I’m following up to your recent column about the buyer who discovered faulty plumbing in a newly purchased home.
It struck a chord because it could have been me — only as the seller! I have owned a home for 10 years, and in that time I have had four major plumbing failures always in the same place. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in repairs, as well as money provided from my home insurance company when I made a claim. Altogether, I have spent more than $7,000 out of my own pocket.
The leaks in my home have been huge with saturated carpets, streaming walls and drywall turned into glue. The source of the leaking has never been found because it can never be recreated when someone comes to look at it. The leaking typically appears in the ceiling under the master shower so common sense tells me the shower is the source, but the room has also flooded when I haven’t used that shower for a year.
The problem has been “diagnosed” by plumbers, general contractors and insurance adjusters. I paid $400 to a company that does thermal imaging to determine if they could find the source. Over the years it has been variously determined to be the roof, squirrel damage in the attic, a shower diverter leak inside the wall, a faulty piece of siding and, of course, “operator error” because I supposedly let so much water splash out while showering that it somehow accounted for the gallons of water subsequently contained in the ceiling bladders.
I have tried to fix everything, and they have all happily cashed my checks and moved on. I spent $5,000 getting an entirely new shower from a reputable company, and still it leaked. It has leaked in rain and shine, in sickness and in health. Now, my fear is what do I do when I am ready to sell this house?
We’re sorry to hear about all of your problems. Water problems can be some of the hardest to figure out in a home as water can travel, find the weak spot and then leak. We don’t know what to tell you. You seemed to have tried quite a number of solutions and you still have the problem.
But you’re right about one thing: You’ll have a big problem on your hands when it comes time to sell. We don’t think you can, in good conscience, say that the problem has been fixed when you hand over your paperwork to your prospective buyer. And, worse, you’ll probably have to disclose the issue to the buyer.
When it comes to water problems, every contractor seems to be an expert on the issue and, as you indicated, the problem will persist after purported repairs. If you’ve fixed the shower, you might need to move on to the next area of your home. Yes, roof leaks can travel and cause the damage you indicated, but so can problems with siding on the home. You were smart to hire someone with a thermal imaging system to look over your home. You might also need someone to use a moisture meter as well.
You might want to purchase one of the lesser expensive thermal imaging cameras and keep it handy to see if you can spot the source of the water. By the time the water spills into the home in large quantities, it might be too late. But if after it rains, you use the camera, you might start to see a pattern. We say that because wind driven rain from a particular direction may be the source of your problem. You can’t recreate that issue because you won’t be able to find the right combination of water and wind at a given time each time.
That could be one source that we have heard about when it comes to water. Since you fixed the shower and other items in the home, you might want to look at the siding, windows and your roof. The shower and the location of the water could be a coincidence. It seems odd to us that you would come home from a day at work and suddenly find the water problem. Do you recall if there was rain on those days? If there was rain, that could be your source of the water. The problem is finding out how the water is getting into the home.
(We had an ongoing problem like this and thought for years that a kitchen window wasn’t flashed properly, and the house was improperly sided. So we re-flashed the windows several times and replaced the siding each time. Still, the window leaked. Fifteen years later, Sam sent a photo of the window to the manufacturer who wrote back to say it looked as though the window had been manufactured incorrectly, which accounted for the leaking.)
Within the home, you can always turn the water on and use the moisture meter and imaging camera to detect water where it does not belong. You can even dye the water and see if the dye turns up in areas where the water does not belong.
Outside of still trying and working to solve your mystery, you can keep a log of weather (wind and rain details and the direction of the wind) to see if you can come up with a pattern and then use that to try to solve your issue.
The best thing we can say is to be honest when selling the home. Advertise it in “as is” condition, and answer any questions honestly if asked about the condition of the home.
Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar + ebook series called “The Intentional Investor: How to be wildly successful in real estate,” as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the “Real Estate Minute,” on her YouTube channel. Samuel J. Tamkin is aChicago-based real estate attorney. Contact Ilyce and Sam through ThinkGlink.com.