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So You Decided to Buy a Home

Many prospective homeowners might not be privy to the latest trend in money pit homes. The term "Money Pit" is based off the movie with Tom Hanks called "The Money Pit". It was a home that required excessive construction and pretty much bankrupted him as a homeowner.

Though the movie is a comical movie, the reality is not very comical.

I spent a little time as a Hazardous Material Handler. The WORST site I was sent to was a new homeowner's residence. The homeowner unsuspectingly purchased a home that was once a meth lab. The hazardous chemicals soaked into the paint and walls as well as created a residue throughout the home. The new owners and family members, soon after, started getting sick from these hazardous chemicals.

When you buy a house, most lenders will not lend on a home without a homeowner's inspection. A typical licensed home inspector will look at the foundation, flooring, roof, siding, and overall construction of the home. This is partially for the bank, to ensure you are not getting into a money pit as a new home owner. You see, a money pit may end up back in the laps of the bank (lender). They don't want that. However, this homeowner’s inspection doesn't cover a couple things you might want to check for your own security.

Pest inspections include checking for rats, mice, insects, and other pests that can destroy or render a home hazardous. Licensed mold contractors or mold inspectors look for hazardous molds in the homes, (more prevalent in wet environments of course). But, who does the Hazardous Materials inspections of the home.

You may have seen a couple instances where a child ate lead paint and died. You may have even seen someone buy a previous meth lab and got sick. I can't warn you enough. I wish you could spend five minutes with the one person who bought a meth lab, lost everything in that home, and had to evacuate the home, only to purchase a second meth lab. Yes, meth labs are that common.

The point of all these inspections being, LIABILITY. Once upon a time, you could sue the seller if they had known of a discrepancy and failed to disclose it. But, the burden of proof was yours - in other words, you and your law team had to prove the owner was knowledgeable of the home discrepancy. Now, professional inspectors look at the home, but their liability is held to only a small portion of the repairs. When buying a home, remember that you're accepting the home "as is", in this day and age. A drug manufacturer will not cough up $150,000 dollars after manufacturing drugs in the home. Also, let's face it, you probably don't have $200 to $500 dollars an hour for a lawyer. Not many people do. So, on top of ALL the stresses of buying a home, you also need to be aware of all its discrepancies. The burden is on you, as the buyer.

So, what is your first line of defense?

Find and use a good home inspector - reporting to you, not your bank or mortgage company.
You can inquire about the home inspector: What are the qualifications of the home inspector? Are they mold qualified, are they hazmat qualified??

-The second line of defense is to call your local EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). From what I understand, they perform a meth inspection for free. If not for free, they can certainly point you in the right direction.

-Another idea is to look at the local meth register. Yes, MANY states are starting to register known meth labs. Idaho and Oregon are examples. Please Note, these are only known meth labs.

-Don't be fooled by thinking the chemicals are easily smelled or visible. This is a myth. The chemicals will soak into dry wall, carpeting, flooring, and have residue throughout the house. This is hazardous to your health. Depending upon the severity of the hazardous materials, you could end up paying more than the house is worth to remove these hazardous chemicals. You will also have medical problems.

-Spend a few hundred to save yourselves a couple hundred thousand. The homeowner's inspection protects the bank from getting a money pit. Why not you? Think of items that can cause you mass money to fix or overcome on a home, and have it inspected to protect you.

My experiences: I purchased a home where the home inspector failed to get on the roof and look at the cedar shingles. Holes were in the shingles because of water, also I had Louisiana Pacific Siding. To replace the siding and roof, I paid an extra $50,000 dollars onto the purchase of the home because of their failure to provide an accurate Home Owner's inspection. However, I saved that $50,000 dollars by holding my home inspector accountable. This is where their insurance comes in.

I also helped remediate a meth house. The new homeowner was stuck with an additional $130,000 dollars in remediating the hazardous materials in the home in addition to all the new medical bills, and purchase of the home. You don't have to be that guy. My heart goes out to him and his family.

Here is what you can consider:
-Homeowner's inspection: Construction Inspector (some have additional licensing)
-Mold Inspectors - Mold discovery
-Pest inspector - insects and rodents and birds that infest the home
-Hazmat inspector - lead, meth lab, water contamination

Thoroughly go over their results and what they did:

Also look for accreditation:

My advice to you:
Inspect and review the results thoroughly before signing. If you find any big ticket items, "WALK AWAY!" If it's a prior meth lab, "WALK AWAY!"

Comments (5)

Author of the Year 2011
Top Expert 2006

Excellent information for us to use - and share with friends and family.
Thank you for putting it together.

"Yes" vote above.

Semper Fi

As we are buying our first house this coming spring I definitely want to thank you! I appreciate your post.
tigermattStaff Platform Engineer
Most Valuable Expert 2011

Great article Chief! Thanks for your work here.



Thanks: Youngv, jkosse, &Tigermatt.

I hope this saves you, your friends and family from getting a money pit. I always hated to see that happen to an unsuspecting home owner!!

Laws are clamping down on selling thest types of homes on a prospective home owner. But, they are not coming fast enough.



Here is another well-written article on meth labs and homes:

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