Checking for Water Leaks in the Home You Want to Buy

Winter rain and snow, as well as the recent severe hurricanes in the Southeastern US, remind most homeowners of the need to protect their homes against water. And for buyers and sellers, the presence of water can definitely dampen a real estate deal. But it doesn’t have to.

Whether in the form of flooding rainwater or leaky pipes, immediate intervention is best.

If a home seller finds the rain has come in or the toilet water has leaked out, drying out is a priority, according to Keven Crabb of Restoration Management Company in Union City. “Drying out soon is important. Our response time to such a call is important, because the sooner you dry the area, the less primary damage you do. Drying out the area quickly also lessens the likelihood of secondary damage.”

That is why Crabb’s company offers 24-hour service with an on-call manager. “It is so important to call right away,” he emphasizes. “If you wait, things get damaged. In the case of, say, a hardwood floor, waiting even two or three days means the floor will start buckling.” Crabb says, in the event of “a real emergency, two to three inches of water, we’ll call out the forces, and get there right away.”

But sellers (and buyers) need to think about water even when homes are dry. Roger Robinson of The Star Inspection Group explains that both buyers and sellers can benefit from a home inspection looking for water and other problems.

“You should always have a home inspection throughout the entire house,” he notes, “including the sub-floor. It isn’t as obvious, but moisture can cause damage by weakening the soil so the foundation of the home is not adequately supported. And, dampness underneath can create a musty smell, and encourage the growth of mold.”

David Pace, of Pace Inspection Services, agrees. “Even in new homes, we routinely find things in need of attention,” he notes. “A home has a lot of components and a whole lot of people putting them together, so things can get missed.”
While the need for a home inspection seems obvious for home buyers, both Pace and Robinson say that sellers, too, benefit from having a home inspection done prior to putting the home up for sale.

Robinson notes that, rather than preventing a sale, a home inspection by the seller puts the decisions squarely in the seller’s hands. “The sale is not necessarily prevented, because chances are, particularly with water, the problem is in the entire area. If people want to buy in your area, they have to cope with the issue.”

As an example, Robinson cites neighborhoods that are “relatively level. There’s a good chance they are going to get wet every year. You can put in sump pumps and other things, but the owners will also have to get used to it,” he notes.

By having an inspection, Robinson says the seller, “controls the process. They can decide to correct it, or get a bid and include the information. That way, when you get an offer, it is less restrained, and the seller has a better idea of what to expect,” he says.

Pace agrees, giving, as an example, a deck with water damage. “If the seller knows about the problems with the deck, they can choose to remove it, they can repair it, or they can include a bid for the work and note it needs to be done. Whatever they decide, the sellers are calling the shots, and the terms aren’t being dictated by the buyer.”

Pace adds that, frequently, sellers aren’t always aware of problems as they surface. “Many times, the seller sees something every day, but it doesn’t necessarily register that something is an issue. It gets overlooked,” he explains.

In most instances, both Pace and Robinson note that buyers who order an inspection learn more about the home they want to buy – and that canceled deals are rare. “We help the buyer find out what the issues are, and put it into perspective. Sometimes, the buyer does walk away from a house. But normally, we help them understand any problems, so they know which professionals are needed to remedy a problem.”

Robinson says this is particularly true with water and drainage problems. “I often caution against drainage work being done,” Robinson says. “It is sometimes expensive, and for the price of the drainage work, a new foundation can sometimes solve the problem more efficiently for the same price.”

Pace recommends the buyers come along while the inspection is taking place, too. “I encourage buyers to attend the inspection, so they gain a better understanding of any issues.”

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