Q about house inspection before auction

kiki_thinkingSeptember 6, 2008

I've made arrangements for a structural engineer/house inspector to come look at a home we are thinking about buying - I don't have any experience with this and I'm wondering how much detail his report will give us.

Like, for instance, I know that the PO had "some updating" of the electric done but I don't know to what extent they did whatever they did. The realtor mentioned that when she turned on the hall light last time there was "a small fire" (the fixture smoked and burned out) and the real estate company had their electrician repair the problem.

So I'm wondering how much detail I can expect from the inspector. Will just identify what types of wiring he sees? Will he be able to determine or just give an educated guess at what is likely behind the walls? Will he say "yep, looks like a problem in the hallway" or tell me something like "you need to get an electrician in here to see what's going on the electric is not up to code" or will he be able to tell us what parts are sound and what parts need to be updated and give us a rough estimate of cost? Will he be able to tell me what caused the hall problem and if it's an issue with that one area or all over the house or as a result of moisture problems or ... Same with termite issues. I know they house had some termite problems about 5 years ago - the house was treated and there was a little structural work done in the basement. The house has been empty for 2 years so I can only assume the bugs are back. Will he just say "Yep, I see evidence of termites?" or will he say "This area needs treated and replaced" or could he even tell us if necessary "If you enter this house, hide your pencils or the termites will have them." etc.

I'm going with him for the full house inspection on Friday September 12th - We will get his report the following Tuesday and the house is being auctioned on Wednesday, so we don't have a lot of time. I'll be the one going thru the house with him and I only really know a little about old houses, just what I've read on this board. Any help or suggestions about what else I should ask would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

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Get an electrician, plumber and structural engineer to go with you on Friday the 12th. I'd rely on them more than I would on an inspector...unless the inspector specializes in old homes.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 1:16PM
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Thanks! Just as a point of clarification, he is a structural engineer who does home inspections, and he's one of the more widely known and respected guys in our area. So crossing my fingers and hoping he delivers a boat-load of info :)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 1:31PM
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You may also want to enquire at the Buying and Selling Homes forum. Every real estate auction to which I have been, or bought at (bought two homes this way) gives no warranty to the house. A lot of people go the auction route because it's pretty much understood and may be spelt out that the house is being sold "as is" It's a typical way to move a house from an estate, and is done by local governments for loan defaults, or tax delinquencies, and done by more and more people anymore who want to sell a house and have not had any luck doing it by conventional methods. So, there are some pretty benign reasons for houses coming up for auction and there are others where red flags go up and flip back and forth.

You are fortunate you have access to do a home inspection. I don't know about Kiki, but I don't think I could really afford to take a complete entourage of electricians, inspectors, plumbers and engineers along to check out a house. That would run easily to four figures. Along with the engineer you might want to consider a trusted friend or relative of whom you trust their opinion who has actually lived in or owned a house(or houses) of similar age. It's a baptism by fire and most can relate from experience those things a younger person might not even think of. As for inspectors, they run the gamut from being very precise to very ambiguous. You almost have to trust their reputation.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 2:55PM
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Hi, Thanks Calliope - I'll check out that forum - didn't realize it was there. The house did go thru foreclosure, back to the bank and now fannie mae is the one auctioning the house. It's an as-is deal - and one of the reasons I'm reluctant to shell out $$$ for the inspections is that there is no guarantee that the house will even sell for the amount of money we are willing to put into it. We did go thru the house with an older friend who has lived in a house of hte same era for the last 40 years - he made some valuable observations and suggestions. He's repaired and replaced almost every system in his own home.
We are paying $600 for the inspection. That seemed high to me but we're bringing the inspector from Charleston to St. Marys - so it's a 1.5 hour trip each way. The inspector came very well recommended from several sources, he's a structural engineer and and inspector. I just hope that his report contains enough information to give us peace of mind about a decision to try to buy or not to try. The other craziness is that the house could sell for nothing or for an unreasonably high amount given the amount of $ that will be required to fix it up - who knows. So if it sells for over what we are willing to invest in it - then I've just flushed the $600.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 8:18PM
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Or maybe saved yourself thousands ;-)

