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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
Thanks again, very much.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
On 16 Mar 2006 04:49:14 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
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 ...
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.
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.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.