Check the Plumbing Before You Buy That House

Becoming a first-time homebuyer is never as easy as you imagine it to be. In 2017, 37 percent of prospective purchasers were looking to buy their first home, so you’ll have a lot of company out there on the housing market.

A particularly motivated buyer can snag a home within two weeks or less, which sounds great, but you have to be careful. You can’t be so motivated that you skip some important steps. You may already know that a home inspection is important, but don’t overlook the plumbing in that inspection. Here’s why it’s critical to check the plumbing before you commit.

Plumbing issues can hide

Think about a typical home tour. You look at a lot of different rooms, but most people don’t really try out a lot of things. Sure, you might test out the dimmer in the living room, but you may not think to tell the realtor, “Just one second while I check to make sure the toilet flushes properly.”
But the plumbing is just as critical as the light fixtures. It’s possible the plumbing was installed wrong when the house was built. Or it’s possible that the plumbing was fine when the house was built 80 years ago, but now it needs some serious upgrades. If you don’t know about these issues before closing, then you can’t renegotiate the deal. Instead, it’s far more likely you’ll be stuck with the bill when the pipes finally go kaput a few months or years down the line. 

There are certain things you can look for while touring a house. Pay attention to the base of the toilet in every bathroom, because even a small leak there can cause a major hassle. You should also ask how long the home’s water heater has been in use, since the average water heater should work for about 10 years.

What to do if you find a plumbing problem

Be wary of any pushback from the homeowner. They should want you to take a close look at the house, not be afraid of what increased scrutiny might reveal. Many sellers will try to work something out if the inspection reveals some issue.

Let’s say an inspection shows that the sewer line isn’t in good shape. In fact, it’s in such bad shape that your house’s lines will need some serious sewer pipe lining. A seller who is willing to deal might have you get an estimate for the work, then subtract the price of that estimate from the home’s cost.  

Of course, not all sellers are willing to negotiate. Some will take a hard line stance and insist on selling the house as-is or not selling at all, at least not to you. By this point, you’ve no doubt invested a lot of energy and at least some money into this house. Depending on your housing market, home inspections can cost $500 or more. You may feel like if you walk away, you’re flushing that money down the proverbial toilet.

But there are times when walking away makes more sense than dumping more money into a house with serious plumbing issues. Consider it a bullet dodged and a lesson learned. If you drop out of the sale and feel too worn out to immediately start looking for another house, then don’t. Take a break and consider other options.

For example, building a home gives you more control over the entire process, so now might be a good time to research luxury home builders. Whatever you do, don’t get upset with yourself for liking a home that turned out to have major problems. That’s part of the process, and almost homebuyer runs into it at some point.