What would you do? The house is a little rougher than we expected
Photo by: fabbio
On Friday, I wrote about a foreclosed home we found on the internet and were going to visit over the weekend. The house is on 16.5 acres of land, is approximately 4,200 square foot including the basement, has 5 bedrooms, a huge external shop and a large shed behind the shop. The land is surrounded by horse and cattle farms and is bordered on the back side by a large creek. This house on the surface seems to be exactly what we’ve been looking for. The price is right, it has plenty of room, and our children would love the land. The land is beautiful, the house? Well it’s another story…
As you can see from the photograph, the house isn’t fancy nor would it be featured in Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon, but it looks decent. It is a pre-fabricated home (also called a modular home), built by a reputable builder in the area. It’s a base plan with little to no options. The house has a few cosmetic issues such as siding that has come loose, some decorative rock that has fallen off, rotten railings, etc. Being fairly handy with wood and tools, all of these are things I can easily fix, and to be honest would enjoy doing. Given I’m stuck in an office environment all day, I look forward to being outside and doing things with my hands besides typing. Plus I enjoy having my boys help me. The inside is a different story, and is what concerns me.
For the most part, the house has been stripped. Like most foreclosed homes, the owners decided not to leave much for the mortgage company, and even decided to do a little damage. Someone, either the previous owners or the mortgage company, removed most of the carpet and flooring. The carpet that is left is full of mud and glue. Yes glue. Someone poured glue all over the carpet going up the stairs.
The laminate hardwood floors that were put down have also been partially taken up, there are a few holes in the walls, the vinyl floor in various areas are coming up and it needs a really really good cleaning. Again, this is nothing I couldn’t fix myself. I can fix holes, lay flooring and even install carpet. So no problem right? To the basement Batman!
The basement is the problem. It’s damp, not wet, but really damp. For those of you that may not be familiar, the white deposits on the wall are minerals from water seeping through the cinder block wall and as the water evaporates, the minerals remain. The technical term for it is efflorescence. It’s a sure sign that water is entering your basement. The more efflorescence, the more water you have coming in. As you can see, there is a bit of water coming in and not only can you see the efflorescence but the dampness in the wall too. This is just one shot, most of the other walls look similar, although this one is probably the worst.
My first thought was they didn’t waterproof the outside walls but After further inspection I found they did. The picture below is a close-up of the waterproofing material.
I am used to seeing a spray on, tar like product. For this house though, they used some type of tar product and then placed a plastic material over top of it. So what you have is a plastic barrier stuck to the tar material which is stuck to the cinder block. Anybody know what the black plastic material laying on the ground is?
While I believe their intentions for doing this were good, they unfortunately may have created a problem. The plastic material has pulled loose in some areas of the house as the dirt around it settled. As a result, I’m pretty confident water has become trapped between the plastic and the tar material and is why water is seeping into the basement.
While I am no expert on basements, I think this is a pretty big problem that may require digging around the foundation, removal of the current water barrier, and installation of a new barrier. Sounds expensive to me.
Further assessing the basement, it also looks like somehow water got around the base of the HVAC system which is also located in the basement. You can see signs of water in the picture to the right.
This water caused a significant amount of mildew on the drywall and framing around the HVAC unit. Again, drywall and framing I can fix. Here’s my concern though: if water got into the plenum of the HVAC unit (the plenum is where all the air comes into and the gets separated into different paths into the house) that could mean mold is up in the HVAC system. One potential indicator of this is a rusted air vent we found in the upstairs bathroom. This is the only vent that seems to be rusted, but it’s enough to make me a little nervous. If there is mold in the HVAC system, the whole house would most likely have to be gutted to fix it, along with replacing the whole HVAC system and all of the ducting. Potentially a big (read expensive) problem to fix.
Other problems that may be connected to this moisture problem include:
- The wood laminate floor in the dining room is bowed up. Generally laminate floor doesn’t warp unless exposed to moisture. I’m concerned that moisture from the basement is coming up through the floor and causing the warping. There is insulation under the floor, along with a plastic barrier that I would suspect should keep this from occurring, but I’m not sure.
- The bottom of the cabinets around the dishwasher are dry rotted indicating one of two things: 1) The sink or disk washer sprung a leak and wasn’t probably cleaned up, or 2) again moisture has seeped up from the basement, through the floor, and into the cabinets
- The lower door frame on the front door is rotten. I would suspect through an incorrectly sealed or installed front door, the front door allowed water to leak up under the seal/door frame and has caused the whole lower door frame to rot. The water also caused mildew to form on the particle board flooring next to the door. I don’t think this is linked to the moisture in the basement, but more likely due to the front door being exposed to to rain with no entry way covering or storm door.
Potential Next Steps
My wife and I discussed this a great deal last night. I also discussed the house and showed my Dad the pictures. My Dad has a great deal of experience with homes and home construction. At this point we’ve decided to hire an inspector to go in and inspect the home with a particular focus on the structure, basement, and HVAC system. This will give us an experts opinion on the real shape of the house and the extent of the damage. I called a few inspectors today, and unfortunately the inspection is going to run $350 – $400.
Once we understand the problems, we can then look into estimates for getting the home fixed. This would allow us to make a counter offer to Fannie Mae (the current foreclosure owner) for their current price minus the cost of repairs. Given the asking price is already $50,000 below tax value, this would give us more than enough equity to repair the house. If it turns out the house is so badly damaged it’s beyond repair, we’ll then make an offer on just the land, minus the cost of having the house torn down and hauled away. This would allow us to buy the lot we love so much, and build a house on it.
What would you do?
So that’s the results of our weekend visit. If you were in the same situation, what would you do? Any of you out there experts on repairing homes or buying homes with issues like this that might have some advice for us? Anybody know anything about basements? I’d appreciate any guidance, prayer, support or tips you could provide!
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