Home Buying: Website for Finding/Reporting a Property's "Dirty Secrets?"

I’m currently in the process of buying a house. I’m on a limited schedule, so I don’t want to waste time viewing/making offers on houses that have defects that I personally consider unacceptable (‘deal killers’). Please see the examples below.

Is there a website to report or find issues like these? Access to this information could really streamline the home buying process for me.

  1. The first house that I got under contract has a garage that had been converted to a family room. A couple hours before the home inspection I contacted the local permitting office and they confirmed that the conversion had not been permitted. The permitting office also indicated that a permit which had been pulled two year ago for other unrelated work at the property had not been final inspected/closed out. I immediately bailed out of the contract and moved on. I lost a little money on the Home Inspector and it was nearly a week before I could resume the house hunt.

  2. The next house that I seriously considered buying: During the viewing I noticed several red plastic disks labelled “SmartDisk” attached to the ground outside at locations around the foundation. With a little searching I found out that these are devices for monitoring for or dispersing pesticide to treat termite infestations. Needless to say that I didn’t be submit an offer for that property.

It’s hard to see how there could be such a website. Perhaps the building/zoning office has a website where reports are available.

I suggest you hire someone to do some checks. For example talking to the neighbors could be very useful.

The fact that a house has treatment to prevent termite infestation doesn’t mean it has or had a termite problem. On the contrary!

Before we bought our current house a few months ago we were told the seller had termite treatment that would cover us for the next year. The home inspector found no signs of a termite problem. After we had been here a few weeks I realized that the green disks stuck in the ground at various places around the house were that termite treatment. I had never seen that kind of thing before.

Frankly, I think you over-reacted on point #2, unless there was other evidence that the house had a termite problem.

I expected you were looking for things like the guy who screams in his yard for no reason on Thursdays, or mysterious frog rain, or odd homeless encampment one block over. It would be useful to know.

In the UK, the onus is on property seller to disclose any and all defects that they are aware of. This includes the neighbour who has noisy parties every weekend and the fact that the house is under the flight path used by the RAF for low-level training. The seller is also expected to provide a certificate from a registered electrician to say that the wiring is okay.

Buyers should pay for a structural survey as well, but most probably don’t. Solicitors handling the purchase are supposed to do a ‘search’ to establish that the seller has the right to sell the property and that there is no current proposal to build anything nearby that would affect its value (prison, motorway, HS2 etc.)

one thing you can look up is if anybody nearby is on the sex offenders list. Real estate people are not required to disclose that. When I sold a house my agent told me someone in my area was on the list. Most people don’t look that up.

All: Thanks for your inputs.

PastTense - I realize that such a website probably does exist and probably never will, at least not for long. I assume that the folks that are interested in quickly moving properties would find some way to shut down such a website.

CommaSense - Yes, I agree that the presence of such items doesn’t necessarily mean that a house currently has termite issues. However, I’d rather not take a chance, since other properties are available. In addition, I personally would be hesitant to take someone’s word that the Seller has completed termite treatment that will cover the property through the next year. Were the green disks installed by an exterminator or are they something that the Seller purchased on Amazon for ~$400 (https://www.amazon.com/FMC-TECHNOLOGIES-Smartdisk-Termite-System/dp/B07CV2KR6Y), installed themselves and then declare “problem solved?” I would expect to see some form of documentation for the treatment and the follow up inspection should be performed by a licensed Pest Inspector (not just a Home Inspector). And what happens after a year? Once the property has been purchased, all pest problems are on the home owner.

SunnyDaze - Yes, those things would also be good to know prior to making an offer. A good example: I was previously looking at properties in an area until I discovered that there is a rendering plant operating nearby. Looking into it further, I found that the smell is quite noticeable to the homeowners (and visitors), the facility is very old, the operating company doesn’t have the budget to move or upgrade the facility and has recently applied for a license variance to continue operating after several air cleaning devices can no longer function. The initial discovery came from comments on a CityData message board. The message board is helpful, but I was wondering if a more comprehensive website exists.

Bijou Drains - I do check the sex offenders list. Although I don’t have young children anymore, it definitely says something to me about a community if there are a plethora of sex offenders present. A few widely scattered offenders wouldn’t bother me, but too many or a grouping near a property that I want to purchase would make me uncomfortable.

I have also thoroughly researched crime rates, EPA super fund sites and flood zones.

Although I deliberately stay off it specifically because I get the idea that it’s fully of petty drama, I get the idea that Nextdoor.com might give you some insight into problems with the neighborhood, if not a particular house. Others who actually use the site may have better advice.

The only way to be sure there is no current or past termite damage is a thorough home inspection.

If termites are a potential problem in the general area in which you’re looking, ISTM that a house that has had termite treatment is more likely to be safe than one that hasn’t. Your position seems to be kinda like saying, “I’m not buying this house with a lightning rod because the owner seems to have a lightning problem. I’m buying the identical house next door without a lightning rod.” Any house can be hit by lightning or termites. The presence of protection is generally a good sign (IMHO) and its absence is certainly no guarantee that there is no problem.

