Page 1 of 1

Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:24 am
by toys4tots16
Hello fellow Bogleheads!

I've got a questions regarding a recent home purchase that I'd like to run past the knowledgeable members of this forum.

The facts:
- Purchased a home in April of this year for $415k
- The data sheet listed that the home included an in ground sprinkler system
- Given the time of year (early march in WI), the home inspector was unable to inspect the system
- In June, I had a local sprinkler company come over to start up the system, and it was determined that it does not work.
- The opinion of the sprinkler company was that the system probably has not been used for quite some time, and was broken prior to the purchase
- The quote to repair the unit is $2,000 (which, while not extremely expensive, is a check I would prefer not to write)
- One additional fact, while we paid $415k for the home, it was an accepted low-ball offer (after siting on the market for a long time) and the home could be worth $600K+ to the right buyer.
-Given the low purchase price, the sellers must have been upset with the deal (even though they accepted the offer) and took all toilet paper and light bulbs when they moved out)

Question:
- Should I pursue this with the previous owner?
- If yes, how should I approach/contact them?
- I've been told that real estate firms have legal staff on hand for situations like this - is this correct?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:36 am
by retiredjg
I'm wondering if you gave up your "rights" by not getting something in writing when the system could not be inspected. Surely there are customs in an area where this happens.

Either way, I'm not sure I'd pursue it. If I could afford a home in that price range, I'm not sure it would be worth the hassle factor. But that's just me.

If you had known it was broken at the time of the inspection, do you think you could have gotten them to take an additional $2k off the already low ball offer? Would you have been embarrassed to ask for an additional $2k off the offer?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:36 am
by smitcat
IMHO - you had the opportunity to inspect whatever you wanted at the walk through prior to closing. Unless you have very specific language in your purchase agreement about any issues you are far past any recourse.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:51 am
by Watty
If not being able to have the sprinkler system inspected was a concern then one option would have been to have added some sort of clause in the contract that would cover problems with it or you could have requested a home warranty that covers it.

I'm not a lawyer but unless you have some reason to think that the seller knew there was a problem and intentially mislead you then I would doubt that they have any responsabilty for it. Did the disclosure forms say anything about the sprinkler system?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:01 am
by adamthesmythe
In states I am familiar with, any information in a house listing is subject to verification by the purchaser (as in, there is no warranty that the information is correct).

Pay the bill. There will be more, even for things that worked fine at purchase. Welcome to home ownership.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:07 am
by 8foot7
In my state, when one uses the standard realtor forms for purchase offers, a house is very clearly sold as-is unless items are specifically and individually called out. Even if the sellers knew the sprinkler system did not work, and they represented to you in an official way that it did work (which again in my state the sellers would have to go to some effort to actually do), I would suspect you would have a hard time proving that they knew the system didn't work and lied to you about it, and the cost of potentially proving that almost certainly would exceed the $2,000 repair cost.

If you got a nice house at a nice price, you should count your blessings and move on.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:28 am
by toys4tots16
Well, the consensus so far is to let it go and pay the bill.

I'm fine with going that route, but I'm a bit confused as to the reasoning and value of the condition property report. The sellers specifically added a line saying that a sprinkler system was included in the purchase and affirmed that the unit was in "working order". When we sold our other house, we were advised to make sure everything we put on the condition report was 100% accurate and that we'd be liable if it wasn't.

