When Buying A Home
What to Know About Buying a Fire and Water Damaged Home
When contemplating buying a home, knowing what damages the home has experienced and if they've been repaired properly is essential to avoid future complications. A house that requires repairs or has been restored from water or fire damage doesn't have to be written off immediately. However, having this knowledge and being able to decipher the types of damage and restoration a house has been through can be a vital piece of information in the decision-making process. Just because a home has sustained this damage doesn't mean you shouldn't consider it - it may be salvageable. And there are a few things you can do that will determine if it's a wise investment or not for you.
If you are interested in a home with water damage, don't lose hope. It doesn't mean the place is a lost cause. Here are some things you can look for to help identify if a home has signs of water damage:
External Signs of Damage
• Check if the home or structure sits on the property's highest point, with the ground sloping away from the house. If it doesn't, water damage to the foundation may occur as water accumulates on the sides of the home and seeps in.
• Walk around the exterior of the house. Check for downspouts that divert water away from the home and gutters that are intact and properly attached.
• Look for missing or cracked shingles on the roof. A leaking roof or missing/broken flashing can lead to leakage in the attic, which may lead to ceiling water damage. This roof damage may seem like a minor cosmetic issue, but it may become a prime entryway for water into the home when storms hit.
• Look at all the exterior windows or door frames. Is there any separation? Are there soft spots that may indicate window leaks? A slight separation could lead to humidity in your house, which may lead to mold.
Internal Signs of Damage
• Water rings on the ceiling or walls pointing to a pipe leak. While rings may be easier to notice, keep an eye out for more minor water stains on the ceiling or walls, which are also common.
• Soft or sagging spots on the floor, especially near the tub, shower, and sinks. Leaking appliances needing repairs, such as dishwashers, washing machines, or a water heater, may also cause the spots.
• Cracked or warped tile, laminate, or wood flooring. Water damage happens to all types of flooring and can lead to warping, splitting, or cracking as the water seeps in. While cracked or warped flooring may be easy to notice, you may not see wet flooring, especially if it's in the corners of the room or areas of the home that you don't frequent.
• Look in the cabinet under the sink for watermarks, warping, and discoloration that may indicate leaking pipes. Damp cabinets or mold are sure signs of a leaking pipe nearby.
• Pay attention to any new repairs to ceilings, walls, and windows. Are there patch jobs? Does there appear to be areas with heavier paint? These "quick fixes" may be hiding water damage spots.
• Check for rust on the water heater. These can indicate a previous or current leak, and any leak can mean water damage.
• Trust your sense of smell. If there is a mildew or musty odor, there is likely water damage, and now there may be a potential mold issue that will require mold remediation.
More Things to Consider
- Check The Attic. An older or poorly maintained roof may lead to damage, leading to leaks during severe weather, such as storms. Snow or ice during winter can also accumulate, leading to further damage as it melts. Search for signs of water damage in the attic area, particularly around and near the chimney and roof vents where the roof planes join together, and the roof and the walls meet. Check the insulation; it should be dry and free from mold.
- Check The Basement. Basement water damage happens to many homes and is among the most common problems for homeowners, whether from a leaking water heater, a foundation leak, or flood damage from a washing machine overflow. During heavy storms, the water may accumulate around the home, causing gradual damage to the basement. The damage may also be caused by a sudden burst pipe inside or outside your home, leading to a flooded basement that requires repair.
Use the checklist above to examine any home, paying close attention to the walls for signs of water stains that could point to an area that is leaking and requires professional help.
If you're considering a home that's faced fire damage, there are several things to consider before signing those closing documents. Anyone purchasing a fire damaged house needs to know several important points, including: Where did the fire occur? Was it small and localized, or did it spread through several rooms? How long ago was the fire? Was there structural damage? Is there still structural damage? These questions are just the start.
Pros to Consider. One of the biggest pros to purchasing a home with fire damage is the price. Often these homes are undervalued. How long ago did the fire happen? If it wasn't a recent fire and repairs have begun or have been made, the cost of repairs might be less. When an undervalued fire damaged home is purchased as a fix-and-flip, your chance for a higher return on investment is good, especially if any repairs can be made quickly and affordably. When repairing a fire damaged home, it's a good time to have the various aspects of the home inspected and other issues repaired. Additionally, if the home is being gut-renovated, you'll have the chance to make profound home design/layout changes. It's an opportunity to make the house your own with the comfort of knowing it's been properly repaired.
Cons to Consider. The biggest cons against buying a fire damaged house are the unknowns. A house with fire damage requires a complete inspection from a certified home inspector and possibly a structural engineer. An electrician should also check the home's wiring for fire damage as well. When touring the house, things to look for include but are not limited to the following:
- Any sign of charring or scorch marks
- Lingering smoke odor
- Musty smell from mold growth (result of water damage from firefighting efforts)
- Warping of floors, window frames, door frames
- Warped, melted, or otherwise damaged pipes
- Damage to the HVAC system
Before buying any home or property that has suffered water or fire damage, consider all the pros and cons, follow through with all the proper inspections, and call ServiceMaster Restore if you need further water or fire damage clean-up and restoration.