I spent a couple of hours with our inspector at the clapboard house, yesterday. Our offer was accepted a second time, again as the 'best complete' offer. The listing agent hovered as the inspector and I went through the house with a fine tooth comb, spending most of the time in the basement.
There are water issues in the basement that require soil and part of the driveway to be regraded. A rotting and mildewy wallboard needs to be pulled out so the wall can dry. Correcting the water problem would be a significant expense, but not something that couldn't be negotiated into the price of the house. More problematic, though, is the presence of oil pipes in front of the house and in the basement. You see, the house was converted to gas years ago. Why weren't those oil pipes taken out with the tank? Gotta make sure there's not an oil tank buried in the front lawn, Gimky! The inspector told me. Otherwise along with the asbestos roof you have buried in your name, you might have this can of worms, too.
I went to town hall to pick up the house records. Astonishingly, not a single permit was filed on the house in the past 100 years. Nothing for the gas conversion, nothing for the removal of the oil tank, windows and roof, nothing for the bathroom in the basement that I'm now certain is illegal, or for the garage that was turned into a room, for that matter... nothing. To find this out, after the listing agent said he was certain the Owner - a town employee - had all of the C.O.s and us sinking 500 bucks into an inspection! You really can't trust anyone.
The house shows well. It's beautiful, in fact! But the C.O.s are not there. It's impossible to know what was done properly and up to code without shelling out more money into this. And given that the house is a short sale and on the brink of foreclosure, I can't expect the Owner to be able to help out, much less dig up the buried oil tank and make sure there is no soil contamination. (1 - 1 - 4 ...)
I feel sorry for the Owner. He told me about his shoulder, yesterday, and his need to sell and retire. He told me he hopes we buy the house. I just hope he really did have the 2 other offers his agent said he did and that at least one party is emotionally attached enough to the house's charm. The water was one thing. But all the missing paperwork and the buried oil tank - the Owner claimed to know nothing about - pretty much sunk this deal for us.