That said, you're all correct that I have no way to prove if the sellers knew of the issue prior to closing. My gut says that they did (based on their behavior with the light bulbs and other closing issues). I'll likely just need to let this go.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:50 am
by FrugalInvestor
If you used an agent when you purchased the house I'd run it by them.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 10:54 am
by mhc
Let it go. Do you really want to fight with someone like the seller? How could you prove that it broke before purchase versus breaking after purchase?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:47 pm
by Nate79
I think you are in for a rude surprise with home ownership if you seriously want to take this issue to the previous owner. And the comment about "taking the toilet paper" is absurdly bizarre.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:55 pm
by RudyS
A couple of points;
1. In summary, I'd let it go. You seem to have gotten a great deal on the house; enjoy it.
2. In MI there is a disclosure form that would have stated that the sprinkler system was (check one) OK, not OK, not known.
3. If it was supposedly working OK, then the seller ought to have a receipt for payment of the fee for the annual shut-down in the fall. But that's just relevant if you get into a legal battle -which I would NOT do.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:05 pm
by livesoft
Why not fix it yourself for about $100 in parts? You can do it by devoting 2 hours a week until you get it done. $2000 sounds awfully expensive to me.

And yes, I have extensive experience repairing an in ground irrigation system. Even paying someone to start it up sounds like a ripoff.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:09 pm
by ResearchMed
smitcat wrote:IMHO - you had the opportunity to inspect whatever you wanted at the walk through prior to closing. Unless you have very specific language in your purchase agreement about any issues you are far past any recourse.
We had a situation like this, with both the sprinkler system (which we didn't care that much about) and also the AC on the first and second floor (which we cared a great deal about!).

There was also something that needed to be removed from the attic.

We had some money escrowed at the closing, subject to "up to <whatever, not much> to remove <item>" and a few thousand separately subject to the AC working properly when the weather warmed up.

Once the item was removed, and we determined that the AC worked just fine ( :D ), we authorized [forgetting who had custody of the money] to send it to the seller. That was maybe a month or so after the closing.

In retrospect, IF the AC had been a total goner, I don't think there was nearly enough to cover an entire system. I suppose we could have argued to have more escrowed. I guess we sort of figured (perhaps naively, in retrospect, based upon seller's "assurance") that IF the system didn't work, a few thousand would be enough to repair it, or replace some-but-not-all of the system.

RM

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:42 pm
by jharkin
Welcome to homeownership :) wait till you see the water bills to operate those sprinklers...


Where I live the water costs as much as the property tax probably does on a LCOL house so I don't have one. Conveniently, water falls from the sky for free a couple times a week so it hasn't been much of a loss :wink:

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:55 pm
by Skiffy
We have found that the sprinkler needs work every spring and or summer, plus needs to be blown out or winterized every fall. If you want to save money you may as well figure out how things work and do repairs yourself.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:05 pm
by F150HD
toys4tots16 wrote: The sellers specifically added a line saying that a sprinkler system was included in the purchase and affirmed that the unit was in "working order".
Well then....I'd definitely ask your agent about it & try to get some form of recourse.

ask your neighbors if the prior owner ever ran the sprinklers. Might get some good info there.

Maybe there's a service tag on the system somewhere from the last business to service the system. Call them and ask for a service log.

Request the properties prior water bills from the local water utility. If there's little or no change from summer to winter, they probably didn't run the system. (unless its your own well)

Maybe the light bulbs were the LED type, not always cheap. I'd prob take them too.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 11:47 pm
by dandinsac
Get a second opinion on the repair costs for sure. Or, better yet, find a neighbor who can help yuo troubleshoot the system.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:26 am
by sunny_socal
I'm in the exact same situation as the OP. Purchased house and everything seemed fine, now it turns out there are multiple problems with the sprinkler system.

But then again it's been like this with every house we've purchased. I'm planning on fixing it myself, piece by piece - right after I get done painting the house. My MIL just paid $7k to have her system fixed, I don't want to spend that kind of money on mine when I can do it myself for $200.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:09 am
by mw1739
Bottom line, you can't prove the sellers were untruthful. Even if the sellers properly maintained the system, anytime you involve thousands of gallons of water, plastic and Wisconsin weather, you're bound to have issues pop up. $2k implies significant damage, or the contractor is padding the bill because he doesn't want the job. Get another quote and/or get a quote for a whole new system, which wouldn't cost much more than that price unless you have a huge lot.

