Would You Buy This House?

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I live in an economically depressed area of the NE US where a decent old six-room home averages 80K and up.
I found a very old but apparently well-maintained FSBO bungalow-style home that literally can't be inspected by a home inspector. There are several reasons for this.
1) The kitchen, bath, and laundry room are in the cellar. This is because the (large) lot the bungalow is on is on a hillside. The "upper" story is actually the story with the door and mailbox that face the street. On the lower floor, new tile flooring, a new (raised) bath, and inexpensive berber carpet on the (raised) dining area make it impossible to see the subflooring and/or concrete and/or stone this major part of the living area rests on.
2) The square footage of the home is so small that the upper story (or street-level floor) has no access at all to the crawl-space attic. The roof is not architectural but shows no stain, and there are new vinyl soffits and gutters.
3) The interior of the home is entirely clad in cheapo composite panelling. I asked the seller if a pest or home-inspector would be allowed to remove a piece of the panelling in an unobtrusive part of the home, perhaps the laundry room in the crevice at the front of the lower/cellar. He said no.
4) The breaker box is 25 years old--an I.T.E. I noticed what seemed an unusual amount of outlets for a home this size and this age. There were all grounded, but the wiring is all hidden behind the panelling and/or dropped ceilings.
5) This FSBO seller does not realize that I know he owns a major strip mall in a well-trafficked, high-income area. He also does not know that I'm aware he's affluent. He will not give me his home address, but because our local newspaper makes public the property tax records for the county (something I think is an invitation to disaster in the wrong hands, BTW), through a little sleuthing I was able to find out who "(Blank) + (Blank) Realty" really is.

for 48K, laid the berber carpet, redid the bathroom, and is selling it for a price in the low 60s.
The neighbor has told me about past owners and has assured me the home was always well-maintained. I am always suspicious though of homes were the seller or realtor stresses "newly painted" and "new carpet," as these are the cheapest, easiest fixes.
Well, thank you for reading this. The seller is almost strangely reluctant to continue with the sale, having twice cancelled scheduled "pre-sales-agreement" walk-throughs by my electrician.
I have concentrated on the questionable or negative aspects of this property, and I'm not sure they are questionable or negative at all. I don't intend to offer what he's asking, but the size of the lot alone would make the property desirable; and as far as depressed communities in my region are concerned, this community is among the most desirable because of a county community college.
Again, thanks for reading and maybe posting your thoughts.
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I've only bought two houses in my life, and based only on that, I'm not sure removing pieces of paneling is something that's normally done as part of an inspection, unless you've got a very cooperative seller. There are some mysteries you just have to discover after you've bought a house.
BUT: If this seller won't even keep an appointment with your electrician, I'd be suspicious, or at least prepared to bargain very heavily. Ask the electrician this question: "If this were YOUR house, and you had plenty of time & extra money to rip out everything & start from scratch, what would you do here? And, what would that job be worth if you were doing it for me?" Subtract that from the selling price.
Pay a roofer to at least climb up top and check out the shingles.
Measure the rooms (including ceiling height) where you think there might be trouble with the walls. Call a contractor and ask "If I tore the walls out down to the beams, what would it cost to sheetrock the room, assuming no unusual problems?" Subtract that from the selling price.
Explain to all these people why you're asking, so they don't think you're wasting their time.
If the seller balks at all this, tell him to start cooperating like the vast majority of normal humans who are selling their homes. He's playing hardball, so there's no reason not to say "Ya know, this is my mistake. You're just sort of showing the house. I thought you wanted to sell it. Let me know when that's the case". All of this assumes that there's something about the house or the location that's got you hooked. If not, move on.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Doesn't matter what the reasons are -- that's reason enough to walk away. [snip]

More reason to walk away. [snip]

