The scorching housing market is causing people to make decisions quickly.
With multiple listings, buyers beckon inspections and many homes go well above the asking price, but there can be a hidden price when rushing to buy. Some Connecticut homeowners say they paid a price for not knowing more about their future homes.
Just ask the Bristol Favreaus who have longed to retire in Connecticut. But they say their new forever home has quickly turned into a nightmare.
“We had family coming over on the Fourth of July and then the septic tank comes down in the basement,” Pat Favreau said.
Favreau and her husband Mike trusted what they were told – that the home had a three-year-old septic system and a disclosure that said there were no septic problems.
“So we said, ‘Well, it’s three years old,’ so we didn’t do the septic inspection, and it all went down the drain from there,” Mike said. “I guess we just assumed they were telling us the truth.”
The septic tank failed a month after they moved in, and repairs began with $17,000 paid out of pocket.
“We had a porta potty set up in the driveway in the sun and that was our bathroom for about two weeks. It was a headache. It really was,” Mike said.
Tyler Pratt from West Hartford is currently looking for a new home. He’s learned a lot after rushing to close a house a decade ago.
“We ended up having some headaches, like asbestos and things like that,” he said.
As people move fast in this buying market whirlwind, Pratt plans to take some time to weigh his options this time.
With two decades of experience selling homes, William Raveis real estate agent Anna Sava Namnoum says you need to stop and think about your investment.
“‘Oh yes, I won. I have the house.’ You may not have won. They could be the biggest loser in the whole deal,” Namnoum said.
She says leave no stone unturned.
“Think to yourself in 30 years, ‘Do I want to be able to sell my house for a profit?'”
Namnoum doesn’t let their customers skip an inspection. Instead, she doubles down during this chaos, bringing in plumbers, electricians and other experts to investigate what lies behind the bones of a home.
“You want to send your kids to college? Or do you want to go on vacation or do things you didn’t plan to do, you know, re-insulate the whole attic because you didn’t even know there was anything in there?”
While Namnoum would not recommend it, if a buyer waives inspections and agrees to buy a property “as is”, the buyer can still order inspections to understand what issues the home may have.
A colleague from NBC Connecticut just bought a house in Burlington. Yes, she bought the house as is, but she and her agent still ordered all inspections at their own expense. Not only was the chimney deteriorating, it was dangerous and may have gone undetected without inspection.
“If you gave up [a chimney inspection], you could have a carbon monoxide leak that you don’t even know about. There could be brick falling off your roof, damaging it,” said Eric Beavin, a field technician at Spotless Chimney who was called in to fix the problems.
Another problem that cannot be seen by a buyer’s eyes: radon.
“About 30% of Connecticut homes have high levels of radon,” said Jordan Clark, owner of A&R Environmental.
The state has documented counties most at risk from radon — a cancer-causing gas found in air and water.
Luckily, the new homeowner from Burlington got tested because radon levels were high in her new home. She went back to the seller and got a grant for chimney repair and radon remediation.
“We’re seeing more and more people not getting inspections, but a portion of them are testing after the fact,” Clark said.
Rocky Hill’s Doug Clarke wishes he’d pushed for a radon test decades ago.
“It might have saved our position, saved the time, saved the anger,” he said.
American Lung Association experts have linked his diagnosis of small cell lung cancer to elevated radon levels detected at his home.
“I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with what I had to do with what my family had to do. It’s just not fun,” Clarke said.
He hopes you’ll have your house level checked.
Experts remind you: once you’ve signed the dotted line, there really is no turning back.
“It’s not like taking a product back to the store and saying it’s defective. That doesn’t happen with real estate,” said Tim Goetz, a real estate attorney.
Which brings us back to the Favreaus, who describe themselves as experienced homebuyers. But the only inspection they say they skipped on the advice of their agent is the one that cost them.
“Buyers beware,” said Pat Favreau.
She and her husband took their complaints to their real estate agent, who gave them a document indicating possible septic issues, but the seller’s disclosure was never updated to reflect this.
The Consumer Protection Department says they are investigating the Favreaus’ complaint.
“I would say make sure you do an inspection and don’t believe anything you’re told,” said Mike Favreau.
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