Should we buy this house or not?

We have been dealing with the most frustrating situation with a house we are/have been/maybe considering buying and we honestly can’t even decide if we are interested any longer. Unsure of what to do I decided that obviously I should come here and see what the dope has to say about the whole mess.

In April of this year we sat down and ran the numbers and decided that we honestly can’t afford to own or rent in the city in a decent school district so we started looking at houses just outside of New York City that might be more affordable and with better schools. After a few weeks of searching we found a place we loved in the first week of May and made an offer. Thus began many, many, many months of being dicked around by the selling agent and the bank because apparently that is just what you do on a short sale. I’ll go into the specifics of this in a bit.

The house is HUGE and the elementary school the house is districted for is phenomenal. The house has four bedrooms, two and a half baths, full basement and finished attic, chandeliers built into almost every room, etc. The interior decor is horrifying but we weren’t too worried about that since there is a lot you can do with a couple of coats of paint and some new carpet, you know? The downside is that the house has been neglected over the years and since the people who owned it moved out when the bank took it over they have done literally nothing to maintain the property, which means that the gutters have filled with leaves, drains are blocked up, a minor mold problem became a much bigger deal than it was originally, etc. Also the middle school and the high school the house is districted have much lower ratings than the elementary school so we would either have to put our daughter in private school or sell the house and move to a better neighborhood in 8 or 9 years when she gets to a point where that becomes a concern.

After we made an offer in May (dependent upon the inspection and stuff of course) they accepted it and we brought in an inspector. They refused to turn on the water or electricity so the inspection was only partial and the inspector found some fairly serious problems with the house. Without even seeing the water or electric they found what a couple of contractors later determined to be about $35k worth of repairs, $20k of which was absolutely necessary (mold removal, masonry repair around furnace, installing a drain along the side of the house to prevent future mold and water issues, etc.) After hearing the numbers we balked a bit, especially considering we hadn’t even had a full inspection of the utilities yet, but the inspector and every contractor we brought in all said the same thing, basically, “Wow, this place does need some work but it is amazing. If it were me I would totally buy this house.”

The biggest selling points of the house are the size, the elementary school, and the house is walking distance to the train and several stores so we wouldn’t need to buy a car to live there. The school and the train are really big deals and are the reason we are continuing to deal with the stupid bank. After we had the inspection and the contractors gave us estimates we told the selling agent that we were reducing our offer by the $20k of absolutely necessary repairs and that we would do the rest ourselves. They refused our offer and we walked away and started looking elsewhere for another house. A few weeks later we got a call from our broker saying that they bank called him and said they wanted to know if we were still interested in the house. We said yes but that because of some big stuff that had happened we were not able to make the same offer we had previously and offered them about $10k less than our last offer and we gave them 2 weeks to tell us if they were accepting it or not because we were in the process of moving into a new apartment and we were accruing several thousand dollars worth of expenses to do so and we didn’t want to spend that money and then turn around and move again in a couple of months. After the time limit we gave them came and went we assumed they were not selling us the house so we went ahead and paid movers and deposits and all that jazz and moved into our new place.

Then in August I got a call from our real estate attorney because they called her to find out if we were still interested in the house. We talked it over with her and she told us to give them a crazy lowball price and see what happens so we told them we would offer $160k for the house with the stipulation that we had to see the water and electric turned on and that there could be no new damage to the house. We figured that they could call us if they ever actually decided they wanted to sell this fucking property. We assumed they would just laugh at our offer and go on their way and that appeared to be what they did…until Friday. They called and said that $160k was too low but that they would counter us with $180k which is still a phenomenal price for a house in this area.

We are considering their offer, but we are a little :dubious: about the fact that they came back to us to sell it at what is a stupidly low price right after a hurricane. I’m going out there tomorrow and I totally expect to see the roof has been blown into bits or that raccoons have moved into the house to escape the weather or something but the question that we are contemplating is what to do if the house appears to have survived with no real damage to speak of last week. Do we tell them to get the utilities turned on so we can do an inspection because we want this house or do we tell them to fuck themselves because obviously they’ve either found damage we can’t see or moved some indian burial ground underneath the house in the last two months or something?

That offer makes me think they found damage or they know about damage that would be revealed with the utilities turned on.
Walk away, just walk away.

look and get someone that actually has some experience to do an assessment. Timing wise, well, whaddya know, the month of October has passed and someone got their marching orders to get shit off their books by the end of the quarter. Eyes wide open.

Mold and possible water damage? Nope, nope, nope.
I dealt with so-called “minor” water damage on a neglected house once before and I’ll never, ever, ever do it again.

If you really have your heart set on the house, get the full inspection (you pick the inspector, and at their expense) and see what’s what. Fixing water damage it not cheap, or fun.

What Sally Mander said. You don’t want to risk exposing a child under 10 to mold. Mold remediation is not a perfect science, and if they miss even a little bit you’re going to be up shit creek within a year. I found this story about mold remediation gone wrong to be a relevant read.

And fuck 'em anyway, you just got settled. I wouldn’t buy the White House for that price, after being dicked up and down like that. If they are willing to sell the place that cheap, they won’t have any problem finding another buyer. Insurance rates are probably going to be horrible, too, after the storms this year and last.