With that inspection report under your belt, you may be one of the few bidders who have a clue, however. Will it be a closed or open bid auction? I've seen both kinds. A courthouse step kind of thing like a sheriff's sale? If that is the case, and you are new to the process, play your cards close if you know what I mean. Show NO EMOTION. I've seen people really go off the deep end at those sales and overbid one man for a house who expected it to go for the minimum bid and he got indignent and verbal in front of everyone when I went not only past the minimum but the appraisal value to get it because knew it was appraised at rock bottom since little was owed on it when the bank took it back. He at least had enough sense to stop when it went past his limit. Some people don't.

Good luck on this, it's a scary thing, but like I said I've done that route twice, and both times made a good investment because I did my homework.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 10:45PM
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Calliope - it just confirmed that I liked you when you spelled with an e "enquire" earlier ;) And you've responded with wonderful help every time I've posted with a different round of concerns. I appreciate you very much -
I've spent all evening reading thru the buying and selling house forum you suggested - and have learned a LOT from it.

This will be my first time at a property auction. In addition to calling the utilities companies to try to figure out what sort of bleeding the heat bill will cause :) I'm also trying to track down the POs who have moved away, figuring that I might delicately ask them if they would mind telling me a little about living in the house (bad smells? always cold? mouldy ghosts in the basement? the neighbors?) After we get the inspection results back on Tuesday, we'll pow-wow that night and figure out our immovable number.

It's an auction on the lawn of the house by -Williams&Williams - It might be easier to be dispassionate if it were an online auction. I'm kind of excitable, but more the jumping up and down kind, not the whacking people on the head kind -
Do you think a poker face really matters?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 11:37PM
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I go to auctions like the guys on Texas hold'em poker play their games......you don't ever want to let on that you think an item is "hot". If it is a desirable property, there will be others there who do this for speculation and know their way around. What you say or do won't influence them as they'll have their 'numbers' already and no emotional attachments. They do it for a living. Sometimes they say or do things to intimidate or psyche out the folks who do it for a 'home'. Don't be influenced by what other buyers say or hint.

There may also be others there who think it's going to be like a bargain basement. They're the ones who will sometimes drive up the price past the point you know you should quit, because they get caught up in the moment and may have been scoping the house out like you have. They do react to other people's reactions. I'm assuming, if you haven't planned to pay cash for it, that you've already had the conversation with your banker as to how high they feel comfortable backing you based on your credit and the house's appraisal? That's how I knew how far I could take a bid, should it go past the minimums. You'll probably be required to lay down a percentage then and there and have X number of days to pay the rest.

I hope your inspection goes well and wish you the best of luck. Be sure you have talked with knowlegeable people about liens against the house, etc. I had one bank who held the forclosed mortagage goof up and then try to come back to me after a sale and get me to pay for a second mortage they'd issued and missed. LOL. No, they didn't get more money. Their bad.

Then again, if you decide to bid, there may be no competition. Who knows? Usually there are the same crowd of 'lookers' who go to every real estate auction listed. They eat their lunch and visit with cronies. LOLOL.

I have no idea how your state handles such stuff and my circumstances could differ a lot from yours. I'm no legal whiz and don't claim to be. My advice is worth what you paid for it. ;-) There are a lot of folks on this and the real estate forum who have done this, and I just know how scary buying real estate can be, and this especially so. Just wanted you to know that some of them have happy endings. Some don't. If this one doesn't pan out, there will be more. Plenty more in this economy and the next time you'll be a seasoned veteran.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 2:32AM
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I appreciate the support :) I will attempt a poker-face - lol I'd never thought about other buyers trying to psyche us out -

I read in the other forum about the bank who didn't have an agent show up to protect their interest try to get you to pony up for the rest - That was a nervy move on their part -lol.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 10:06AM
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