I'm sitting at my desk, trying to write this post, and Marc is wondering why I'm so bummed. Unfortunately, once we came to an agreement with the seller of the house we wanted, the process became difficult. I wrote about an unresponsive seller's agent before, but it seemed like our seller became similarly unresponsive after our offer was accepted.
The Home Inspection
In mid-April, we moved forward with the process of buying the house. At realtor Jim Duncan's suggestion, we hired Robert Foster of Trebor Home Inspections and Cavalier Septic Service to inspect the property. Robert spent three or four hours at the house. I felt like I learned a lot about the structure just listening to him while he worked.
When he opened up the crawl space under the house, he said it was one of the prettiest ones he had seen. It was clean, dry, and lined with a membrane. I declined the opportunity to join him under the house, but Jim Duncan went right in there after Robert. I had to stick my camera inside the door to catch that.
I've seen a few home inspection reports before and Robert's blew me away. I wish I could show you the report I got on my condo when I bought it back in 2006. I just shredded it a few weeks ago, but it was basically a multi-page form to which the inspector added barely legible notes. The few places where there were problems, it was hard to understand exactly what was wrong based on the brief description. When we saw the inspection report that the buyer of the condo got, it looked very similar. In fact, there was one note on the report about needing to replace weather stripping on a windo. None of the windows in the condo had weather stripping. It was hard to fix something that wasn't really described property, but we did our best, resealing what we thought could have been the issue.
Anyway, Robert's home inspection report was a massive PDF with photos and videos embedded in the document. Every note was categorized by the colors red, orange, blue, and green. Red notes represented urgent safety issues and green notes things that would be "good to know" about the house. Orange and blue notes were items to fix, but not extremely urgent matters. Where repairs were needed, Robert's report included information about what would be the correct scenario.
The inspection revealed A LOT of issues that had to be fixed. We expected there to be some problems, but we were a little shocked that there was something wrong with almost every "system" in the house, from HVAC to the electrical to the plumbing. We had already prepared ourselves for news that the gutters, which the seller had "reconfigured" in such a way that they were causing erosion, needed to be redone, but we also found that the roof hadn't been installed property.
The inside problems were all things we thought we could deal with. However, the roof issue was scary. I called a roofer to come and look at things and let us know how much it would cost to correct the problems. Once we had that estimate, Jim wrote up a document asking the seller to take that off the sale price on which we had settled.
The Septic Inspection
At the same time, we had called in Cavalier Septic Services to inspect the septic system. I joked that Marc and I are both "city kids" who didn't understand septic systems, so I'm glad Jim Duncan suggested that we have the septic checked. Apparently, some septic inspections consist of walking around the yard. For our inspection, the tank would be unearthed.
Miss Utility was called to mark all the different utility lines that were running around the property. I noticed phone and electrical lines marked, but in hindsight, there were no blue lines, which would have marked the water lines.
Our inspector had a hard time finding the septic tank in the first place. There was no information in the house about where it was located, which was odd since the seller had left folders with receipts and contracts from every project had had done around the house over the years.
That simple "poke stick" thing didn't turn anything up, so he used two digital tools that threw signals into to the ground, looking for changes in density.
When he started marking corners, I was surprised that the tank was pretty close to the house and that it was on an angle. You'd think those things would be dropped in parallel or perpendicular to the structure to make them a little easier to find.
Once the location was marked, the digging began.
The digging quickly stopped. A water line was laying over the tank and as soon as the inspector pulled that bucket down over the tank, he discovered two problems: there was a hole in the septic tank and that water line got snagged and was broken.
I feel horrible for not remembering the guy's name, but at this point, he lowered himself into the hole and clamped the water line in his hands. It was only trickling, but this was clearly a bad development. He asked me to run to his truck and grab some heavy duty tape. After he taped the line and called for back-up, I snapped this picture:
I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to lay utilities over a septic tank, since septic tanks are supposed to be opened up every now and then to be serviced. A friend who lives in the neighborhood said that those water lines were put in around 2006, when the neighborhood switched from being on a well to being on the county water supply. Other neighbors were fairly certain the septic had never been serviced.
I emailed Jim about what was going on and he immediately cancelled the document where we asked for roof money and added that the seller had to replace the septic system.
When the septic inspector guessed that the replacement might cost $5,000-7,000 (depending on whether trees had to be removed to give equipment access to the yard), I was pretty sure the deal was dead.