Buying a Home After Water Damage: 4 Questions to Ask

Guidelines and Steps for Buying a Home With Pre-existing Water DamageAfter the home inspection, buyers may learn that the home they want has sustained damage from water in the past. For buyers considering homes with water damage, consider these questions to help determine if the house has been sufficiently repaired and is ready to buy.

What Was the Extent of the Damage?

The type of damage that home flooding can cause depends on the location, nature and severity of the flood. A burst pipe in the winter that never led to water in the house is a very different kind of damage than a flooded river or a water heater that dropped hundreds of gallons of water in a basement. If the seller’s insurance covered the incident, there should be a detailed property claim estimate of the damages with recommendations for repairs or replacement. Ask to see this list because it will identify precisely where damage occurred and all structures, systems and equipment involved.

Which Repairs Have Been Completed?

With the list of recommended repairs, buyers must also check to see which of them were done to specification. In some cases, homeowners try to save money or time by repairing something themselves. They may simply not get around to replacing things that did not seem particularly damaged. Since everyone has a different perspective of necessity, you want a way to check off the items that were completed, and which were not. Ask for receipts of repairs or replacement done by professionals, in case you have to follow up with the companies for additional service. Collect these records and keep them together, so that you have the information at hand. If most of the necessary repairs were not performed and it has been a couple of years since the incident, it may be more worthwhile to reconsider buying the home.

Has the Cause Been Identified and Fixed?

Repairing the damage is not always the same as preventing the same flooding from happening again. Sometimes, in the rush to get the house back into order again, homeowners forget about making fixes that stop further damage. Ask about the source of the flooding. A pipe that froze and burst is likely to occur over and over again without proper insulation for the plumbing. An old, leaking water heater should be replaced. If the basement flooded due to runoff from a particularly bad rainstorm, systems should be put in place to properly grade the property and provide a backstop (e.g. a sump pump) for additional occurrences.

Are There Any Long-Term Problems?

Even homeowners who perform their due diligence in fixing water damage may fall victim to long-term effects of water saturation. For example, if the walls sat in standing water for hours or days, and were not quickly and completely dried, mold may grow behind the walls. Ask for information about mold testing, to be sure that you do not have a host of potential health problems waiting for you. Consider all the information you are given about the water damage, and decide if you feel the sellers have done their best to get the house in move-in condition. If not, you should think about moving on to other options.

Every existing home has a history, but some have bigger skeletons in the closet than others. These questions help to flesh out any red flags that the home might present related to its water damage. When everything seems to be in good condition, you will feel better about having all the facts. If the information makes you run in the opposite direction, at least you will know that you successfully avoided a serious mistake.

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