When to RUN from a pretty house you like

I’m showing a house in Richmond this week.  Place looks nice.  Lots of updates and new things.  Price seems good too.  As my people are walking around ooooohing and ahhhhhhing the place, I’m checking out the condition.  While this house sure looks pretty, I’m less than impressed.

The 2nd house I ever owned was worse than a money pit.  By that I mean it was the type of place that not only sucks your wallet dry, but takes all your time and leaves you totally discouraged.  I never want that to happen to any client of mine.  While I totally hated that house (and still do!) it did teach me a thing or two about knowing when to RUN away.

The first thing I notice about this house is that there are concrete block columns behind the closet doors in the basement along the wall that is completely underground.  They don’t go high enough to touch the joists, so I know they are not part of the structure of the house.  Then I notice that the basement has been waterproofed.  Not the kind where they jackhammer up the slab and install drain-tile around the footer, it was the kind where they install something that looks like a huge baseboard that collects the water.  Then, I notice that the carpet in the basement is actually carpet tiles, or squares.  As we look under the carpet squares, I notice that some of the cracks in the slab have been caulked, some are filled with dirt/dust, and some are just open with nothing in them.

Playing house detective, I conclude that the house not only has some recurring structural issues, but also that it still has a water problem.  Those concrete columns?  There to keep the foundation wall from deflecting inward due to the load behind it.  The water-proofing?  It had been caulked repeatedly.  Why would it need layers of caulk if it did the job?  When you combine a house whose foundation shifts/moves periodically and a water problem, it is easy for that kind of water-proofing system to come unattached from the wall and effectively serve no purpose.  The carpet squares?  They were there so that only the sections that ever got wet could be easily replaced.  The cracks in the slab?  The caulked ones were places where water had come through.  The ones that didn’t have dirt/dust in them had recently opened, meaning they open and close periodically since there is so much movement in the foundation.  I learned at my old house that a crack that happens and never moves again eventually gets filled with dirt/dust/whatever is on the ground. 

My advice on this house?  RUN!

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