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1st Time Buy…, Home Buyer in Cambridge, MA

Top price property -condo in a highrise- but no vents in kitchen and bathroom. Is this a bad buy / difficult resale?(No way of putting in vents)

Asked by 1st Time Buyer, Cambridge, MA Tue Jun 21, 2011

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You have a potential issue on your hands. Lack of venting in the bathroom(s) means that your property is non-compliant with current building codes. You would have to consult a lawyer to find out if the bathroom in your condo is actually illegal, or if there is any protection under any "grandfather clause". The next step would be to carefully read the master deed to the condominium, along with any governing bylaws, that would determine if you have the right to add venting to the bathroom. Last but not least would be the issue of determining whether it is physically possible and practicable to add venting. In summary, you may want to do some investigative work to find out whether the condo you are considering is in violation of the law, and whether it is possible for you as a home-owner to bring it into compliance. My colleague is right in pointing out, that a renovation of a bathroom will force you to bring it into code compliance, which would in turn mandate venting to the outdoors.

The lack of kitchen venting is common, even in high priced newer buildings in Cambridge, and it should not be assumed that you would have the right to add venting to the outdoors unless the master deed to the condo specifies that right, or the board of directors to the association assures you permission to do so.

That being said, you have the additional issue to consider as to whether the lack of venting in baths in this condo, (a situation which would presumably exist in at least some of the other units in the building as well) has created any long term damage to the structure of the building. Your home inspector is right in flagging this matter as a potential issue, since long-term accumulating airborne moisture in bathrooms has a degrading effect on the structure surrounding the bathroom. Each building reacts differently, and it is possible that any deterioration or degradation would be minimal in the building you are considering. If your inspector found evidence of advancing deterioration, then you may want to explore the question with one or more trustees to the board of the condominium, whether the association is planning to address the issue. If so, ask about what special assessments may result. Depending on the design of the building, remediation of this issue could be fairly simple, if the bathrooms abut or are located near exterior walls to the building. On the other hand, if this is not the case, it could be considerably more expensive to address the issue. Venting of moisture is important, and you are right to ask about this issue. Hope this helps!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
The answer to both questions YES!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 21, 2013
You may end up with issues of mold, especially in the bathroom. I don't think I would do it. My buddy who's a real estate agent (who used to be chiropractor in Riverdale, MD) advised me to stay away from a condo that didn't have any venting in the bathrooms. http://www.chiropractoracupuncturemd.com/index.html
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 20, 2013
High-end and savvy buyers will want exterior venting of kitchen and baths. This might pose as a problem if you are trying to attract a high-end buyer, especially if there is not way to fix the problem by installing ducts.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Oct 31, 2012
How old is the building? I ask because if the lack of ventilation has caused some obvious damage then you can probably estimate the cost of damage to you over the next 5 years. In addition this will be something most inspectors bring up on their report so in terms of resale expect that most buyers will ask you about it and then it comes down to their personal preference which is very hard to put a number on or predict.
If we had the address we could pull some sales data for you in the building to get a sense of activity. If ventilation is a problem in all of the apartments and the resale numbers are strong you likely won't have issues at resale other then educating new buyers.

Good luck!

Every property on the market in Cambridge: http://goo.gl/dmS8d
Web Reference: http://territory.com/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 27, 2012
You know this is a great question as I have seen buyers react in both a positive and negative way. Honestly each property is different to each buyer. For a buyer that does not cook or even care about the kitchen a recirculator works just fine. On the flip side if they are looking for a Chef's kitchen you will have a problem as that is one of the things I look at first for my clients.

The bathroom is another story. I have been in several of the older high rise buildings in Cambridge where they did not exhaust but they did have a window in the bathroom to "vent" the excessive moisture etc. Still this is not an absolute deal breaker or a feature that would cause major price drop in the property.

If I can stress one thing more than anything else when your first buying property is buy for LOCATION. It is one think you can never change about a property and it is a large key to how a property holds value. If you are looking in a high rise or mid rise building the other consideration is how healthy is the condo association? Is there a person or entity that owns a large portion of the association? These factors all contribute to financing and resale.