Elementary school only lasts 6 years. Look for a smaller house near a decent elementary, middle, and high school. One without water damage and mold issues.

Personally, no I would pass on this house.

Get a really really good inspector. Not somebody your realtor or their realtor recommends. (I cannot state this strongly enough. NOT YOUR REALTOR OR THEIR REALTOR, NOT ANYBODY WITH AN INTEREST IN THE HOUSE.)

You know you’re in for $20K of repairs. Long-time homeowners will know that actually means at least $30K because that’s just how things work out. Every once in awhile you will get the repairs done for what you think they’ll cost, but most of the time it will end up costing three times more and taking three times longer than you planned for.

I found a good inspector via a local disaster-mitigation firm. Unfortunately due to the timing I couldn’t use him. (Or I might not be living where I am right now.)

Houses are a big headache even when the inspection comes back perfect, so think really hard about it and use logic, not emotion, to make the final decision. (As in, no you do not love this house, you can’t love a house, it’s an inanimate object. If there are great comparables in the neighborhood so the resale value will be high, that’s solid. Try not to imagine things like your dog sleeping peacefully on the hearth of this house.)

Also, my son & daughter-in-law did a short sale. After they decided on a price, it still took four months until they could get it closed, during which time no maintenance happened and somebody broke in and stole the furnace–probably the previous foreclosed owner.

A short sale? Pfft. You were never in danger of buying this house, hon.

Run like hell.

Plus if the school thing is that big of a deal, why would you want to buy it if you’re just going to either have to move or put the kid in private school in 8-9 years? What if you can’t sell the house in 8-9 years? What if you can’t afford private school when it’s time?


The list of major things that need to be fixed is quite long. And you can bet that there are more issues you haven’t even seen yet. Unless you are a general contractor yourself, I wouldn’t waste anymore time on that property. Surely you have been looking at other places all this time?

Yeah, this is all sort of what I figured. My husband and I keep looking at each other and saying, " I dunno, what do you think?" and waffling back and forth between whether or not this is something we want or if we are just going through all of this crap because it feels wrong to turn down a house that cheap. Seriously, there is not a house that cheap available anywhere in Westchester county that doesn’t need to be bulldozed. I guess this house may need to be bulldozed too, though, and we’ve just been hoping otherwise.

If I could do an even swap for a house double the size of mine I wouldn’t do it.
When every home repair, maintenance, improvement suddenly doubles in price I cringe.
Whenver I see those nice really big home I start thinking, “I wonder how much a new roof on that thing would cost? I wonder how much it would cost to replace alllll those windows? That thing would take a lot of paint. I wonder what their heating bill is? Wow, that’s a lot of gutters. I wonder how much flooring fits in there?”
Big houses take big pocketbooks.

Not to pile on, but I have to go with the consensus here–run away, fast, unless you want to own a money pit. The damage you describe doesn’t really sound fixable for $30,000 and I am sure there are additional problems you don’t know about especially if all they’ve talked about is visible mold–it doesn’t sound like mold testing was done nor was a mold remediation protocol prepared.

Of course, with enough money, everything is fixable… but given what you’ve described, my guess is the new owners will be looking at six figures to fully repair everything given that the house has been neglected for so long.

I think the location is what makes this a “no” for me - getting a phenomenal price on a house in a phenomenal neighbourhood is a great thing - you can spend the rest of your lives fixing up the place and remediating mold and all that crap - you can take the house down to the bare studs and re-do the whole place, if you want to. Moving in eight years, though? That sounds like the deal-breaker to me.

ETA: Forgot to mention the price of the renos - you have to get a PHENOMENAL deal to make it worth that amount of repairs, but if you do get the right price in the right neighbourhood, a complete reno can be your forever house.

I’m in the minority. I’d spent a few hundred bucks for my own inspector to go over and do a thorough inspection to see if it really is a diamond in the rough.

Move further out, use the money you save by not being so close to the city to buy a car.


Personally I’d just turn on the utilities in my name. I’ve done it before (naturally YMMV) but you’re looking at, for a week, spending what, like $100 MAYBE to make sure everything’s firing the way it should.

Get your estimates in writing, of course. Some of my best contractors literally haven’t written anything other than a check in years, so offer to write what they say verbally down for them. They’ll read over it and sign it so you’re good to go.

Short sales are good deals and if you’re in a great location and have a good grasp on necessary repairs, the rest is just patience and writing checks.

Most people don’t have patience and they are scared of contractors.

Also – really important – get at least three certified mold remediation specialists. Should you get the house, pick the one who uses air scrubbing machines and who use hydrogen peroxide – NOT bleach. Also, certain companies offer lifetime guarantees where they re-test every year and re-remediate if anything remains. Naturally these cost more, but build it into your offer.

If you’re confident the area you’re choosing is going to stay stable and continue to be worth the same or more in 8 years, go for it.

Your own ambivalence is the answer. Don’t buy.

We called them this afternoon and turned down their offer. We also told them not to contact us about this house again since this was the third time we walked away from the deal and they keep coming back to us to give us a new offer. We will wait another year or two and save up the money to buy a house that doesn’t need that kind of repair in a better neighborhood instead.

So where is this house? Just curious.