Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

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Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby ChupaChups » Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:53 pm

We've been looking for a house in a better school district for our children, 4 and 2. We came upon a short sale listing in MLS and noticed how the price of this house ($800K) was significantly "undervalued" to its Zillow estimate ($1.5MM). The listing has been on the market for a few years with the price gradually being decreased (from $1.8MM to $800K). So we got additional information from the selling realtor:

* The house was built in the 1960's but there have been prior renovations that have made the layout awkward (e.g., many elevation changes with steps leading into various rooms). This is also partly because the land is sloped.
* A water pipe burst in the unfinished basement and now there is mold. The realtor estimates that it will be $25K to remediate.
* It's a short sale and he is unsure how much the bank will approve the sale for.

I need to do more diligence on the property and obviously, choosing a home is a very subjective choice but as a financial matter, should I even be thinking about rehabbing the basement and finishing it up and doing other repairs to get a house that COULD be worth ~$1.5MM (if Zillow is to be believed)? By the way, the house sold for close to $2MM in 2006 and the seller has a mortgage for around $1.4MM so presumably, it appraised for around the sales price at the height of the market.

Has anyone had experience with remediating mold and whether you can be sure you're fully safe after remediation? Should I be scared of the short sale process?

Any insight would be helpful. Thank you.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby HardKnocker » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:12 pm

I'd get a third party estimate on the remediation cost to get rid of the mold and would not blindly accept the Realtor's good faith estimate.

Mold is all around us all the time, everywhere we go for the most part, and is generally harmless. In this case you need more info before jumping in with both feet.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby N1CKV » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:17 pm

HardKnocker wrote:I'd get a third party estimate on the remediation cost to get rid of the mold and would not blindly accept the Realtor's good faith estimate.

Mold is all around us all the time, everywhere we go for the most part, and is generally harmless. In this case you need more info before jumping in with both feet.

I agree with this.

if you otherwise like the house, and not just because "it's a steal" - then get a contractor qualified to to the remediation to give you a solid estimate of time and money to get the job done.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby BillyG » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:24 pm

First, don't believe anything a realtor tells you about costs.

It may or may not be fine -- it depends on the extent of the mold. Was the house uncoccupied (i.e., was the water there for a long time?)

Mold remediation is done all the time. Getting it out of the basement may not be a big deal. Getting it out of every wall in the house is a big deal.

Are you 100% sure the water is not (also) from a foundation or drainage problem? Is there any evidence of water leakage in the basement? This could be expensive to fix, or it may be as simple as re-grading and cleaning gutters.

Get your own contractor to give you estimates and advice.

I would be more worried about the piecmeal renovations and waht that says about the quality of the work.

The huge apparent price discount is a cause for caution -- do they know something they are not telling you?

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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby ChupaChups » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:32 pm

N1CKV wrote:
HardKnocker wrote:I'd get a third party estimate on the remediation cost to get rid of the mold and would not blindly accept the Realtor's good faith estimate.

Mold is all around us all the time, everywhere we go for the most part, and is generally harmless. In this case you need more info before jumping in with both feet.

I agree with this.

if you otherwise like the house, and not just because "it's a steal" - then get a contractor qualified to to the remediation to give you a solid estimate of time and money to get the job done.
Thank you both. I plan to do this if we decide to progress.

BillyG wrote:Was the house uncoccupied (i.e., was the water there for a long time?)
This might have been the case because the seller no longer lives at the house.

BillyG wrote:Are you 100% sure the water is not (also) from a foundation or drainage problem? Is there any evidence of water leakage in the basement?
The way it was described by the realtor was a burst pipe that has since been fixed but contractor will know better.

BillyG wrote:The huge apparent price discount is a cause for caution -- do they know something they are not telling you?
Probably... lots of diligence to do.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby NoVa Lurker » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:33 pm

Agree with Hardknocker, of course you need at least one independent estimate for the remediation, but I wouldn't treat it as a deal-breaker.

For what it's worth, we discovered some mold in a bathroom after we bought our house. The mold was on the drywall, under some wallpaper we tore off. It wasn't too bad, so we just scrubbed the walls with bleach. That seemed to get the mold off. I sanded the walls a bit more and then put on two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Walls look great, and there's been no sign of mold in the 2.5 years since. We blast the fan in that bathroom regularly.

