying, and unable to know it like your own, you have to trust the people that are looking out for your interest, and even more so, trust the present owner to disclose any issues they know of, such as water damage due to a leak, or rot that they attempted to mask themselves. I remember when I was at the table in the cabin doing our disclosure papers with our Realtor, it was only natural to me to be honest, coupled with the encouragement to do so by law! Mind you, there was nothing to disclose really. One small problem with the electrical panel that had occurred some time back as the result of the utility company blowing a transformer, and they had resolved that at their expense. But other than that, we had renovated, updated, and repaired our cabin in the years we owned it and the new buyers had a gem, ready to go!
Forward to the Alaska home. From day one we spent the first summer and into the winter initiating and bringing online and repairing basic and essential services such as the water system. Mind you, the requirements for home inspection in Alaska are far less than say California, and they do differ from state to state. There wasn’t a lot of emphasis on water systems, only the depth of the well and it’s proximity to the septic tank and leach fields. As it was, our flow rate was minuscule yet passed as acceptable. Ironically, we discovered this past spring when we sunk a new well, that the flow rate of the old one was hampered by a dysfunction in the piping, caused by the earlier replacement of the pump! Did the home inspector do his job? Well, he could have done a lot better than he did and although he did cover most of the requirements, it is my opinion and that opinion has been verified, off the record, by other sources that he was out to make his buck that day and move on! This is his style. So, we were left with a lot of chores, as I said some that had nothing to do with the home inspection, but rather the honesty and disclosure of the old owner. They knew a lot and said little!
We were told that we could take this to court, but this is not us, and we didn’t feel that it was worth the effort much less absolutely necessary. Although, every time I have found a new problem that someone must have known about, and there have been a few, it does anger me. The fortunate thing for us is that I have and continue to do all the repairs, as things get renovated around the house and/or according to priority. This fact alone saved us a lot of money in hiring someone qualified to do repairs. Bedsides, there is a kind of romance in able to have my hands on my own home and make it the way I know it should be. If I had to spend thousands of dollars to do so my attitude would be much different! Thankfully, this hasn’t been the case. When we look at the charm and structure of the home itself, the location and privacy on the acreage we have, these things are small prices to pay for the happiness we have acquired!
But if anything was to be learned from this experience, it is this:
- Be as active and involved in the purchase of your newbeing home as you can. Even if it means taking more time of the home inspector as he wants to spend. It is your investment, and he and other qualified people are being paid by you or the seller to work on behalf of your interest.
- When it comes to disclosure, you can only ‘trust’ that the seller is being open and honest. Ask questions of your Realtor if anything at all concerns you. She/he should discuss any concerns with the selling agent, and open dialogue could possibly bring out the truth of the matter.
- Don’t be hesitant to talk to professionals whether or not they are directly involved with the sale. Sometimes, a person with knowledge of say, a log home for example, can give you valuable advice or insight on what you need to know or look for in regards to maintenance and structural soundness where you may have walked in blind if you had not researched.
- Don’t hesitate to stand firm on your grounds of conditions and vested interest in the purchase agreement. Even if it means putting the pressure to the seller! Remember, they stand to lose a sale if they falter or go back in any way of their responsibilities and obligations. If the house is truly meant to be yours, it will be regardless of playing a little hardball where necessary.
- Never forgo the final walk-through with your agent. It is your right, your responsibility, and your investment! The seller, in our case, actually tried to bully us out of it! Make a list for yourself between you and your spouses concerns or questions for the final walk through and be thorough. Mind you, most of any issues should have already been addressed at this point, but in the case for example of living out of state, most especially make sure your bottom line has been covered.
Most home sales seem to go off without any hitches, and most states have pretty good and astringent laws to make sure the buyer is protected. But your home is the biggest purchase you will ever make, and the most important. It is after all your investment and you will be living in it for a very long time!
For an honest no bars held look into reality in my world, stop in to my personal log of life, http://www.kenaialaskaorbust.blogspot.com