Repairs Ahead? Seek An Unbiased Opinion
What to do if the home you're trying to buy or sell needs repairs.
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Q: My husband and I are preparing for retirement and want to buy a smaller home with low maintenance, so last summer we had some repairs done to our home in hopes of selling it. Rather than hire a contractor to do all the work, we decided we had the time to contract the work ourselves.
It was our thought that we could save some money and still get quality work if we hired licensed contractors. We asked friends and neighbors for references in hopes of finding quality workers who could be trusted. We were very satisfied with the work done by the painter, the electrician and the plumber, but I'm beginning to think we were taken advantage of by two other contractors.
Is there some way to tell if a certain repair was actually needed and, if so, whether it was done right? I have questions about my roof and foundation. We spent thousands of dollars on just these two areas, and I wonder if it was worth it.
A: When preparing a home for sale you need to contact a marketing specialist such as a licensed real estate agent. He can guide you on how to make the home more presentable to the public, such as painting, cleaning, yard work and all those details that will make the home more pleasing to the eye.
"Curb appeal" is one of those phrases often heard in real estate offices. When it comes to making repairs, you also need to turn to a professional who will, for a fee, guide you regarding what major repairs should be made and what repairs might be considered normal home maintenance.
A qualified home inspector can give you an unbiased opinion covering the items in the home that would normally be pointed out in a pre-purchase inspection. You would then be able to offer the home as is, make some of the repairs or make all of the repairs so there would be no surprises for the new buyer.
When it comes to making major repairs such as a new roof covering or major foundation repairs, it is strongly recommended that you get an unbiased opinion from either a home inspector or a qualified engineer. It is not prudent to rely on a contractor's opinion alone. The contractors are there to sell you their service and their products; they cannot make a living by giving free advice.
Roofing and foundation repairs are common areas of complaints, along with asphalt driveway repairs, siding installations and replacement windows.
Here are just two of the many examples I have had personal experience with:
The first was an 80-plus- year-old widow who had a new roof installed in order to make her home more presentable for sale. She had her relatives and the real estate agent check the roof before she paid the contractor.
The problems were only visible when I got on top of the roof and could see the area that was not visible from the ground. Although the woman had paid for a whole new roof, the back side of her home had not been touched. It still had the same worn-out roofing that she had paid to replace. The roofer had migrated to other towns and was nowhere to be found.
The other problem was an oversell of repairs. A home I was inspecting had some structural damage due to soil movements. A foundation repair company had already installed stabilizing piers at a cost to the homeowner of more than $20,000.
The only portion of this home that was damaged could have been repaired for as little as $5,000. Had the owner been wise, he would have hired a consulting engineer for less than $1,000 and saved himself $14,000.
I don't know if the contractor was being careful or zealous, but homeowners need to get a second or even a third opinion when making major costly repairs. Contact either a qualified home inspector or a structural engineer in your area to inspect the work you had done. They can make a report on the scope of the repairs which you can then include in your sellers disclosure to a buyer.
(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at PO Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702 or send him e-mail at email@example.com.)
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