I have no concerns about whether we are "fully safe," although I don't really know - I suspect that the universe of unknowns in our house ( built in 1947) is probably worse than what we know about!

The basement of the house you are considering might be a lot worse than our bathroom was, but at the end of the day, it's something that can be remediated -- it's only a matter of some combination of time, effort, and money.

Of course you should be scared of the short sale process, but not necessarily scared away! We have a few friends that bought short sales. It sounds like you are not in a huge rush to move, maybe just in the next year or two, in which case the short sale process might be okay for you.

Ultimately, I wouldn't focus on the market value; I'd focus on what the home is worth to you, versus other homes you are considering.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby johnep » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:35 pm

I fully agree with what others have said. In addition, make sure you know the root cause of the mold. It may or may not be what the realtor said. Unless you are sure the root cause is dealt with, you are likely to have mold again even if it is remediated this time. Also, make absolutely sure the mold is no other places in the house. Best wishes.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby czeckers » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:06 pm

I would echo the same advice. I've had several houses with basement and attic mold problems. The solution completely depends on the cause. The burst pipe scenario may or may not fit the actual situation. If it was a burst pipe and there was standing water in the basement, the cause may be fixed but remediation may be expensive as water may have soaked into wall cavities which will require tearing out any drywall that would have been in contact with standing water, drying out the wall cavities beyond and redrywalling. You'd also have to look for wood rot.

However, as mentioned above, there may also be a water drainage problem around the house. This may or may not be a relatively simple fix depending on the size of the house, type of soil, slope of lot, etc. Definitely get one or two opinions, and not just from the person the realtor recommends.

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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby mack123 » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:21 pm

I'd also point out that a house (or anything else) is only worth what people are willing to pay. If comparables are going for 1.5 m, and this has been on the market for a while and still no takers at 800k.. Maybe the market knows something here that the realtor hasn't been forthcoming about
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby Culture » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:23 pm

In line with what you have already been told:

If the water damage is from a one-time event like a burst pipe, all you are going to need to do is rip out the finishes until you get back to the framing, spray it with bleach water, let it dry out, and put the finishes back. Really no big deal.

If the leak was long-term or on-going, all bets are off. The framing could be rotted out and you could spend $$$. You might want to ask if you can have the finishes removed in the molded area to check.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby reggiesimpson » Thu Jan 31, 2013 3:41 pm

Agree with all thats said. You may want to get and engineers report also.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby tadamsmar » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:08 pm

As others have said, mold usually has a root cause related to water/moisture/seepage/groundwater and/or ventilation. Active ventilation and/or dehumidifiers may be required. And, depending on the type of mold and governing regulations, removal can be expensive. And, responsible contractors may refuse to do other types of repairs in areas where mold is present.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby tadamsmar » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:18 pm

NoVa Lurker wrote:Agree with Hardknocker, of course you need at least one independent estimate for the remediation, but I wouldn't treat it as a deal-breaker.

For what it's worth, we discovered some mold in a bathroom after we bought our house. The mold was on the drywall, under some wallpaper we tore off. It wasn't too bad, so we just scrubbed the walls with bleach. That seemed to get the mold off. I sanded the walls a bit more and then put on two coats of primer and two coats of paint. Walls look great, and there's been no sign of mold in the 2.5 years since. We blast the fan in that bathroom regularly.

I have no concerns about whether we are "fully safe," although I don't really know - I suspect that the universe of unknowns in our house ( built in 1947) is probably worse than what we know about!

The basement of the house you are considering might be a lot worse than our bathroom was, but at the end of the day, it's something that can be remediated -- it's only a matter of some combination of time, effort, and money.

Of course you should be scared of the short sale process, but not necessarily scared away! We have a few friends that bought short sales. It sounds like you are not in a huge rush to move, maybe just in the next year or two, in which case the short sale process might be okay for you.

Ultimately, I wouldn't focus on the market value; I'd focus on what the home is worth to you, versus other homes you are considering.


For a minor mold problem, detergent is sufficient and safer. Bleach is overused and accounts for a large proportion of poison control incidents. Ventilation changes usually address the root cause.

http://www.epa.gov/mold/cleanupguidelines.html

Mold spores are floating in the air everywhere outside of a clean room. Ventilation and humidity control are typically the best approach to keeping them from taking up residence and growing on surfaces.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby Watty » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:46 pm

One reason that the price may be low is that is sounds unlikely you could get a normal mortgage on the house in the current condition it is in. Unless you can pay cash for it be sure to find out what special financing may be needed to buy it and fix it.

