Surprise defects may derail REO purchase

Most banks won’t make repairs, though there are exceptions

Barry Stone
Inman News
DEAR BARRY: We are buying a foreclosed home from a bank and are concerned about three issues: There is a plumbing leak in the upstairs bathroom, with water dripping from the garage ceiling; the previous owner agreed to leave the window treatments but took them, as well as the kitchen range, when she moved; and there are numerous holes in the drywall in several rooms. What can we do about these problems? Do we have recourse against the previous owner? –Cyndi

DEAR CYNDI: When you buy a bank-owned property, it is usually an as-is sale. Banks are interested in cutting their losses by getting these foreclosed properties off of their books. But there are exceptions, depending on the kinds of defects involved.

In some cases, buyers or their agents are able to negotiate for repairs, but these instances are rare. In the case of an active plumbing leak, you’ve got a fair chance, but don’t delay on this because prolonged leakage can cause further problems, such as mold. Holes in the drywall are cosmetic defects, unlikely to be considered by the bank.

The former owner was apparently not very responsible or ethical, considering the physical damage to the property and failure to leave fixtures as promised. But all of that is history and not worth pursuing. Wall damage is easily patched, and you’ll probably enjoy new fixtures in place of the old ones that were taken.

Your decision now is whether to buy a home that needs some repairs, or to cancel the sale. If the purchase price is good, and the cost of repairs is not too high, this may still be a good deal. To gain some perspective on this, get some quotes for physical repairs and replacement of fixtures. And above all, be sure to hire an experienced home inspector for a more complete list of defects.

DEAR BARRY: When I bought my house, the home inspector found no problems with the roof. But last winter the roof started leaking in several places. So I went into the attic and found buckets under several of the leaks. Two of the buckets were filled and overflowing. Shouldn’t my home inspector have said something about this? –Cheryl

DEAR CHERYL: If your home inspector went into the attic, something should have been said about the buckets. There is only one reason to install buckets in an attic, and this should be obvious to every professional home inspector. When pails, wash tubs, old coffee cans or buckets are seen in an attic, past or current leakage is evident, and an extra careful evaluation of the roof is in order.

If the roofing material looks new, the buckets are probably left over from previous leaks. If the roofing does not appear new, further evaluation by a licensed roofing contractor is in order.

If your home inspector inspected the attic and said nothing about the buckets, he was professionally negligent. If he didn’t inspect the attic, he was either professionally negligent or inconveniently corpulent. Either way, he wasn’t doing his job.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at

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