Water is both destructive and generative. It depends on the point of view, the context, and the time span. Those living downstream from the Oroville dam are understandably concerned about the destructive properties of a wall of water. And while slow-moving glaciers carved out the treasured beauty of Yosemite Valley, any creatures living in their path had to adapt or relocate. This winter has brought ample water down on us all. There is more to come; some in swiftly flowing streams and rivers, and more still stored in snow. With the rains come questions to Realtors® from recent, and not so recent, buyers. Leaky roofs, flooded basements, and moisture seeping in around windows are some common complaints.
Moisture may be a generative element for fungus and mold, but it’s a destroyer of wood, plaster and even concrete over time. Evidence of moisture intrusion should never be ignored. Even a little visible water can indicate a major destructive force already at work. Get a professional opinion as soon as possible about the source of the problem, the extent of the damage, and the best means of correction.
Time and intensity are the major variables. Roof wear is accelerated by wind and heat. Below-grade areas can be dry for years until shifting soils and torrential rain finally open a path for intrusion. A slow, seasonal, and undetected seepage can burst forth unexpectedly and unpredictably.
With leaks also come questions of who bears responsibility for repairs.
- Homeowners: Generally the homeowners are responsible, although they might get some assistance from their homeowners insurance.
- Contractors: Sometimes a contractor, particularly a roofer, provided the seller with a warranty that continues after the sale.
- Sellers: Recent buyers sometimes look to the seller for compensation but, with the exception of new construction, sellers don’t give warranties.
- All sales are essentially “as is” after the consideration of disclosures and inspections. There are no overall guarantees of condition.
- Sellers of residential properties are required to make disclosures about what they know (“are you aware of”), but this is neither a prediction nor a guarantee against future problems.
- The accusation of “failure to disclose” is used all too loosely. It presupposes that the seller had knowledge of the condition.
- Buyers who forgo inspections in order to succeed in a competitive offer situation should seriously consider further investigation after close of escrow, and before a costly problem develops.
As for owners, be vigilant in keeping water away from your home. Have your gutters cleared and roof inspected at reasonable intervals. Schedule an inspection with a licensed pest inspector from time to time in order to learn of any developing damage or conditions that could create problems. Above all, when you become a seller, disclose all moisture-related problems even if they have been repaired. Never dismiss water problems, both past and present, as being minor. When it’s time to sell, you are required to disclose the information to prospective buyers. Consider going beyond that to either have a professional inspection, or give the buyers an opportunity to make their own investigation.
Right now roofers and drainage contractors are not easy to get ahold of, but if you need recommendations or want to discuss any real estate-related topics, don’t hesitate to get in touch.