Water in the Basement- Now What?

This week I went to preview a house for some clients. They indicated interest, so rather than waste their time, I went to check it out to see if the floor plan would meet their needs.

The house is in a very desireable neighborhood in West Hartford. I walked around the first floor and the layout seemed to meet their needs. So far, so good. Then I checked out the upstairs. Good sized bedrooms and a master bath. Perfect, just what they’re looking for. I’m heading for the front door and then realize I should also look in the basement to see if the mechanicals have been recently updated. I turn on the light and a nice surprise, the basement looks finished. Ah, extra square footage, always a good thing. I walk down the steps and as I land on the carpet I hear “squish.” Huh, what was that? I take another step. “Squish.” “Squish, squish, squish.” The basement carpet is soaked.

Swell. Is a pipe broken? What is going on here? The listing office told me that the homeowner is gone for several days, so no one knows about the issue but me. Time to investigate to see if I can figure out what caused it and determine if it’s still actively flooding. Squish, squish, squish. Nope, the pipes seem fine. There are what appear to be older water stains on the carpet and the soaking area is below a basement window. Must be the gutters overflowed during the massive rainstorm we recently endured, directly into the basement window. I trek outside to see if my theory is right. Yep, there is gunk sticking out of the gutters and the mulch around the window well has been completely washed away. At this point I call the listing agent’s cell phone and leave a message for him explaining the issue, as I know the home is vacant for a few days. He never calls me back to acknowledge he received my message or ask me about the situation.

Before I left the house I picked up the Seller’s Disclosures that were provided. They indicate no issues with basement water seepage or dampness. But there was a dehumidifier in the basement, there were older water stains, and I just saw that it was flooded. My disclosure to the other agent has now made this a material fact, which means that, legally, he should disclose this going forward. Will this happen? Most likely not. Did I tell my buyers about this issue? You betcha. If they have any interest in the property I will urge them to get a mold test and ask for monetary concessions to deal with the problem.

This type of situation probably happens all of the time because disclosing an infrequent problem is unlikely to be seen and would only reduce the price a seller can get for the house. This type of deception is illegal, but likely happens on a regular basis because there is a stong financial incentive to do so. I was just fortunate enough to see the problem at its worst, so if my buyers are interested I can adequately protect them. This just illustrates the importance of getting a home inspection in order to further protect your future investment.

Do You Work with Renters?

Recently I’ve had a few people contact me and ask if I can help them find a rental property. Some agents will help clients find rentals, while others won’t. I’m happy to help people find rentals, as there are often good reasons why the person shouldn’t be buying a home at the current time. Maybe you’re new to an area and want to determine what areas you enjoy. Renting for a year might be a good idea. Maybe you’re trying to save for a down payment on your first home. Maybe you just don’t want to be responsible for any maintenance. Whatever the reason, using an agent to find your rental may be the right choice.

If you’re planning on eventually buying a home, using an Realtor for a rental is a good way to “test drive” an agent. The agent should work diligently on your behalf, as they would with any buyer or seller. They’ll understand your needs and then search to identify a rental that works for you. If you find that you were happy with the Realtor’s service when finding the rental, you’ll probably want to use that Realtor again when you buy. You’ve built a relationship with the agent, they understand your needs, and will most likely be effective in a purchase transaction.

You may wonder how the agent gets compensated when finding a rental. If your Realtor finds a rental for you using the Multiple Listing Service, you typically pay nothing because our fee is covered by the landlord listing the rental. If they find you a rental using Craigslist or some other service, the landlord may be willing to pay the Realtor’s fee. It’s important that the agent talk with the landlord prior to showing so that you understand how their fee will be paid. If the landlord is unwilling to pay the agent’s fee, you may need to compensate the agent. Commission on rentals varies, but a good rule of thumb is half a month’s rent. So if you’re looking for a $1000/month rental, the agent would receive $500. Make sure you clarify how the agent will be compensated before you start working with them. If you don’t want to pay out of pocket, specify that they use the MLS to find you a rental.

Berry Season is Upon Us…

June is finally here, which means that it’s the start of berry picking season. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries. We kick off the summer with strawberries and then work our way through the rest.

If you’re like me and don’t mind getting some straw stuck in your knees and burning up in the sun, a great place for Pick-Your-Own berries is Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury. There are two locations, the main farm at Matson Hill and the Wickham Hill Farm Stand located on Hebron Avenue. It’s always best to call before you go, as the different locations are open on different days and you never know when the crop will be ready, picked out, etc. Just dial 860-633-7467 and you’ll get a recorded message telling you what’s available and at which location.

In addition to picking berries, Rose’s has excellent local food products for sale. They are also well known for their Sunday brunch (at the main farm only), so stop by to enjoy a delicious meal with the freshest berries available.