First, it’s an $800 replacement water heater, then a nest of roof rats in the attic that need an exterminator’s attention. Next you hire a termite expert to check out the mud tubes on the foundations of your house. Then the kitchen needs a new dishwasher, and the bathrooms need new faucets.
Maybe the words “money pit” come to mind. That’s when a house can seem a little bit like the infamous mansion in the 30-year-old Tom Hanks-Shelley Long film comedy, “The Money Pit.”
Hanks and Long play a couple who buy an aging Long Island mansion in a distress sale for what seems like next-to-nothing — $200,000 for a house that could be worth $1 million. An 80 percent markdown! It’s a real, live fixer-upper. Of course, they fail to hire a home inspector to check out what the house needs to be fixed.
If you’ve never bought a house before or are looking for a new house, there are some definite red flags to watch out for when house hunting. Here are some issues to keep in mind:
If it’s an older home being sold by a flipper or do-it-yourselfer who made quickie repairs, check to see that any changes were done with the right permits from the city or county. You don’t want to go back later to the city to apply for a permit and make fixes.
Pay for a visit by a home inspector who can find strange wiring connections in the electrical box or bumps and puckers in walls that might mean there are serious leaks in the laundry room, bathroom or kitchen. A good inspector might have found the leak that led to the bathtub mess in Tom Hanks’ house.
Check out the roof even if your dream house is practically new. Sometimes builders don’t always do a perfect job on the roof.
Be sure to have a termite inspection. An inspector can spot mud tubes that pop up on foundations and drop down from ceilings. You might want to do a little visual inspection yourself.
Make sure that there are plenty of GFIC (ground fault interceptor circuits) to protect against electrocution and fires caused by faulty appliances in the kitchen and bath. Have the inspector check them out to be sure these outlets work.
Check for foundation faults, too, that may have caused cracks in interior or exterior walls and flooring.
As one of the contractors tells Tom and Shelley: “If the foundation is good, then everything else can be fixed.” JN
R.C. ‘Romey’ Romero is co-owner of Arizona’s home improvement radio program ‘Rosie on the House.’