Please contact me, I am here to help. I work as a full time Realtor in Cambridge
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 3, 2011
Excellent! Thank you for this link.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
You may want to consider installing duct-free ventilation fans if you do go through with the purchase. Here is one you might want to consider from Broan http://www.broan.com/display/router.asp?ProductID=531
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Thank you VERY MUCH for your answers. I really appreciate it. It will help me a lot in making my final decision.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
I am hearing some heated opinions about the matter from out of town agents who clearly are unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the market in Cambridge, and whose knowledge about property values in our town is open to question. I am not stating this to criticize, but to point out the very real differences that exist between the Cambridge Market and other markets. Ergo, a measured approach in this instance is more appropriate than a blanket judgment. The unvented kitchen is not a building code violation, and has only the minutest effect on market value, so your decision on that issue would have to be one of your own preference. The bathroom vent issue is the more serious of the two, and I would suggest a three-part approach to the matter:

1. First, determine if deterioration has taken place in the bathroom as a result of sustained excessive humidity over a long period of time.

2. Secondly, check with the condominium association as to whether complaints about unventilated bathrooms have been registered by other unit owners, and if so, what the association is considering doing about it.

3. Thirdly, have your agent conduct some research going back 5 or 6 years into other sales in the building, to give you a solid base on which to formulate your own conclusion as to whether price appreciation has been strong in the building.

Then make your own decision. If you love the place, and the answers to the above three questions give you a good comfort level, go for it.

Keep in mind, Cambridge is a very pricey market, and one that was only marginally affected by the maelstrom of foreclosures. It consists largely of old housing stock that exists in various states of renovation. It is literally impossible to accurately assess the quality of an investment in Cambridge with broad blanket statements. One good place to start would be to look at your home inspection report and see if it highlights any structural bathroom deterioration.

Hope that helps!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Exhaust fans in a bathroom and kitchen are a must! Trapped water vapor and steam will lead to mold deteriorating wall surfaces and rot. If this is a high price condo in a high rise and there is no way to remedy this situation, I would question the quality of the rest of the construction!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
How does it compare with your options? If it is better and you like it, buy it. If the others are buy them. If neither wait and see what else comes on the market. Lastly let me help guide you.
Web Reference: http://www.LouisWolfson.net
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Steamy and possibly an embarrassing bathroom for sure. Not too many visitors will b comfortable with that, This is a can you live with it question and it really is up to you whether you can live with it, Me, I like my vents and exhausts in both the bathrooms and the Kitchen so I would not be able to live with it. Top that with having paid top dollar for a very badly planned Condo and I would not have put my money down on it, ever!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Oh dear, that is not good news. Is it true that many older homes in Cambridge don't have vents in bathrooms? However, this one doesn't have any windows either
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Based on your and the inspectors concerns, if there is no way to vent the areas properly these issues could effect the resale.

Stove top self venting is easy and should not be a concern except for those that need high powered fans for many types of food and cooks.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Some stove tops have built in vents or are self venting, that may be important. If it is not, maybe a self venting unit can be installed there.
Thanks!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Ouch, sorry I have no idea. It's just a kitchen range that has been placed between some counters/cabinets, kind of like in an island.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Was the stove top installed according to the manufacturers instructions?
Thank you
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Further- what I meant about the kitchen not having a vent is that there is no vent above or around the kitchen range(it's in an island). I'm wondering if this is going to be a roadblock for resale..
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
I just had the inspection. The inspector just pointed out the lack of vents, did not say anything else. No external window. And the bathroom is very 'internal' - no way to put in a vent linking to the outside...
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Is there a window in the bathroom? Years ago venting was not required in the bathroom if there was a window. As to the kitchen there is no code for venting to the outside for cooking although many people prefer it. Location and condition will dictate the value. You and your buyer agent are the best judge as to value based on the need to buy not the want to buy.

Good Luck

Louis
Web Reference: http://www.LouisWolfson.net
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
Every property is unique. Did the inspector flag the lack of venting as as a concern? Has the seller disclosed any defects around these concerns. Without knowing more details of the structure, if you have or have not had an inspection, makes this a difficult question to answer. An building inspection is a place to start.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
You need to research the sales history of the condo. That will show you a pattern of how easy or difficult it will be to sell. Sometimes an incredible location will overcome other shortcomings.

susan@eplacehomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
You may have a problem with any future wish to update your bathroom if there is truly no way to put in a vent. Check with Inspectional Services ... but I believe current code requires an external vent in all bathrooms ... grandfathered until a bathroom is touched for any amount of updating.

That would be the only possible complication that comes to mind. Let me know if I can help.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 21, 2011
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