Real Estate Today

A strong house for strong weather

Now is the time to prepare for a stormy winter. Photo: Thomas Dwyer

Today it is important to listen to the meteorologist warning that there is serious rain coming our way this winter.

After living in a single-family home for most of my life, it is times like these I think I am so lucky to own a condo. If there are roof leaks or other water intrusion issues, the HOA or management company will deal with it. Lucky me!

Unfortunately the thing about leaks from rain or pipes is that water moves down through a building until it reaches the ground. Even if a condo is located in the middle of a large building, it is possible to have an unpleasant experience from a leaky roof. Also in many condos, owners are responsible for the condition of their windows. If a leaky window causes damages on a lower condo, the owner will be responsible for damage to others. There is no perfect solution to home ownership.

Generally new buyers do not talk much about future home maintenance when they are shopping for a home. Buyers need to make a quick decision about whether to make an offer, and more often than not today the winning offer is a noncontingent offer leaving little or no time for buyer inspections. Buyers must rely on seller disclosures and often feel that once they own a home they will fix whatever issues come up.

Some sellers meticulously note everything from a neighbor’s dog barking or Sunday morning church bells to a roof leak 10 years earlier that was recently repaired with a new roof at great cost. Other sellers are more general. How do you know what “occasional moisture in the basement and storage area” looks like after the current three-year drought? I have found items included in a disclosure like a receipt for a 30-year roof installed in 1998. The roof had 13 years of life left. That sounded good, but was the roofing company still in business? Had check-ups or maintenance been done on the roof? Even a new untested roof can have water intrusion issues after three years of drought.

Sellers need to be very careful to disclose even the smallest issues they have had with their homes over the years. The last thing a seller wants is to be contacted by a buyer about what the buyer believes to be an “undisclosed material fact” when there is a major rain storm and the roof leaks.

Homeowners who purchased their homes during the last several years have had little cause to think about their roof or the condition of their windows or water seeping into their basements. Today is the time to start thinking about what might happen to your home or condo when the big rains come.

Climbing up on your roof with a hose to see if you can find any leaks is not the best idea. This is the time to call a roofer for an inspection. It may cost a few hundred dollars to have a formal independent roof inspection of your home. Compared to the unpleasant experience of waking up in the middle of the night to a dripping sound a few feet from your head or walking into the bathroom to get ready for work to find the floor wet and a puddle of water where there shouldn’t be one, this is a small price to pay. That is not to mention the general hysteria that will follow when you try to find a roofer to come out and fix the leak. You will ask yourself how it is possible that every roofer in town is booked through the winter.

I have rolled up towels and put them in leaky windows and on a few dismal occasions put out a bucket to catch the water from a particular nasty leak in my kitchen. I actually had to come home from work at lunch to empty the buckets a few days during a bad storm. I can guarantee that preventative maintenance is the way to go.

There are some important things you can do to head off a home repair emergency.

  1. Walk around both the inside and outside of your home, taking a close look at windows, door frames, and the foundation. If the paint is cracked and weathered or there is a crack in your foundation, there is a good chance water can make its way inside your home. A bit of preemptive caulking by you, a painter, or a handyman can be an easy short-term answer to potential leaks. If you have a sump pump, now is the time to have a plumber check it to make sure it is in working order.
  2. If you relied on the seller’s disclosure and inspection when you bought your home, consider having your own contractor’s inspection to get up to speed on current or future issues with your home.
  3. Read the fine print on short- and long-term homeowners’ insurance. Question your home insurance carrier closely before making a claim. Being reimbursed for a small loss may result in a greater loss if the yearly premium is raised, or your insurance is canceled and you have to find a new carrier who will ask if you ever made a home insurance claim in the past.
  4. Keep a list handy of tradespeople who can help with household emergencies. A plumber, electrician, and reliable handyman on whom you can call on short notice will be worth its weight in gold.

In a pinch, if you don’t know what to do, call the agent who sold you your home. Full-service real estate agents make a living by having long-term relationships with their clients and will be happy for the opportunity to help.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate, where she is a Top Producer. Follow her on Twitter @CaroleIsaacs or visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.