In today’s real estate market, it is commonplace to make an offer to purchase conditional on a satisfactory home inspection. However, in hot real estate markets, making an offer conditional on a home inspection would guarantee that an offer wouldn’t be accepted.
We regularly meet purchasers of resale homes who have either not hired a home inspector or used a dated home inspection report provided by the vendor. The unpleasant and costly surprises that new homeowners find once they move in, particularly an undetected wet basement, is the reason we wrote this blog post.
If you are hoping to avoid spending money on a home inspection read on.
Not having a home inspection can be a costly mistake
On August 7th, 2012 I had an appointment with a couple from the beaches area in Toronto who had just purchased their house and upon moving in discovered that their basement was noticeably damp (I will not even comment on the termite infestation). On noticing the basement dampness, they decided to have their home inspected (the sale had already closed). As a result of the home inspector’s numerous findings, especially the wet basement. These new homeowners now realize that they really should have had a home inspection done prior to finalizing the purchase of this home.
The home inspector’s findings – A wet basement
The home in question has a finished basement and the foundation walls are constructed of double brick. Using a moisture meter, the home inspector identified high levels of moisture behind the basement walls in numerous locations throughout the basement. There was one area in the basement which was unfinished, the exterior wall beneath the stairs to the basement. In this particular area, one can plainly see that the brick wall is damp and has deteriorated from many years of moisture wicking through the brick walls into the ambient air.
The new homeowners didn’t know their new home needed extensive basement waterproofing!
When the new owners first took possession of the home they were satisfied that everything was fine. About a week later, there were heavy rains which naturally increased the hydrostatic pressure applied to the foundation walls; as a result the excessive basement dampness was undeniable.
A damp basement is pretty much a given in any older home; however, wet basement walls gradually deteriorate with the passage of time. The only way to prevent the ongoing deterioration of the foundation is to waterproof the foundation. For this couple, the waterproofing repair work that needs to be done represents a big problem:
- They spent all the money they had on their down payment; leaving little for dealing with a significant wet basement issue;
- Neither the front nor the back wall are accessible for traditional exterior waterproofing because there are additions to the building in both locations; and
- The narrow strip of land between their home and the neighbor’s make’s excavation virtually impossible, necessitating hydro-vac excavation, which costs a fortune.
If they had hired a home inspector in the first place…
Now that it is clear that they have an undisclosed wet basement problem on their hands, the purchasers have no alternative but to approach the vendors for monetary compensation. If the vendors are not cooperative, the matter will have to be pursued in court. Even if one party wins, court costs will probable eat up most of whatever might be awarded by the court. If the purchasers don’t have the money upfront to cover their legal costs they won’t even be able to pursue the matter other than be enlisting the help of their realtor.
Given the circumstances, the required basement waterproofing for the home will not cost $100s of dollars, but close to $20,000, so the stakes are high. Since the purchasers put their last dollar into their down payment, they probably have to take out a loan in order to waterproof their basement, an area representing one third of the living space of their home.
The moral of the story…
Wet and damp basements are common, particularly in older homes; follow this hyperlink for details on sources of basement leaks. If you are planning on buying an older home, or pretty much any home between Lake Ontario and Highway 401, having it inspected by a professional home inspector could easily save you $1000’s and much heartache and aggravation.
Have a problem with a wet basement and want to know what to do?