Structual and major life expectancy issues are very important in selling and buying a home in 2012 and beyond than ever before.
Recent New Jersey law change regarding cesspools, has delayed a client of mine from MLS listing their home. They want to make their home saleable and are installing a 4 bedroom septic to make their charming 1800's home more attractive to a buyer, to be ready to move into.
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I just want to add that the grading is not just a mantainence issue. The grading and sill plate damage are structural. Most problems that I find in the way of damaged foundations and structure, were originally caused by improper grading. Either you or the seller needs to address this issue right away. Don't put it off or you will have more substantial damage.
It does not seem unreasonable to request that the seller correct the grade problem and the radon levels.
Access to the furnace could cause some concern, and the age of the air conditioner makes it unreliable. If the seller is not willing to correct these, or compensate for them, I wouldn't loose much sleep over it. Decide if the price of the home justifies the cost of replacing the air conditioner in the near future, and making a larger attic access for the furnace when it needs service.
Mike Hart, Home Inspector, General Contractor lic 50390, Investor
I wonder how the OP made out? If you are still there OP, could you give us an update?
Exit Towne & Country Realty
The seller should disclose this problem now that they are aware of it, but it sounds like they may justify lying about it by saying it is not a real problem.
You might try pointing out to them that they will need to deal with this real problem, (rotting structure is a real problem & grade caused it), now with you, or later with the next buyer to come along. If they manage to sell the house to an uniformed buyer, they'll have the lawsuit to deal with later.
It sure seems simpler to deal with it now!
I just heard back from the seller today and they agreed to the have the radon remediated by a professional which makes me feel more comfortable. However they totally ignored the sill replacement issue (not even mentioned in their response) and said that regrading was unnecessary. I am a little stunned that they would say this but I suspect its all part of the negotiation process. My feeling is that it is not cheap to correct these issues and I'd have to back out of the deal since I won't have the funds to address them for some while.
As a soon to be home buyer who works on LEED projects during the day, I look at replacing old equipment like an old HVAC with high efficiency/high SEER rated equipment as an interesting project and part of making the new home "mine" if the finances make sense.
During sill repairs I would also replace (unless it's good, and thats unlikely) the insulation between the floor joists in that area. You can then be sure that portion of the residence is sound for years to come.
Once you are exposed there is no reversing the carcinogenic effects and of course it's cumulative.
A radon level of 4 pCi/L has been compared to the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes per week for every week of exposure.
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Housecall Property Inspections
Soil should never be equal or above the floor level without a retaining wall.
I would absolutely plan on grading the soil to a level below the sill and floor level. Hopefully that is only in the range of a foot or so of grading.
Don't be discouraged, this can all be corrected and there are contractors who would love to get the work. FYI, only get a contractor who does foundation and sill type repairs regularly, they are much faster and the costs are reasonable. A standard framing/carpenter/remodel contractor who has not done this will struggle to figure out the repair method.
If only about 20 linear feet of sill needs replacement, and guessing it's parallel to the floor joists (end of the addition) and the crawl space is crawlable, I would guess $7,500 for the repairs plus the cost of grading, maybe $3,000 with stabilization and seeding.
Consulting your realtor would be a good place to begin........and your purchase contract should outline your repair limits and provide you with some direction.
Your agent will be able to provide you with a clearer understanding of what is reasonable and what is not with regards to making repair requests. Home inspections sometimes lead buyers to understanding they need to refer their concerns to the experts before making their final decision.
The information a buyer recieves above and beyond the normal inspection often provide the clearity your are seeking.
The sill plate is located in a crawl space under a new extension to the home. The extension was built out into the downward sloping backyard so that its unfortunately under ground level. The home inspector recommended regrading the land back away from the extension. The crawl space was other wise waterproofed and there was no mention of mold. I'm not sure how much the regrading and replacement of the sill will cost but it is probably one of my biggest concerns at the moment aside from the radon.
The grading and water damage issue is actually a pretty big and expensive issue. The sill plate would be a 2X4 sitting on the foundation wall. It probably was not treated lumber is why it has decayed. Replacing a sill plate is a very difficult process in almost all cases. The entire wall structure load is resting in the sill which is on top of the foundation (block or concrete usually). How a sill on a crawl space is damaged (being elevated above the ground level) I am not sure about. Without details, there is no way to quantify this, but beware.
Also, moisture in sufficient quantity to rot a sill plate is usually a prime environment for mold. Was mold mentioned or excluded from the inspection report?
The radon result of 4.5 (is that a peak or average reading?) is a major concern, especially if you have young children who are more suseptable to the carcinogenic effects. For a crawl space home to have high readings in the living/breathing zones is a certain warning sign. However it can be fairly easily remediated through active venting control systems.
As far as the rest of the house equipment, I would expect any mid-80s construction house to be nearing need of replacement of most items such as HVAC, water heater, stove, etc. That's normal. The other issues are not.
I forgot to mention about the radon. This an issue that would now need to be disclosed and addressed. I would definately ask to have that mitigated. I doubt that the seller would cancel this deal to get another buyer that wouldn't be concerned about it.
Everything you mention is correctable by the seller or by you - so nothing strikes me as a huge problem. The radon is considered an environmental risk and if over the acceptable level of 4.2, I would expect to see you request remediation at the seller's expense, with retesting also at the seller's expense and generally done as a part of the remediation to be sure the cure brought it into an acceptable range. And incidentally, once done, you can rest easy, system in place, radon issue addressed, you need not worry. Remembering that radon is a fact of life in NJ (at least in this part of the state) and a gas that can change and a gas that you cannot see or smell, I'd encourage you to see the upside of the downside of an elevated reading.
The grading - you can take care of this and being sure the grading is correct around the house is smart maintenance. Can you ask the seller, sure, although it may not pass the structural, safety, environmental hurtle....but when it comes to the inspection contingency, "the buyer has the right to ask, and the seller has the right to respond". I do believe that a handful of meaningful requests will be far more likely to be addressed than a laundry list of every notation on the report. The inspection is mean to catch the big stuff and provide a terrific and indepth education on the home you are buying.
Another idea to discuss with your agent is the possibility of a home warranty to address your concern about the age of the mechanicals/appliances - if you successfully negotiate its inclusion, the idea is that it would be paid for by the seller and transfer to your name at closing and be effective for one year from close.
Good luck to you!
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Assuming your contract and addendums thereto agreed to home inspection contingencies, you can certainly ask that the seller repair or at least offer a credit against the repairs. With that being said, as far as the air-conditioning - does the system work? If yes, than the seller may refuse this request as it is in working condition despite the age of it.
Gina Chirico, Sales Associate
Prudential NJ Properties
973-992-6363 ext 116