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Buying a house that was "winterized" 2 yrs+ ago??


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First off, I've found tons of good information here. I'm not a home inspector but do plenty of work on my house and understand the basics of most systems. I'm also fairly obsessed with all the home improvement shows out there on TV so I may have enough knowledge to be dangerous as they say.

Anyhow, my wife and I are currently wading through the short sale process on a house that's been unoccupied for over 2 years. The location is outside of Philadelphia so the winters can get cold.

Someone at sometime "winterized" the house. I use quotes because some effort was spent, but apparently not enough. The toilets all have some type of antifreeze in them and I believe most of the water lines were drained (the main water connection is completely disconnected for some reason).

However, the house has a boiler and uses hot water baseboard heaters for warmth. From my quick inspection I found 3 burst pipe sections in the base board heaters so these were obviously not drained properly. There was minimal leakage once the pipes thawed out again but nevertheless this represents some issues that will have to be addressed. What else should we look for considering the house has now weathered two winters without maintenance?

One other issue I'm a bit concerned about is that there was an additional two rooms added at some point which are heated by radiant in floor heating. I have no idea what the condition of these pipes are or how to check. I suppose a plumber would be able to pressure test them somehow to make sure they aren't breached??

I'm trying to gauge how much money we'll need to spend upon moving in so any tips would be helpful as this is our dream house at a potentially good price.

Thanks!

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I'm trying to gauge how much money we'll need to spend upon moving in so any tips would be helpful as this is our dream house at a potentially good price.

More than you will ever budget for. Hire a good local inspector to inspect the house and help you document the defects.

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Yep. You could have all sorts of problems with the heating; I'd have a budget that would allow some major repairs.

Also, houses sitting through winters unheated have all sorts of microclimates that develop in walls and floors. You can have moldy conditions, drywall seams will move as the house gets reacclimatized, and doors may need adjustment.

If the heating wasn't winterized, the plumbing probably wasn't either. Pressure check it.

I think one of the worst things you can do to a house is turn the heat off and let it go through multiple freeze/thaw cycles.

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Thanks for the information. I found a statement on this forum regarding boilers getting potentially damaged from the freezing temperatures which is just one more thing I've got to keep in mind.

So far I've got a solid recommendation for a good inspector which I hope to use. I've also called and gotten estimates from plumbers to inspect the whole house plumbing and HVAC during the home inspection if I get that far. As good as the inspector is, I'm realistic that a skilled tradesman will have better tools to evaluate the systems. I'm also leaning towards getting the drain line scoped during inspection as well just to be sure that none of the mature trees in the front yard (including a dead one) have breached the sewer line. $1000 spent now on inspections may pay off dividends or at least give me a warm and fuzzy feeling that it's a good house.

While a short sale potentially represents a good value, I can see how things could easily get out of hand if I'm not careful.

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$1000 spent now on inspections may pay off dividends or at least give me a warm and fuzzy feeling that it's a good house.

While a short sale potentially represents a good value, I can see how things could easily get out of hand if I'm not careful.

You get it.

Scope the sewer for sure.

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From Monday morning's client:

"Thanks Charlie,

FYI, the plumbing inspect revealed 3 clean breaks in 3 pipes under the foundation. Sad... but that inspect just saved us 10-20k repair!"

I recommended a hydrostatic test or at the very least a scope. You've got to be careful with flips and properties that have been left sitting.

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At a recent inspection of a home that had been taken care of by original owners until their passing recently, my client is a single-father and working two jobs to make ends meet.

The property was built in the mid '60s, slab foundation with cast iron DWV system. So you know straight up that likely something would be amiss.

One of his jobs is working for a company that scopes/repairs and also provides forensic analysis of plumbing issues "under the foundation". Once the problem is diagnosed as being "in the yard" another company takes over.

Anyway ... he asked if I would mind if he scoped the drains while I was doing my inspection ... especially after I had noted some anomalies with the drain (or lack/slowness thereof) in the 1st floor Master Bath.

I had no problem with such and I was able to learn a lot from this young man. He scoped the lines and found at least 3 locations where pipe joint connections had separated/lifted causing the problems.

He said the costs would be in the $10 to $15K arena, but seeing as how he worked for the company he would get a discount.

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