We became first-time homebuyers in September 2009. What an exciting time it was for us! We had just gotten engaged several months earlier, decided to pay cash for our wedding and honeymoon, and decided in the meantime to place a decent down payment on a home. We were also able to take advantage of the homebuyer tax credit, which added an extra $8,000 to our pockets.
Over the last 20 months we have put some sweat equity into our house and feel that it is at a place now that we can call it home—this is despite several issues others would not fail to miss, such as the cement flooring in our bathroom (we removed the gross bathroom carpeting almost immediately upon moving in), the sloping subfloor of the bathroom on the second floor, the yellowed area on our living room ceiling due to a leak from the second room bathroom, and the slightly sloping east end corner of the house all together (foundation issues are much more prominent where we live in Houston, TX). Some of these issues we were fully aware of when purchasing the home, and others we have found along the way.
What Our Home Inspector Missed
Even though we had a very detail-oriented inspector, we can say with 100% confidence that he missed quite a few things that are going to cost us a sizable amount in the future. Here’s a list of the things our home inspector did not catch:
- Faulty Plumbing Fix-Up Job: After nearly one and a half years of living in our new home, I decided to finally take a bath in the bath tub on the second floor. Big mistake; I sprung a leak through our living room ceiling. After a $75-an hour plumber came out, we found out the reason for the leak: the overspill in the bathtub had leaked in the past and the previous owners had jerry-rigged it with pvc piping epoxied to metal piping, epoxied to a rubber hose. Cost to fix: $450
- Bathtub Turned Shower: We have a humongous master bathroom shower, the kind that you take a step down into. We were in the middle of renovating our master bathroom and called in a shower expert to see about getting it to properly drain (the floor does not slope to the drain, and there is always mold in between the tiles). Turns out that our “shower” was meant to be a bathtub. The previous owners had merely tiled the slab below without installing a shower pan, sloping it towards the drain, or fixing the plumbing to make it suitable for a shower. Estimated Cost: $5,000
- Wrong Tonnage for A/C Unit vs. Square Feet of Home: We were aware of the A/C situation when we purchased our home—it was a very old unit. We had tried to negotiate the price of the home down by $5,000 in order to pay for a new one, but the previous owners balked at us and we relented. Instead, they purchased a home warranty for us for our first year and gave us $800 off the asking price. Big mistake: turns out that the A/C unit was not the correct tonnage (2.5 tons) for the amount of square feet in the home (2500 sq. feet). As such, no matter how many times it was fixed by the home warranty, it never cooled us off. We are in Houston, TX, so it’s not really an option to go without air conditioning for at least five months out of the year. Cost to Fix: $7,800 (we received a $1500 tax credit, and a $1200 credit from our home warranty company)
- Insufficient Grading on Back Patio: The previous owners decided to use indoor tile to tile the back patio. While it looks nice, it is extremely slippery when it rains or is humid. On top of this, they did not properly grade the back patio, so whenever it rains there is a large puddle of water towards the house. Cost to Fix: We have not gotten an estimate on this, but are assuming a few thousand dollars.
- Broken Fridge in Garage: The previous owners left us their kegerator in the garage, and we thought this was super cool. Unfortunately, it was not working except on the highest setting (which would kill our electricity bill). Fortunately for us, we earned $25 by selling this to a company who salvaged it.
- Loose Bricks in Firebox: We knew that our chimney was lacking a chimney cap, so shortly after moving in we brought in a fireplace expert. Unfortunately, he showed us that the bricks and mortar in the firebox were extremely loose, which could cause a fire to get in behind the bricks. Cost Estimate: $850 (we were fortunate in that the fireplace guy showed Paul how to fix it on his own, saving us $830).
Total Cost of Missed Defects
All in all, the things our home inspector overlooked could cost us a total of $13,375. And this is above the cost of the cosmetic renovations we had planned on making, such as renovating our three bathrooms and the bar area in the living room.
I write this article not to scare the wits out of future homebuyers, but instead to prepare them for their home inspection and to manage their expectations about their home purchase. Talk to any homeowner and they will tell you that they had several unexpected costs creep up that they wish they had known about before purchasing their home. These could run from an outdated water heater to faulty plumbing.
In the end, even after knowing about all of these issues, we still would have purchased our home because we are in love with it, and the asking price was undervalued from the beginning.
What issues have surfaced in your home that were not caught by your home inspector, and how has this impacted you financially? What do you wish your inspector would have spent more time on?