Buying a Vacant Home? Watch out for these!

It may be convenient for some of us to buy and move to a home that’s already vacated by its owners, but problems may arise if it’s been empty too long. Disclosures may say that all was in good working order, but the inspection didn’t reveal that the place had long sat empty, or that some creepy, crawly, furry creatures had made the house their home. A for-sale house that’s been vacant may look like a bargain, but buyers should be cautious because expensive problems often lurk inside homes that have been unoccupied for some time. These are especially prone to leaks and floods and may require costly improvements, including new appliances and unlikely clean-up of the creatures left behind.

More than 2.2 million for-sale houses in the U.S. were vacant in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure was more than double the 1 million vacant for-sale homes in 2000. Vacant homes exist throughout the country, but the percentage of vacancies in 2008 was higher than the national average in the South, Midwest and West, and lower in the Northeast.

So before you consider buying a vacant home, watch out for these possible problems in mind and their possible solutions:

Dried and cracked seals

cracked pipeline

Jason Shank, a training director of Cleveland Plumbing Industry, says that plumbing a vacant house’s vulnerable spot. Many absentee homeowners will just shut off the water at a toilet or sink valve, not thinking of the most important task to do which is turning off water and draining and treating pipes to prevent such catastrophic fractures. The drying of the pipes might cause the seal to crack and will not be able to do its job. “The water pressure can cause extreme bursts and flooding throughout your home,” says Shank. Better check all water and valves; leave them on for several days before a home inspection.


Fussy appliances

dishwasher leak

Another thing to consider is the unused appliances. “The valves in dishwashers can get stuck in the closed position when they sit around unused for weeks on end,” says Shank. Watch out for a possible leak, a flood, or at least the need for a replacement once the water is turned on. Best solution is to try negotiating the purchase price which will consider the need for the new appliances.


Low-flowing faucets


The problem with long-unused faucets is that once the water is turned back on, it can be drippy, instead of free-flowing, according to Shank. Most especially those home pipes made in galvanized steel, there’s a good chance that scaly minerals in the water might have built up inside. These mineral deposits may prevent the water from flowing normally resulting to clogs or blockages which may be difficult to remove. A good fix to this is to run the water with both hot and cold at each plumbing fixture just to clear any air from the system. Then turn off the faucets and remove the aerator              (tip of water faucets) from each fixture, clean visible debris. Run the faucet without the aerator to flush the system, and then replace it.


Bats in the belfry (or the attic)


‘Bats in the belfry’ refers to someone who acts as though he has bats careering around his topmost part, that is, his head. A home without humans can become a refuge for many woodland creatures. Attics are ideal and awesome places for animals to seek refuge and build their homes. Because attics are so rarely visited, so full of clutter and warm in the winter, animals love them. Animals are carriers of all kinds of diseases and their existence in the attic and droppings are major causes of infections. And when they gnaw though wires, the resulting short circuits can lead to fires and this is hard to detect. Termites in the woodwork can not only cause a lot of damage, they can even weaken the structure of the house.

“We have found dead mice and rats and a live mother possum feeding her two babies in attics,” says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration company in Rockville, MD.

Animals in the attic, or any part of the home, should be evicted or killed as soon as possible. It may appear to be cruel to trap and turn a cute squirrel or raccoon out into the cold winter, but allowing them to remain in your home puts both your health and the safety of your home at risk. And even though it’s a few unplanned hundred dollars, that extra set of eyes could spare you thousands later.



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