In the case of our house, the seller had contracted with a reputable local pest control company for a one-year protection plan that was transferable to us. She provided the name and number of the company, and a call to them confirmed that the plan was in effect, transferable to us, and good through next spring. At that time we can renew it at our own expense, of course.

Realtor[sup]TM[/sup] here, so consider me biased. You could greatly benefit by signing up with a real estate agent as a Buyer’s Agent. That’s exactly what they/we are there for.

You didn’t say what state, or even what country, you are in, so that advice might not be applicable. In my state, if someone wanted me to act as a Buyer’s Agent, I could help them find everything you require, in whatever municipality they were looking in. Since different locales work differently, it is impossible to give you generic advice.

Signing up with a Buyer’s Agent might not cost you anything, as the seller may pay any commission. You should be able to determine this in advance with any reputable agent.

I don’t know what state you’re in, but here in California termites are extremely common. A friend joked that termite tenting is pretty much a required part of the home buying process. The home inspection will tell you if there are serious termite issues. No matter what house you buy, there WILL be termite issues eventually, whether they were present at inspection or not. I agree with earlier posters, the fact that the house has been treated for termites is a plus, not a minus. If you want to find out whether (and how) it has been professionally treated, you can of course ask the seller for the records, which they ought to have saved.

The sex offender registry is so bloated with non-assault offenses as to make it useless for protecting your family. Some states require registration for public urination, soliciting for prostitution and underage consensual sex.

I live in a rural town with less than 7000 residents, and there are 23 registered sex offenders, most within a mile of my house. Is that bad? I don’t know, because I don’t know how many of them are 17-year-olds hooking up, someone peeing in the park, or picking up a hooker in a bar.

Pennsylvania requires that the seller sign a disclosure agreement which lists all sort of things, like whether asbestos is present, whether there is lead paint, if there is a history of termites, etc.

Obviously this won’t tell you if work was done on the house without permits, but if you find out there is something wrong with the house and it wasn’t disclosed, the seller is on the hook for it after the sale (assuming that it was something that the seller should have known about).

If you’re concerned, you could look each of them up. That’s public information, readily available. Here, every house within a few hundred feet is notified when a registered sex offender moves into the block, and the notice includes some details of the crime, and the age of the perpetrator. These tend to get forwarded around on neighborhood email lists, and I’ve looked at a few of them. The scariest ones are offenders in their 30’s or older with pre-school victims. But there are some where it’s harder to tell: the offender is 18 or 19 and the victim is 17 or so – you can’t tell if that was consensual teenage sex or a Justice Kavanaugh-style attempted rape.

so he wants the house equilivent of Carfax?
sometimes you don’t wanna know what happened in a house …… like finding out someone crushed themselves with an engine in your garage and other such things ….

Moderator Note

Keep the political pot-shots out of GQ, please.

Yeah, this one’s useless, unless you want to hunt down every one online or your state provides more info than most. EVERYWHERE has “sex offenders” close by.

In my state, you certainly would not be required to disclose the first. Indeed, everyone in a home, an apartment, a trailer, or a tent is entitled to the quiet enjoyment of his property. If a neighbor (and spell it right, dammit! :slight_smile: ) is throwing loud parties on the weekends, the that is a nuisance and both you and any subsequent property owner has the right to abate the nuisance by, hopefully in escalating order: 1) asking the neighbor to keep the noise level the hell down, 2) calling the police, or 3) bringing a nuisance suit in the local court.

Of course, “quiet enjoyment” is a legal term of art. If you live in close proximity to your neighbors, it will be understood that at some times there will be kids birthday parties in a nearby yard in the afternoon with the typical noise of kids playing. It is not understood that you have to live next to Road House.

As far as a military training ground, I would have to research, but I believe that such a thing would be in the knowledge of the public as well as the homeowner so disclosure is not necessary. I would have to dust off the old law books before advising a client.

The training ground for aircraft may well be a long way from their base. We were on holiday in Scotland a few years ago; a remote(ish) holiday cottage on the side of a Loch. For three days we enjoyed idyllic peace and quiet, but on day four we were woken by an apocalyptic cacophony of noise as a brace of Typhoons flew over - so low that we thought that the chimney pots were in danger.

An hour later we were munching toast and marmalade on the patio when they flew over again (it may have been another pair). We spent the rest of the day touring around, so have no idea how often they flew over. In the pub that evening, the locals told us that they get pre-warned when it’s planned, but of course, no one told us.

If I were buying that property I would damn sure want to know about it, but there would be no easy way to find out unless I was there on one of the dozen or so days a year that they do it.

The seller is supposed to disclose if you are in a FEMA flood plan, but mine didn’t. I suspected that it was and went to the city engineer and asked, he handed me a letter from FEMA to the homeowner stating that their request to be removed from the flood zone had been denied. It became a very useful document when negotiating the selling price. Flood insurance can add well over $2500/year to the cost of your property.

As for the sex offender database, it’s a joke. I’ve looked up sex offenders in my neighborhood and found many that were listed as residing in a near by strip mall that had no facilities for people to live. Most likely it was a work address unless they lived in the bushes behind the mall. In Michigan that’s not very likly in the winter.