Post Hurricane Sandy: Home Buyer Due Diligence

NASA Satellite Image: Hurricane Sandy

This is just a quick note for home buyers in the general DC Metro area. If you are actively searching for a home now is a good time to know whether or not the homes you are interested have water issues. Here are a few things that you, via your agent most likely, should be looking for:

  1. Was the home temporarily removed from the market during or after the storm?: If so, this could be a sign that there was trouble. Trouble in this case would typically be a roof leak, or a flooded basement. You want your agent to get to the bottom of why the home was taken off the market. If there were issues, you want to be sure they have been properly addressed. All that said, it is always possible that an owner simply didn’t want people through the house during the storm.
  2. Brand new carpet and/or fresh paint: Yet again, this could be nothing, or it could mean that the basement flooded or the roof leaked. Just have a keen eye and nose, and ask questions.
  3. Puddles next to the home: There may not be an active water issue in the home, but puddling next to the home could be an indication of problems to come. Note: Many such issue can be addressed with some simple measures such as downspout extenders. However, this can also be an issue with the gradation of the property and require a much more labor intensive solution.
  4. Smell: This is something you always want to be aware of. If there are damp odors in the house this can often mean that there is an ongoing water issue somewhere in the home. In this case you may get the “all basements in “x city” have water issues” response. Not true. Though basement water/moisture issues are common in the DC Area, unmitigated issues are not common.

Now, it is a home seller’s responsibility to disclose any issues up front. If they have properly addressed the issue it is actually in their best interest to disclose it anyway, as this actually builds confidence in most buyers. However, not all seller’s will be inclined to disclose the issues they may have encountered, and they may not even inform their agents, so a little bit of inquiring can go a long way.

One final note: If you are currently under contract on a home in the area I recommend you request (more like demand), a post storm walk through. In some cases your lender may even demand this. If there are problems that were not previously known the seller will need to address them. If a property is being sold “as-is” and the seller is unwilling to make any corrections you will have to work with your agent’s broker and possibly an attorney to determine if there is any recourse.

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