Meet Sherlock the Homebuyer

Meet Sherlock the Homebuyer

There is a class of homebuyer that looks to the bones of a home before they allow themselves to be wowed by kitchen cabinets, granite countertops, hardwood floors, and big master suites. Call them junior inspectors or Sherlocks of the home market. You can spot them because there will be a flashlight poking out of a back pocket or a tape measure clipped to a belt. Hardcore Sherlocks hide an awl (sharp pointy tool) up their sleeve in order to probe for rot. Another clue: They’re too busy eyeing the condition of roof shingles, the levelness of the floors, and whether there are adequate eave and ridge vents, to chat much or to listen to what an agent has to say. At showings and open houses, they politely excuse themselves and head straight for the basement.

Basements offer up many clues about the quality of a house. In them, you can determine a host of important things, including the presence of lead pipes or asbestos insulation, whether appliance flues are up to code, the age of the wiring, the adequacy of the electrical service, and whether you’ll be cohabiting with bugs and mice.

Look overhead to the basement ceiling (underside of the subfloor) and you can find the telltale signs of past (or current) plumbing leaks. Look to the slab and cracks or raised sections will tell you whether the contractor skimped when it was poured. Examine the furnace or boiler, and the water heater, to discover whether they hail from a less efficient era. Excess humidity will show up as mold or fungus growing on framing and a layer of rust on anything made of steel.

The real moment of truth for a house, however, is when the Sherlock heads over to an exterior foundation wall and examines it for water stains, peeling paint, mold, and cracks. Nothing will make him walk away faster than signs of water or foundation settlement. These are issues that are often perceived as not being fixable, or if they are, as being cost-prohibitive to repair. If your house, or one you hope to list, has a basement problem, take action right away. Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of negotiations with a savvy buyer to fix a wet basement or a settled foundation.

Real estate agents say that a wet basement can force homeowners to drop their selling price from 10 to 15 percent. In most cases, that’s going to be a lot more than the cost of putting in a basement waterproofing system. A cracked and settled foundation will likely demand an even greater price reduction, assuming the house can be sold at all. Here is more information explaining why you should fix your foundation when selling a home.

“Fix it now and have the enjoyment of a dry basement [or a sound foundation] for all the time you live here,” says Larry Janesky, president of Basement Systems, Inc., “instead of having to live with moisture and mold, ruined possessions, loss of storage space, bad smells, sloped floors and cracked walls.”

Why spend thousands to fix your basement just before you go to sell to a Sherlock (or anyone else) for his family to enjoy the dry basement your family could have had?


This guest post is by Joe Provey, a home improvement and green living writer who has authored several books including Convert Your Home to Solar Energy. 

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