Unfortunately, there are many more foreclosures on the market than ever. These homes can be very good buys for investors or people purchasing their first home looking for that great deal. However, these homes are also usually sold "as-is" meaning you are also buying all of the problems, too. Foreclosed homes are usually priced well below market value and many people think they can handle anything they may run across and skip the inspection since the mortgage holder (usually the bank) won't repair anything anyway. This can be devastating to people without thousands of dollars in cash reserves to fix serious problems before they can even move in!
We want you to make an informed decision before you buy a foreclosure. To know what it is you may be getting yourself and your family into. Here are some things to consider.
What is a Winterized Home?
Many times the homes in our area get “winterized”. The sole purpose of a winterization is to prevent damage to the home from freezing pipes. Usually, the winterization is a system shut-down only: the plumbing system is not tested for damage or leaks. The water is turned off and the meter is removed. The plumbing system is drained and anti-freeze is added to the drain traps in the toilets and the sinks.
But what happens if this isn’t done properly? Supply pipes that are not completely blown out could collect water that will freeze during the winter and split the pipes. Then when the water is turned back on and the system is pressurized the pipes will leak. Sometimes the pipes are disconnected and, the system cannot be turned back on until the piping is reconnected. Without adequate antifreeze, traps can split and toilets can crack. Imagine finding out the day you move in that you have no working plumbing system. By the way, the contractor does not offer any warranty for these types of problems.
Now, if you happen to be purchasing a home with hot water heat, the boiler also should have been drained. Often, this is not done. Be prepared to spend more money for a heating contractor to replace radiators and other components including the boiler if the heat exchanger is cracked. We will tell you when we see problems with your heating system.
A home in foreclosure probably means there at bill due for utilities. Utilities can be legally disconnected in Wisconsin between April 15th and November 1st. That means that sump pumps will not operate, furnaces will not work, and the home is vulnerable to the weather. That also means there could be serious problems with the home if the power has been disconnected, but the plumbing system was not drained.
How to Protect Yourself
A home inspection is limited to visible components and good home inspectors are trained to spot those items that could be problems when purchasing a foreclosed home. The best way to protect yourself is to be sure all the utilities are turned on and are in working order on before your home inspector arrives. It is not possible to check the function of ground fault receptacles, reversed polarity, or other electrical problems without power. It also is not possible to find potential leaks behind walls or in ceilings without destroying wall coverings which is considered an intrusive inspection and is beyond our standards of practice.
When we find significant defects or safety defects, they will appear on your home inspection report. The seller may not be in any position to make any repairs, but you will have an idea what the problems are and have the ability to get costs together. Sometimes, no matter how good the deal is on the home, you may not have the means to make the necessary repairs. Without a home inspection, you could be stuck with a property you cannot afford. Wouldn't you want to know that up front?
Be sure to include a home inspection as part of your offer to purchase any home, especially when you buy a foreclosure. When you hire us, we will educate you on the condition of the foreclosure and what to expect. For less than the cost of one university credit-hour you will get an education that can save you thousands of dollars in the school of hard knocks! Remember, we are looking out for you!