If you know what's wrong and want to save a few bucks, sprinkler parts are insanely cheap. I've bought stuff from Sprinkler Warehouse online before to make minor repairs.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:26 am
by Rupert
I think you need to let the light bulb and toilet paper thing go too. My house is full of LED light bulbs. Some of them cost upwards of $20 a piece, and they'll probably last 20 years. I would absolutely take them with me if I moved out. Why wouldn't I? As for toilet paper, why would you expect the prior owners to provide you with free toilet paper?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:49 pm
by RudyS
Seems the sellers were pretty p.o.'d at you. I can see keeping LED bulbs, but why pull out part used rolls of TP? Wondering, did they leave you any of the equipment manuals or spare keys?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:01 pm
by freebeer
RudyS wrote:Seems the sellers were pretty p.o.'d at you. I can see keeping LED bulbs, but why pull out part used rolls of TP? Wondering, did they leave you any of the equipment manuals or spare keys?
Heck house cleaners might have done the TP removal as part of cleaning. And anyway when you get to a hotel room you expect fresh roll of TP and it's kind of gross if you have 1/8 of a roll on there. So as a seller I wouldn't like to leave partial rolls for the buyer and if I happened to have already moved the TP stockpile I might go empty instead with zero animus to buyer intended.

It is well known that removable light bulbs are not included in sale and these days most likely were more expensive LED bulbs. I wouldn't remove but again removal might not indicate bad feeling

So this gets back to the main question, which is a sprinkler system OP didn't bother to get inspected before purchase. Given that it seems clear OP is out of luck legally but I could suggest that since the above points may not indicate small-mindedness or anger, and if the purchase agreement literally said sprinkler system was in working order, a polite friendly inquiry to the seller after repair bill in hand is worth a try.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:26 pm
by PFInterest
lesson learned. you will inspect everything with the next house im sure.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:23 pm
by neilpilot
PFInterest wrote:lesson learned. you will inspect everything with the next house im sure.
Of course you do know that a sprinkler system is typically winterized in WI in March.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:25 am
by criticalmass
neilpilot wrote:
PFInterest wrote:lesson learned. you will inspect everything with the next house im sure.
Of course you do know that a sprinkler system is typically winterized in WI in March.
So ? You test the system with air and plug the sprinklers if you want to see if works/holds pressure. Or fill it with water, run, and then re-winterize. Or don't buy during the winter. Or put money in escrow to test seasonal items. Or just let it go and fix it yourself.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:55 am
by celia
What would you do if you had it repaired and asked the seller to reimburse you and they said they usually repair it each spring with $100 in parts?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:49 am
by smitcat
criticalmass wrote:
neilpilot wrote:
PFInterest wrote:lesson learned. you will inspect everything with the next house im sure.
Of course you do know that a sprinkler system is typically winterized in WI in March.
So ? You test the system with air and plug the sprinklers if you want to see if works/holds pressure. Or fill it with water, run, and then re-winterize. Or don't buy during the winter. Or put money in escrow to test seasonal items. Or just let it go and fix it yourself.

Agreed - we have bought a number of homes and even boats in weather that was cold and you either charge the system(s) with water/test/re-winterize or have an agreement with escrow or you let it go in the deal.
If it is that important to you it is not that hard to test and re-winterize.

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:05 am
by SimonJester
This is not all the uncommon. I purchased my house during the month of April, same issue sprinkler system was shutdown and unable to test. Come May when we went to turn it on it was leaking... Use this as an opportunity to learn about fixing sprinkler systems because you will be fixing one many times over your home ownership life...


$2K to fix the system, I think not. What is the system not doing?

Re: Seeking Advice - Broken Sprinkler System after Home Purchase

Posted: Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:21 pm
by watchnerd
toys4tots16 wrote:Hello fellow Bogleheads!

took all toilet paper and light bulbs when they moved out
You expect a new house to include free toilet paper?