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When buyers make an offer on a home—and, after some haggling, the sellers accept—most hope that this is it. They’re almost home free!
Still, making an offer on a home doesn’t always mean your happily-ever-after moment is in sight—and sometimes, that’s actually good news for buyers. Because certain things might just crop up that could give you second thoughts about that home you thought you loved.
These are some reasons that might just change your mind, and convince you that there’s no substitute for doing your due diligence before closing a deal.
Fuzzy property lines
Jacqueline Gogel spent two years trying to buy in the competitive market of Pearl River, NY, when she finally thought the worst was behind her—a seller accepted her offer on a home she adored.
Then came the news: There was an error in the property lines that were filed with the town when the development was completed nearly 50 years earlier.
“Apparently, no one else had bothered to get a survey, so this only came up when we decided to do one just to be safe,” she says. “We couldn’t get title insurance unless the entire neighborhood went through an entire resubdivision, which could take years!”
Gogel walked. Now she advises everyone to get a survey done: “It saved me from a massive headache and cost in the end.”
Something hiding in the attic
After making two offers that fell through, Diane Elizabeth Melville and her husband found what they thought was the perfect home in Colorado. Third time’s the charm, right?
“To say we were exhausted by this point is an understatement,” says Melville, who now lives in Fort Worth, TX. “I remember my husband saying, ‘The inspector would have to find a dead body in the closet to make me back out of this deal. I’m done house shopping.’”
They didn’t find a dead body—but they did find something else almost as disturbing.
“The attic was completely black with mold,” Melville says. “The owner was unwilling to make any remediation and the deal, once again, fell through.” But she is so relieved it did, so she didn’t have to cough up an additional $30,000 in mold remediation.
A stubborn seller
Julie Sprankles jumped through many hoops to buy a home in Charleston, SC, only to walk away from the deal because of seller drama.
“It took around five visits before the seller would even let the home inspector in,” Sprankles recalls. “To complicate things, the woman’s younger brother was released from prison in the middle of this process, and he was quite belligerent. Then something minor came up in the appraisal—a problem with the furnace—that the bank said had to be fixed. We offered to pay for it, and arranged for the pros to come out. But she would never let them in!”
Sprankles and her husband waited two weeks more, hoping the seller would relent and let the experts into the house, but with their finance window set to close, they decided they had had enough. They walked away.
“It was heartbreaking, but it wasn’t worth the back-and-forth,” Sprankles says. “And all’s well that end’s well, I suppose, because we wound up in a house that we love a stone’s throw from the beach, and we paid less for it!”
After a “quirky” house in St. Paul, MN, caught the eye of Jessie Bennett, she and her husband made an offer that was accepted. Yet during the home inspection—which Bennett attended—”the inspector said, ‘I gotta say, this is a really fun one to do, because I don’t often get to show people why the house they want to buy might actually fall down,’” Bennett recalls.
It turns out the house had a faulty foundation that was creating cracks in walls and door frames—and that would eventually cave in. That was enough to persuade Bennett to bail.
The Seattle house that Julie Ryan Evans was dying to buy was perfect. The only problem was a surprise neighbor she learned of right before closing: a convicted child molester living right up the street.
“A police detective basically told us she wouldn’t live there if she had kids,” Evans recalls. “Luckily we got our escrow money back, but we were willing to walk even if we didn’t.”
Tom Burns and his wife had their sights set on a foreclosure in Ferndale, MI, but they were nervous from the get-go.
“It was our dream house, impossibly priced for what we’d be getting, but we felt bad about the foreclosure aspect. Like it was bad karma,” he says.
Maybe it was: On the day of the couple’s inspection, a city worker went out to turn the water back on in the vacant house.
“Five seconds after he turned the water on, every single pipe in the house burst,” Burns says. “We were in the basement, and pipes just exploded around us! We screamed and ran out, covered in rusty water.”
The couple called the bank selling the foreclosed property and asked for a $20,000 price drop to account for the extensive plumbing replacement ahead of them. The bank refused, telling Burns the foreclosure was being sold as is.
“We tried to argue that the former asking price was based on the assumption of functioning plumbing, but they refused to budge,” he says. “So we walked away. The house stayed vacant for another 16 months, developed a bad case of black mold. We stayed friendly with the neighbors, who really wanted someone to move in, and it eventually ended up selling for $65,000 less than [what] we’d originally offered.”
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