We’ve been getting calls lately where sellers want us to make offers on their houses sight unseen. (Yes I know I misspelled the title. You’ll understand why shortly.) We always tell them we can’t do that because it’s like buying a truck without popping the hood or taking it for a test drive. You really can’t tell much just from looking at the outside.
Ashley and I have always had the rule that if we can’t go in a house, we don’t buy it. And it’s saved our bacon more than once.
Take the deal we’re closing on this week for instance. We got a call from a tired landlord, from Whitfield County who was ready to be done with his property and wanted us to make an offer over the phone. We gave him the “pop the hood” analogy and asked when we could meet to inspect the property.
I want you to learn a lesson from what I just said. We asked to inspect the property. Notice we did not specify we wanted to inspect the inside of the property. This became relevant once I was on site.
The tired landlord walked me around the grounds and told me all about the property. It was built in 2008, had three bedrooms, two baths and, according to him, was in great shape. As a matter of fact, he didn’t know of any real repairs that needed to be made.
I responded enthusiastically and asked to go inside. His response made me want to thump myself in the forehead. He said, “Oh we can’t go inside. The tenants aren’t home, and they don’t know we are here.”
This house is in Rocky Face. That’s about a 35-minute drive one way. And I had rushed out to this meeting without making sure we could go inside. Silly me.
Moving forward, we’ll confirm that we can go inside the property before we attend any seller appointment.
The landlord, however, still wanted me to make him an offer, even though we hadn’t been inside. I told him I could do that once I viewed the interior. He agreed, and we set another appointment.
This time, we went right in. And boy, was I glad we did. We found multiple issues that the landlord was unaware of. He told me he hadn’t been in the property for a few years. The tenant had lived there for two years, which meant this site had been unseen for at least two years. (Get the title now?)
The things I found were no small matter. The roof was leaking, and so was the kitchen sink drain, which had caused the bottom of the cabinet to rot out. But the biggest issue was that there was some sort of leak in the bathroom shower.
There was mildew halfway up the wall, and I could poke my finger through the sheet rock at the bottom. That meant it stayed wet. The baseboard had water stains tracking from the shower wall, around the toilet and on into the adjacent master closet. Once in that closet, I could step on the blistered laminate flooring and watch water seep up between the edges as I pushed down.
The reason this was happening was because the house was built on a concrete slab. So the water didn’t simply find a hole in the subfloor and exit into the crawl space. Instead, it followed the concrete to the lowest spot and pooled there until it was deep enough to exit under the bottom plate of the exterior wall.
I really didn’t have to point out the damage to the tired landlord. It was plain as day. He just shook his head and said, “I had no idea.”
Had we left this site unseen, we could’ve made an offer that didn’t account for these repairs. But because we got in, we found them and negotiated a 20% discount to compensate for it.
So, before you make an offer, leave no site unseen.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.