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Need advise on purchasing an older home

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    Need advise on purchasing an older home


    I am brand new to buying a home. I could do with some advise on home inspections and needed repairs. I realize that this forum is for investors but I am buying this home to live in, and need some advise from the experts here.

    I have found a decent older home. It is a trustee sale - the owners have passed on and their many children are selling the home. None of them have lived in this house in over 5 years aside from visiting mom and dad off and on. Executrix lives in another state, property is in Northern California.I was told that - per state law - in a trustee sale, such as this, the trustee is exempt from the usual disclosures that apply to a "regular" seller. This is one reason that this home is about $25000 cheaper than comparable homes currently for sale in the area.

    This home is about 35 years old. The seller / trustee / executrix has already done the inspection on the property. The inspection was a "general" inspection only, not by a specialist. Multiple issues were noted and the inspector advises the buyer to hire a "specialist" (roof / plumbing / HVAC) etc to do "in-depth" inspection. The vibe I am getting is that the owners both suffered from dementia and home maintenance was not on the top 5 list of priorities. Here are my concerns:

    1. What should I be especially wary of if a seller is exempt from the usual required disclosures on the property for any reason (such as this being a trustee sale and not a regular sale) ? There is a place where the inspector has noted water damage on the attic roof, and has advised buyer to ask seller for more information on when / if the roof was last repaired. Inspector also advises buyer to seek verification by the seller that adequate installation has been performed and proper drainage has been provided for the gutter downspout system (this has an underground drainage system). Can seller claim ignorance on these two issues? How can we verify or what kind of contractor can verify if this was properly done?

    2. I have a disabled child and am unwilling to take on any "problems". The home I purchase will likely be a permanent home as my son is unable to handle even minor changes to his living situations. I, therefore, plan to hire a licensed contractor to look over the roof / HVAC / plumbing / electricity, in addition to getting a structure / foundation, chimney and sewer inspection done. I would rather front the $$$ than find out major problems exist later on, due to my particular life situation. My concern is that hiring a contractor that also repairs might motivate a dishonest individual to trump up damages that aren't there. Is there a way to just hire experts who only do inspection and not repairs ? Please don't laugh, this is a serious question.

    3. How do we find reputable, UNBIASED inspectors on our own ? I don't want to go with someone recommended by the realtors due to obvious conflict of interest there.

    4. Trustee / executrix / seller is looking to sell "as is" but do you have any negotiation advise for me (aside from walking away from big problems) ? I don't want to agree to the sellers doing the repair to prevent a shoddy job, but want to ask for repair costs to be credited at closing. Any tips / advise here ?

    4. Who (what kind of inspector) checks to see if pipes have been properly installed underground or if stucco may have water ingress (concerned because stucco shows cracks by the front porch) ?

    5. In many homes where the seller is still living, inspections note that personal property / belongings / locked or inaccessible areas prevent them from performing an inspection in those areas. How can we get around this and ensure a thorough inspection is done and that the seller cannot hide any major damage or defect by strategically using their belongings ? In this particular home, the garage was full and one of the bedrooms (and its bathroom) were actually LOCKED when the inspector had shown up !

    6. Any other heads-up / warning / advice / alerts for me ?

    Thank you all in advance for your advise / feedback / suggestions / help. Very much and VERY gratefully appreciated.
    Last edited by Scallywag; 09-19-2018, 12:06 AM.

    Even the best inspector out there will miss something. The best thing that you can do is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. How old is the HVAC? The roof? The water heater? Is there asbestos or lead paint? How is the sewage septic?
    The more you know and the more you have inspected the better off you are.
    I'd say you are on the right track to have everything inspected as thoroughly as possible.
    Just be aware that you are going to run into at least some problems buying an older home. Some of the problems won't come up until months or a few years after you move in.


      It doesn’t sound like this is the home for you.

      Also, a 25k discount does not appear to be enough if the property is as you described.


        Given your circumstances, I would pass on this house. It is pretty much guaranteed that there will be some problems. If you really want the house, you can write in the contract that all personal items must be moved out of the way for an inspection or they reimburse you for the fee if the inspection can't be done (and then walk away). I would also arrange to have someone let me in prior to the inspection to verify everything has been moved or move it myself. I can't speak for CA, but inspectors can't give an estimate of how long any mechanicals will last in my area. They can only confirm that they are in working order. So your inspection might say everything is fine and then something gives out a few months later. That's just a risk the buyer takes. They will not do repairs, and any offer for them to repair things for you should be suspect. You can't give the go ahead to do repairs if you don't own the house anyway. A good inspector should be able to tell you if the roof was installed correctly, and they should have a moisture probe and borescope, but I don't think you are going to definitively know if there is a moisture problem without cutting into the stucco. You can't damage a house you don't own, so you will have to go with someone's best guess.

        In my opinion, there is no such thing as an unbiased inspector. In all of my dealings, the inspector wants the sale to go through so the realtor doesn't bad mouth his company to everyone they know or they have their own opinions about whether we should own the house or not and it affects the inspection. Do a lot of research before you choose your inspector to make sure they are experienced and honest. Follow him/her around during the inspection and ask questions.

        The cottage we own wasn't lived in for at least 5 years when we bought it. Even though it was in good shape, there was still a lot of work to do. We are still working on it and it seems like something pops up as soon as we think we are done. You might be able to have a home warranty included with the sale if you really want this house. $25,000 wouldn't be enough for me once I factor in costs and aggravation, even if houses were selling above asking price.


          Here are the "biggies" on a house:

          - Asbestos
          - Lead paint
          - Foundation issues
          - Leak issues - in the attic or in the house
          - Roof integrity
          - HVAC integrity
          - Water/sewer integrity
          - Electrical integrity
          - Termites

          None of these are "deal killers". In fact, they can be substantial negotiating points. The word "asbestos" conjures up all sorts of wild thoughts about HazMat suits and expensive removal, but often times it isn't a big deal at all.

          Hire a trusty inspector and he should be able to ferret out the big problems.
          Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

          -George Carlin


            Thank you, everyone.

            TexasHusker, a lot of inspectors disclaim "asbestos" - is this fairly common even in newer (built in the mid-90s and later) homes ?

            ​​​​​​How to find that trusty inspector is the real question / concern here ! Most of them seem to be in cahoots with the agent and the law not exempting seller disclosures concerns me. Maybe this isn't the house for my family, after all.


            • TexasHusker
              TexasHusker commented
              Editing a comment
              A house built from the 1980s on will not have asbestos issues of any sort, generally speaking.

              I would google various inspectors and check the Yelp! ratings as well as the BBB.