Gee, do you think the seller is afraid the electrician won't like what he sees?
Do you *really* need anyone else's opinions on whether this is a good idea?
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
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seems like you already know that this is a bad deal, or you wouldn't be asking here, right? I agree with the two Dougs posting above me: unless there is some sort of hidden appeal to this property, find something else. This house is being "flipped" by a guy who makes money by buying up foreclosed property, putting in new carpets and paint and selling it for profit. To add to matters, what you describe is a somewhat unconventional design and may be hard to resell in the future. The things you describe by themselves aren't dealbreakers, but taken together with the seller's shady behavior - move on and let this guy find another sucker.
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"I found a very old but apparently well-maintained FSBO bungalow-style home that literally can't be inspected by a home inspector. There are several reasons for this. "
In everything I've read, I can't understand this. Regardless of how the house is put together, you certainly can have a home inspector do an inspection. Depending on the construction, he won't be able to see everything, but they never can anyway. Some houses they can see more than others, but that isn't a reason for not getting it inspected by a good home inspector. Certainly he can evaluate the roof, gutters, heating system, siding, grading, electric system, etc. Then you'll be in a better position.
Without seeing this, knowing the area, etc, it's impossible to give an opinion. Some are saying it's a bad deal. But if it's going in the 60s and similar houses cost 80K+, that gives you a lot of discount. Plus, you can't get much for that price hardly anywhere today. And it depends what your objectives are. Rent it out, fix it up and resell, live in it, etc.
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Doug Miller's right about Doug Kanter being right. Run away! Tom
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Or, bargain like a lunatic. Time sometimes has value to sellers. Drag it out...drag it out....
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If you cant inspect it, walk.
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Doug, Doug, and Non-Dougs: Thanks for the input. I particularly liked the Gee, I Made a Mistake line of reasoning and will memorize it.
Our family attorney often says that instead of paying a home inspector, it's a better idea to do exactly what one of "yooz" said--get individual experts at whatever may need renovation, and get an estimate.
Thanks again, very much.
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My home inspector totally missed the fact that part of my kitchen was built over a crawl space instead of the basement. So, while pointing out minor little things that would make the house warmer, they forgot the one big thing - I can keep a case of beer on my dining area floor in the winter and it'll be at perfect drinking temperature. I pointed this out to them (two of them!) and they sorta blushed. They still spotted some worthwhile things, but inspectors are not the be-all and end-all of resources.
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On Thu, 16 Mar 2006 14:48:11 GMT, "Doug Kanter"

That gives you a real price, and puts you ahead on time if you do buy it.
But if you start calling experts for parts of the house that are fine, they'll stop coming out.

And termite inspectors only inspect what they can see (no removing of panelling) This house only has one room that is unfinished, so what if the termites had been in the other room?
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Not if you pay them for coming out. This happens all the time when smart house shoppers have heating contractors check out furnaces & AC equipment as part of the inspection process. Other trades will do the same.
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On Fri, 17 Mar 2006 11:59:25 GMT, "Doug Kanter"

thought she was only talking about calling for things that clearly needed repairs. Although I guess even then, if they know the person doesn't own the house yet, they want to be paid. Seems fair. If the person actually bought the house and called them for the repair, they might apply the money previously paid.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

This is incredibly bad advice. Suppose the house doesn't need renovation or only the kitchen does? Following this logic, you would have no inspection or bring in a kitchen renovation company. What is that going to tell you about the foundation, drainage, roof, electric system, plumbing, furnace, etc? A good home inspector has the ability to inspect everything. He may identify some areas where you then want to bring in another expert, say for a foundation issue. But for the average homebuyer to skip an inspection or only look at areas that you think need renovation is a very big mistake.
Plus, in many cases the inspection is free, because the inspector will find more wrong than the cost of the inspection. With the report in hand, you can usually get the seller to negotiate more than enough off the price to pay for the inspection. Anyone selling a house pretty much expects this.
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I wouldn't encourage you to buy a house you are not sure of, and certainly not one you "can't" have inspected. But... you seem to be a bit picky here:

In other words, the house has a unique design. So? Do you like it or not like it? Is it a good design, or will it just be annoying and hard to resell?

I don't know what kind of house you want to buy that you will be able to see what is beneath the flooring. Do you expect a sell to tear up the floor so you can see the concrete or subfloor?

So? Many houses have no access to the attic. Is this a problem for you? Did you want a bigger attic so you can store things up there? If so, then this must not be the right house for you.

This description fits about three quarters of the houses in this state. You seem to be looking for something else though...

And I take it you want a house that doesn't have cheapo composite panelling, right? For 50K I can't image you are going to get much better though.

If I were the seller, I would say no too. Tearing up the walls is not part of the home selling process.

Again, completely normal. Most houses are >25 years old, and few will get a new breaker box ever, or at least not in the first 40 years or so.

I don't know anything about I.T.E. But you apparently don't want a house with and I.T.E. box.

So the house has a good number of correctly installed outlets. But you wanted fewer outlets. Or maybe ungrounded ones?

... and you must have had your heart set on exposed wiring.