In addition to the other problems you may be doing so much work on it that you will have to bring the rest of the house up to the current building code which can also be expensive.

With the other problem the house has would it make more sense a tear it down and build a new house on the lot? From what you have said it sounds like the house really doesn't have a lot going for it. I would be concerned that when you are done you would then have a 50 year old house with a history of mold problems that still has an awkward floor plan.
Last edited by Watty on Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby Jordana » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:50 pm

You have 2 small children and you are voluntarily buying a problem house that you can never be sure will not have caused whatever health problems your family gets. Moving is stressful and buying a house is stressful. You are not going to want to do it again soon. The kids are young, why not wait until you find a house you want. The older child can always go to a kindergarten in a nursery school, if need be, before you move.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby lindisfarne » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:48 am

When I was looking at houses, I found talking to the neighbors quite helpful. I'd go around to at least several neighbors and ask what they know about the house & whether they also experience water issues in their houses.

I'd talk to at least several because neighbors may be concerned about the house you're looking at being foreclosed and thus, may not be willing to tell you anything bad (they might want you to buy). But, at least 1 of 4 might be forthcoming. Someone who is older & who has been in the neighborhood for a long time is probably your best bet.

I think some types of mold are far worse than others, but if the conditions which promote mold are not resolved, you run the risk of developing one of the worse types, even if that one isn't present now. With kids, I would for sure be concerned & want to hire experts who can accurately assess the situation. Kids' respiratory & immune systems are far more susceptible since they're still developing, so don't take chances.

Edit to add this link from US EPA on mold & its remediation & removal: http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html
CDC has a page as well: http://www.cdc.gov/mold/
Last edited by lindisfarne on Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby Calm Man » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:49 am

I wouldn't go near this place. When something sits for years and is listed at a "discount" of nearly 50%, everybody and their brother has looked at it and passed.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby genjix » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:33 pm

I also wouldnt rely on zillow for accurate value. I would look in the nieghborhood for similiar houses for sale and go by that value +/- their house conditions vs the one you're looking at. If you look at enough homes in a certain area, you will be able to judge the value better then zillow.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby BillyG » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:47 pm

My parents' house in New Orleans flooded during Katrina and had three feet water standing in the ground floor for a couple of weeks or more. You wouldn't have believed the mold... but it was not that difficult to remove.

You can get a mold remediation quote from Servicemaster if you want to get a rough "high" number.

Some jurisdictions have building permits online, so it is worth viewing the permits and approvals (and failures) for this house. Be careful of unpermitted or failed work. Also consider if local laws require you to make mold disclosures to future buyers even after you've paid to remediate the mold.

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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby mojave » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:39 pm

My mom's cousin and her husband both mysteriously, at separate times, died unexpectedly in their sleep. Turned out it was from black mold. A friend of mine's mom was sick for a long time and they finally attributed it to black mold. My husband is a contractor and we've talked about flipping houses before. He's stated that he would never buy a house with mold. He's the expert. I realize it all depends on the situation but in a case like this I would not buy a house with mold. I don't think risking health is worth the savings, but I could also be an alarmist because it hit close to home.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby 2beachcombers » Fri Feb 01, 2013 5:53 pm

I bought a +1M$ home with mold over 4000sqft of crawlspace . AC vents were condencing on the walls and water running down the walls. I am a Chemical Engineer and the problem was obvious to me when I scoped the house. Insulation installed upside down in the crawl space, dryer venting to basement, no vapor barrier on the dirt floor, driping overflow lines directly to the basement, ac lines drolling in the crawl, etc. I sealed the floor, walls with plastic, eliminated the outside fan and vents, hosed everything with Chlorine and then installed a dehumidifer. House value now about 1.5X. Read about mold control and the necessary humidity controls required. ps my total investment was 3 days work and 2500$. Mold gone, and has been for 6 yrs

Do have the mold identified, if black mold(not just the color), run as many said.
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby LadyGeek » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:11 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (home).
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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby VictoriaF » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:13 pm

This house is under water even before you have purchased it.

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Re: Would you buy a house with mold in the basement?

Postby Jerilynn » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:49 pm

No, I would not.

I'd also check for radon gas. If it has radon, I wouldn't buy it either.
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