August 24, 2004

Inspection Day (With Pictures!)

Today was Inspection Day: Shelby and I drove down to Santa Ana to meet the current homeowners, their real-estate agent, our agent, and the house inspector at 8:30 AM. When we drove up to the house, I was distressed to see that the realtor's sign stuck in the front lawn hadn't had an additional "SOLD" or "IN ESCROW" sign tacked on to it: sure, the house was listed as a "pending sale" on the realtor's website, and it was no longer available on the online MLS, but when you write giant checks and pledge yourself to thirty years of financial serfdom, you want to see palpable results in the real world! This unease was sustained once we walked into the house, where the dining room table was still decked out like a real-estate branch office, stacked with business cards and flyers and brochures about the house -- were they still holding everything in readiness, just in case a casual browser with a better offer happened by? But then we walked into the kitchen, and Lee, the wife of the couple, started loading me up with receipts and warranty cards and other ephemera for the appliances and fixtures that were staying in the house. No, they were ready to move after all. Whew!

The inspector's report was mostly positive: we're buying a house that's in good shape for its age (either 75 or 76 years old, depending on your source). There were a few items of immediate concern that we'll want to pressure the sellers to fix before we take possession: the vent pipes for the furnace and the tankless water heater have insufficient clearance from the surrounding wood (a fire danger); there was an uncapped drain pipe in the crawlspace which could, under the 'right' clogged-pipe conditions, cause sewage to back up underneath the house! There were a number of minor-league things that didn't strike us as a big deal either way: ungrounded three-prong electrical plugs, a door that may need to be re-hung, or may just need its hinges tightened.

There were a few items of concern for the future, however: the house isn't earthquake-strapped to the foundation. The attic is full of still-in-use old-style 'knob-and-tube' wiring -- it's stable and in good shape (copper wire, no decaying insulation), but we'll want to replace that with a modern, higher-capacity system over time. Our biggest potential bone of contention is the roof: both the house and the garage will need to have their roofs replaced sooner rather than later. While both are in acceptable shape and neither is leaking, they're both showing their age -- and each is at the magic three-layers-of-roofing point, where you have to tear everything off and start from the beginning, rather than adding an additional layer over the existing roof. (Why a maximum of three layers? Apparently someone picked that as the point after which any additional material would make the roof too heavy, leading to Bad Things Happening. This is a new fact that I've learned during our housing search.) The current homeowners have been making noises about having a certification for the roof that's good for two more years, but they have yet to produce any actual documentation. Even with a trustworthy certification, the roof shows damage -- from a tree rubbing against the house -- that's probably not covered. I suspect that we'll be getting a quote on the cost of a total roof replacement and asking them for a concession against some percentage of that cost.

And, of course, I brought my camera along and took pictures of the house.

Posted by Kevin at August 24, 2004 05:11 PM