So? How does the sellers income, lifestyle, or occupation affect the house? Are you trying to say he doesn't deserve a fair price?

I wouldn't either. Why should he until you make an offer or start negotiating?

And unless there is something shady about who "(Blank) + (Blank)" really is, what is the problem? Are you buying from the mob? Was it "really" owned by someone of an ethnicity or religion you don't want to be associated with? When I bought, I certainly didn't ask the sellers for a home address (they had already moved out), and didn't ask for their realators home address either. And when I did a little sleuthing, I found out who "(Blank) + (Blank) Realty" really was: a company that sells and buys houses, owned by some people that live in a nearby city. So what?

Which seems like reasonable fair thing to do. Put a few thousand in materials and labor, plus time and risk, and ask about 10k more than you purchased it. In fact, sounds downright entreprenurial.

And you were hoping for...?

I can tell.

I would be too, especially since "the sale" doesn't exist and won't exist until you make an offer and begin negotiating.

How many walk-throughs have you had? And why did you schedule a walk-through for an electrician, but not a home inspector?

Yes you have, an no they are not.

Desirable in what sort of way? You want a big house with ordinary layout, exposed wiring, architectural shingles, no flooring, a few ungrounded outlets, and previous owners that didn't maintain the place. So this house isn't for you. I might like it myself, it sounds pretty good for the price.
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I would agree with Trad, get home inspection. It is not reasonable, in my view, to expect major discounts for features which you may not like, ie paneling. Only for things which are clearly violations, eg wiring that is actually non compliant. You would need lawyer to make sure title, etc are in order. You can bargain, certainly look at other houses. Then decide.
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Thanks Kevin! I enjoyed your interpretation. :)
Brigitte

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On 16 Mar 2006 04:49:14 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:
<snip>

I buy and sell a house or two a year, I'm a contractor by trade with all the advantages in buying materials and labour that implies, and I would see what you describe as bulldozer bait.
If the lot is exceptional, and if you have the money and contacts, buy it for lot value alone. Then you can either gut it and start over with a decent design ... or bulldoze it down and build new. Talk to your banker and think very carefully about what you could be letting yourself in for..
For most people, a house is the single largest investment they make ... they have neither the time nor the abilities to renovate or build ... the house has to be right.
Sometimes, it is very difficult to walk away from a great location or a wonderful lot ... but if the price isn't right ... or if the house is dead wrong ...
Ken
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snipped-for-privacy@nospam.tnx wrote:

First, thanks for all the input, but particularly to Ken. All the suffering caused by purchasing a home with rose-colored glasses--whether it's a shack for 30K or a million-dollar mansion-- Well, all you have to do is see the shiny happy middle-aged-and-older folks chained to Home Depot or Lowe's on the first nice spring weekend.
I didn't make the post to sound picayune, as a few of you seem to think. In my younger years, I bought a house in the frame of mind that, "Well, all I'll have to do in this room is--" and "All I'll have to do in that is--" It took fifteen years off my life, I ended up selling because of unfathomably huge masonry issues (them old-timers really had a hankering for pouring all the cement they could lay their hands on, it seems), and now I'm super-critical.
But I don't begrudge any enterpreneur the chance to make a few bucks. I think more than anything, I'm just puzzled as to why a rich guy would ever have bought this place to begin with and why he seems so unmotivated in regard to selling it. Maybe he's just eccentric.
Getting back to what Doug with the beer-cooler dining room said-- I honestly have been through enough "lemons" (and owned one!) to know what to be wary of without the benefit (notice I say BENEFIT) of a home inspector. For example, what kind of mold problems might be encountered in a home where there is no access to the attic at all? That's when you start with the, "Well, I'll only have to cut a hold yay big in the corner of the back room, and get out my 8 foot ladder...and lay joists...and plywood...in the dark...and maybe with the company of hornest whose home I've just disturbed..."
God, I think I just talked myself out of it. But how do you find an old or older home where vital systems are accessible to inspectors (and/or professionals)? I don't think most people realize how fond home builders prior to the 90's were of sealing up everything so that inspection is at best perfunctory.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

The age of a home shouldn't have much impact on the home being accessible to inspectors. I've seen a lot of older homes and it's unusual not to have a way to access the attic. There is no reason an inspection should be perfunctory. But, go ahead and listen to your lawyer if you like, and skip an inspection. A search of this newsgroup will uncover lots of folks that made that mistake.
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