AOL Real Estate. "We had no interest in changing anything, not even the paint scheme." But, like the old adage goes, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is: Just eight months after their purchase, the Trehers found themselves knee-deep in problems. The couple's "finished" basement became entirely flooded when their sump pump failed. Although the previous owner supposedly had just installed and tested the existing sump pump -- and had not declared any previous water problems -- before the sale, the Treher family found themselves not only with a soaked basement but with draining issues throughout the entire home. (The real estate disclaimer given to the Trehers before purchase listed no issues with the home other than upgrades and repairs that had supposedly already been completed.)
As if that weren't enough, a few months later, the frustrated Treher family also discovered a serious crack that developed alongside an existing repair line in the ceiling of their living room. Within days after the discovery, the ceiling became almost entirely detached. (When the Trehers attempted to remove the ceiling in order to replace it, it took "just one tug" for the ceiling to detach in its entirety). According to the Trehers, the house was "literally unraveling itself" -- and continues to do so, even two years later. "After the issues started mounting up, the house has never felt like home," Justin said. "
But we are stuck and will make the best of it -- hopefully saving up an emergency fund for any future repairs after we shell out for the exterior work next year."
Juneau recalled a case where he was commissioned to inspect a brand-new home in the Bellingham, Wash., area. He discovered significant structural issues with the home. Despite noting that in the inspection report -- and advising his clients against buying -- his clients went ahead and purchased the property. ("Where else can you find these views?" Juneau recalled his clients saying.) A year later, his clients contacted him, complaining that their home had settled by three inches -- a problem Juneau had predicted in his initial inspection report. And though some homebuyers just won't listen, Braun told AOL Real Estate that the most important tip for homebuyers is still to hire a trained, licensed and well-reviewed home inspector. This is absolutely necessary, Braun said, as the average homebuyer is not trained to look at homes the way a certified inspector is. Ensure that your home inspector is licensed if your state requires it. (Unfortunately, only about half of states require any kind of certification or licensing for home inspectors.) Also, make sure the inspector is affiliated with a professional inspection organization, such as the National Association of Home Inspectors, American Society of Home Inspectors or National Institute of Building Inspectors. Juneau adds that homebuyers should interview their inspector on the phone for at least 15 minutes before hiring them. "Ask for his resume, ask for guarantees," said Juneau.
"I just remember that the inspector repeatedly mentioned how great of a condition the house was in and applauded the former owners," Treher told AOL Real Estate. "Unfortunately, that was a veneer." Treher also recommended that homebuyers hire a remodeling contractor to look at the property. It's important, he noted, to have a professional inspect and dissect the home with "no relationship to the real estate machine" -- particularly someone who is able to assess the quality of workmanship in the home and spot shoddy DIY attempts. And because you can never be too sure, some poking around yourself doesn't hurt either, according to Steve Sochacki, an Ohio-based Realtor. According to Sochacki, a thorough visual inspection -- looking out for cracks, sloped floors or failed siding with a flashlight and binoculars -- is never a bad idea. Braun also advised that after your own physical inspection, homeowners should do thorough background inspections on the home. This includes asking the Realtor and seller many questions and reading the seller's disclosure documents very carefully. Doing added research on the property and the neighborhood can also save homebuyers future grief.
"Although not perfect, home warranties do cover most major mechanical systems of the house and electrical, plumbing, among others," said Realtor Denise Manderfield of Ohio's Home Information Network. Warranties ensure, Manderfield said, that homebuyers will not have to worry about shelling out money in case basic systems in the house do not work, or if minor repairs are needed within the first year of occupancy. I Bought a Lemon! What Now? If, like the Trehers, you believe that you've just purchased a lemon, you still have options. Depending on the reasons behind your purchase, you might even be able to get your money back. For example, if a Realtor has misinformed you about the quality of a home or omitted information that might cause potential buyers to walk away, then you have grounds to sue, Braun said. Many states, such as Texas, Minnesota and New Jersey, have an action to recover from a failure to disclose a defect. (This is the case for many homeowners who have unknowingly purchased "bad" homes.) The law is very clear that the homeowner is entitled to compensation by both the real estate agent and the licensee in such a situation. But it's still easier said than done: Treher learned that litigation is an extremely costly, time-consuming process that can be very risky. "We did contact a couple of attorneys, but all of them stated that it really sounded like the worst of luck," said Treher. "While proving negligence might be possible, it would be expensive between engineer and attorney hours." In the case in which the homeowner has not done their due diligence -- he or she didn't conduct their proper research on the home and didn't hire a home inspector -- there are even less options, according to Braun. Finding issues in the home that are unknown to the seller or Realtor is the sole responsibility of the potential buyer. "If there's a grave structural defect that the seller had no idea lurked under the house, that could have been caught by an inspection
that wasn't commissioned, then the buyer is out of luck," Braun said. "In these cases, it's too bad." Opinion: In Obama's Second Term, What Will Happen to the Housing Market? Is Off-the-Grid Living the Future of Housing? Loan Officer Lifts the Lid on Deceptive Lending in 'The Liar and His Loans'