Buyer Beware: Homes Sold 'As Is' Can Come with Hidden Costs

With any purchase, getting a pre-purchase evaluation by a qualified contractor or home inspector can save home buyers from disaster.

by Beth Lawton

Some of the best real estate deals on the market right now are homes that are being sold “as is.” Unfortunately, those deals can come with massive hidden costs.

The biggest three issues with a home that can come up whether they are sold 'as is' or not are structural issues, water intrusion, and systemic issues with HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), electric or plumbing, said Nate Moore, owner of Moore Construction Group.

No matter How a property is being sold, buyers should really get an inspection or a pre-purchase evaluation by a contractor completed, Moore said. An inspection or evaluation can reveal major issues that even an experienced homeowner may not recognize.

Home inspectors can point out needed repairs, and a contractor can give estimates on how much those repairs will cost. A qualified home inspector or contractor can also find code violations and help uncover work done without permits, potentially saving the homeowner tens of thousands of dollars.

“If you don’t have time for scheduling a full home inspection, a contractor can come out and you’ll get a good chunk of the information,” said Moore, whose company provides those services to potential homeowners in Alexandria.

Earlier this year, Moore caught a homeowner (who was himself a real estate agent) selling a home after substantial work had been done without final permit inspections. “Instead of closing the permits, they just tried to sell the house,” Moore said. A buyer engaged Moore to do a pre-purchase inspection, and Moore discovered serious structural, electrical and plumbing issues that could have cost more than $100,000 to fix. The buyer walked away. The home is still on the market.

Both Alexandria City and Fairfax County have online systems where any member of the public can search the work permit history of a property by address. Online searches are free.

Before buying any home (in as-is condition or not), homeowners should check the permit history of the property, Moore said. If it looks like there’s a new kitchen and there were no permits pulled at all, that could be a red flag.

Overall, Moore said: “If it doesn’t look right, it’s probably not.”

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