Even though I’m all about saving money, this hard money lesson taught me that sometimes skimping actually costs you more in the long run! Here’s what can happen when you choose to skip a home inspection.
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It’s no secret that I love saving money. I’ve always been a saver, and I can’t stand the thought of wasting money.
But I have a confession to make. Two years ago, I did something (or rather, DIDN’T DO something) in an attempt to save money that actually ended up costing us more in the long run. Because of this one decision, Josh and I have spent a LOT of money. And we’ve had to deal with a lot of stress too.
No, I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t skip paying taxes or anything like that.
Two words, my friend: home inspection.
I know, I know. It’s embarrassing to admit to such foolishness. But yes, we chose to skip our home inspection before we purchased our home.
Let’s go back a little over two years, shall we?
A Little Backstory
Josh and I had been living in a duplex apartment for about a year and a half. Even though the apartment was cute on the outside and was in a really safe, quiet area, it was my worst nightmare. It was infested with spiders (eek!). I killed anywhere from five to ten spiders every single day. Josh would get spider webs in his hair each morning as he walked into the kitchen. It was terrible!
We had big spiders and we had little spiders. The big ones preferred our closets, but it wasn’t unusual to see one sitting on the couch with us while we were watching TV. No lie, I started making Josh take all the pillows, blankets, and cushions off the couch for a “spider inspection” before I would sit down!
I ended up slightly traumatized by the whole ordeal. Not surprisingly, I developed night terrors (these are different from nightmares) that always involved spiders or some other kind of bug. I would scream and thrash in my sleep trying to get away. I was a wreck!
(Here’s how I finally got those night terrors to go away: Why We Transitioned to a Plant-based Lifestyle)
Our landlords wouldn’t do anything about the problem. They paid for an exterminator ONCE, but refused to pay for a monthly or quarterly service.
All I wanted was an escape.
So we started looking at houses.
We started looking at houses within our price range, but those were few and far between in our area. We actually placed a bid on one house, but that fell through. And moving to a new apartment wasn’t really an option. Safe apartments in our area cost more than a mortgage payment!
Then, in November 2015, my parents’ neighbors decided to move. The house wasn’t even on the market yet, but my dad mentioned to the neighbor that Josh and I were looking for a house.
We toured the house a few days later. Other than some hideous color choices (cranberry walls with brown trim?!), the house had what we were looking for. It was in a quiet, safe area. It had the right number of rooms, plus a bonus room. And it was in our price range! All it needed was a little TLC.
Since the previous owners were my parents’ neighbors for 20ish years, we felt comfortable skipping the real estate agent. We did all the negotiating ourselves and closed on the house the very next month.
The only thing we didn’t do? The official home inspection.
Home inspection? Nah, we got this.
My dad is a handyman, so he gave us an informal inspection. He got under the house, got on the roof, and gave it a nice once-over. Everything looked good. We thought we were getting a good deal! We saved $350 on the inspection, and I was finally getting out of that spider-infested apartment!
What we didn’t know was that the previous owners had no qualms about lying. They told us the air conditioner was only a few years old, the house rarely had bugs, and that there weren’t any areas of concern that we’d need to fix.
Call us naïve, but we believed them. We thought we could trust them since they were my neighbors from the time I was four years old until I got married and moved out. And I was more than a little blinded by my desire to get out of that apartment.
So while we did save $350 on the official home inspection, we ended up spending thousands of dollars to fix the things that a home inspection would have uncovered.
Three Major Repairs in Just Two Years
The Guest Bath
The first on the list is the guest bathroom. The toilet had a slow leak that we couldn’t see. And since my dad didn’t know to pull down the insulation when he checked under the house, he didn’t know it was there. Basically, since the grout between the tiles was broken, no water ever pooled on the bathroom floor. It just seeped down into the subfloor and joists.
Want to know how I discovered it?
Yes, that’s a mushroom. Growing in my guest bath. Ew.
As it turns out, most of the subfloor and joists were rotted. And see this strip of white mold? It was growing alllllll up under the vanity.
Luckily, my dad can fix just about anything. He completely overhauled most of the guest bath for a fraction of what a contractor would charge. Total cost: $1,000.
That’s one way to get a bathroom makeover!
The Air Conditioner
Second on the list is the air conditioner. Remember how the previous owners told us it was only a few years old? Well, it turns out that the unit was more like 16 years old, which is wayyyy past its prime. It completely quit on us last July.
It didn’t make sense to repair such an old unit, so we opted for a new one instead. Total cost: $6,500.
The Termite Damage
Third on the list is termite damage. The previous owners did tell us that they had termites at one time. They maintained a yearly contract with an exterminator to make sure it never happened again, and I received all the paperwork certifying that there were no more termites in the house.
What we didn’t know was that just because the house didn’t have termites, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any termite damage.
Again, when my dad checked under the house two years ago, he didn’t pull back the insulation to check the condition of the wood supporting the house.
Well, just a few weekends ago, he and Josh went under the house to lay some new plastic and replace some old insulation. That’s when Dad discovered a little bit of termite damage under our front door and around the fireplace. While he was working alone, he fixed the damaged wood without telling Josh. He didn’t want to worry us, so he kept it a secret.
Seeing that little bit of damage made him nervous, though, so he looked a little more closely under the rest of the house. Lo and behold, our kitchen was just barely hanging on. Termites had destroyed A LOT of wood under there. And since our master bath is on that end of the house too, termites had eaten away the boards supporting the floor around the toilet and the bathtub.
(Yes, this did prompt PLENTY of jokes! We were about to have a downstairs toilet in our one-story house!)
When Dad saw the extent of the damage, it made him sick to his stomach. There’s no way the previous owners didn’t know about it.
This is what was holding up our kitchen and master bath!
But again, Dad’s a handyman, so he replaced the boards and made everything good as new. He’s still working on it as I type this, so we’ll get a final bill when it’s all said and done. I know for sure it’s going to cost a heck of a lot less than a contractor would charge! We’re beyond fortunate that he’s been able to fix everything relatively inexpensively.
The Moral of the Story?
If I could go back, I would definitely get that official home inspection. We still would have purchased this home, problems and all, simply because we love the location. It’s in a safe area that’s close to my family and Josh’s work. But I do think that the inspection might have helped us negotiate a lower purchase price.
In the end, we’ve learned a TON of valuable lessons. Namely, always get the official home inspection, even if you personally know the seller. Sellers will often lie to make the home seem more appealing, so you need a professional on your side to check the facts.
Yes, we saved $350 by not getting the home inspection. But we ended up spending thousands as a result. I don’t know if the sellers would have reduced the price by that much (houses in our area are in high demand!), but at least we would have known exactly what we were getting into.
I write all of this to remind you that skimping on certain things just to save money can sometimes come back to bite you in the tush. A home inspection is one of those things! While I’m all for saving as much money as possible in as many ways as possible, please remember to exercise good judgement. Sometimes it’s better to just spend that $350 to save yourself a headache.
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- 4 Reasons You Need an Emergency Fund
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- 6 Tips to Score Big at Thrift Stores
What about you? Have you ever tried to save money only to have it backfire?
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