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quinnsjoblom86

looking at possibly buying a 1972 house. what to look for?

4 years ago

Ive already posted a couple times on here about a budget house build for my family of 3 and separate space for mom. Most are telling me a better approach would be buying a bi level and renovating to our needs. I definitely agree, the decision to build was based on lack of available houses that would work for us.


Well, i think i may have found ONE house that could be perfect for us. Its more than we wanted to spend, but it really is perfect. Its a 3400 sq ft house built in 1972, bottom level is a walkout basement next to garage and hobby room, 900ft of finished space in basement which includes bathroom, bedroom, living area. Main floor above that is 1200ft including 2 bedrooms, bathroom, living room. second floor above that is another 1200ft, partially vaulted, with a bedroom, bathroom, living area and another room off that where it looks like they had maybe a wet bar. It is basically ready for some kitchen cabinets upstairs, and my mom could move in. This property has no covenants and zoned for suburban agricultural. I talked to a lady in zoning department about rentals and all i need to do is turn in an application and i can legally rent out part of this house on a month to month basis which is a huge advantage for when my mom passes away. Even now i could rent out the basement to someone if we were hurting for money. Another thought, our daughter will be 18 years old in 6 years so she would also have option of living in basement.


Problem is price. Its listed at 340k, but my agent thinks it could go for 325. Its more than we wanted to spend, but we could afford it and its a few hundred cheaper than what we pay in combined rent and bills right now. Main part that scares me is the 65k down. Between myself and mom we would be down to about 15k in the bank after moving in.


Our alternative is building a brand new house for about 280k with absolute minimum space and thats with myself doing a lot of work on top of full time job. it would be 650ft for mom, 1000ft for my family of 3. It would work for us, but with current lots available, none allow renting out when mom passes, also no room for daughter to live with us as young adult if she wants to.


So basically we would spend an extra 40k to 50k and end up with double the space and a lot more options in the future. Probably 300 more in monthly payment. Plenty of space for mom and this will be the last house she lives in, 67 years old now and very healthy. Plenty of space for wife and i. Daughter could even move down into basement as a teenager and have room to hang out with her friends without bugging us. Also its over an acre with no neighbors in site, plenty of trees between us and them. The lot i was looking to build on is only .39 acre and houses right up against us.


So basically what it all boils down to is if we buy this house, we cant be jumping into a pile of maintenance right away because we wont be able to afford it. This was one reason why i wanted to build a brand new house. With the lower monthly expenses vs before, we should be able to grow the bank account maybe 8k per year on top of our average expenses. I guess that means we would have about that much available for maintenance and i do consider myself a diy type already having a lot of construction experience. Just wont have a decent chunk right away if something goes terribly wrong.


So what could potentially be wrong with this house? So far what i know about it, owner died about a year ago, kids inherited, did some clean up, paint, and are now selling. Septic was just pumped and inspected. The owners remodeled about 15 years ago including a new roof. Im gonna try to get more info out of listing agent on repair records. Im going to look at house on friday, so what should i look for? Obviously there will be inspections before i would buy, but im curious what potential issues it could have that would cost us a lot of money right away. Water source is a well that supplies 6 houses. Any maintenance costs are split 6 ways. A couple possible issues ive read about in 70s houses are galvanized plumbing and aluminum wiring. If i find either of these should i be worried? What else should i be concerned about? Are there specific inspections i should have above the normal? How much are the inspections really gonna tell me? If everything passes and looks good, how confident can i be that the house wont have any immediate major costs? The kids that inherited the house (probably 40 year old kids) live out of state, so one possible scenario im concerned about is that the water main might be shut off since no one is living there. If that was the case and the house had leaky plumbing, it would be dried up by now and the inspectors moisture meters wouldnt catch it. For all i know, the kids found water spots and mold, cleaned it up, covered it with paint, and it will return a few months after i move in when water is turned back on. Is there any way to be sure im not walking into a nightmare? Any advice at all is very much appreciated.



Comments (72)

  • 4 years ago

    Yeah, I don't think we can let this one go, it's just too perfect for us. We're hoping for a light counter offer, but willing to come up a ways if needed. Other than the layout of the house working perfect for us, the property is also perfect. No hoa, no covenants, suburban agricultural zoning. My dream is to someday expand my cnc machining hobby into a business and the zoning here allows it. I can even build a separate shop if I want to.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Inspect the foundation for any cracks larger than 1/8" inch. Be particularity concerned with horizontal cracks which suggest potential lateral movement in the foundation. The major problems I see in home this age are:

    - Hazardous FPE (Federal Pacific), Sylvania and Zinsco electrical panels.

    - Electrical hazards at homeowner installed wiring.

    - Rotted siding and windows. Look for painted putty or caulk concealing rot.

    - Old, potentially dangerous furnaces and venting.

    - Missing combustion air source for gas fired furnaces and water heaters.

    - Missing CO and smoke detectors.

    - Asbestos. Particularly in popcorn textured ceilings and acoustic ceiling tiles.

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  • 4 years ago

    Thorough septic inspection is a must with that age home.

  • 4 years ago

    Yep, it was actually pumped and inspected 5 months ago right when they listed it. We will for sure need to see the documentation for that though. We gave a pretty extensive list of inspection areas in contingencies, including septic. May not do every one of them, but at least have the option if we choose.

  • 4 years ago

    When you say ‘septic was recently inspected’ I’d ask for more info. Septic systems/fields have a life span and with a 1970s home it may be towards its end. Someone needs to run a camera through the system for sure - not just peek into the tank and a pump. That is not an inspection. Also, does that area have mandatory connection to city sewers if system fails? That is what has happened in our town as city sewers became available in neighborhoods over the years. Just a huge red flag for me as a former septic home owner.

  • 4 years ago

    Ok, when we look at documentation for the recent inspection, we'll see how thorough it was and do another inspection if they just did a quick look. But no, don't have city sewer in this area.

  • 4 years ago

    Basically if we knew all about septic systems before we bought that home we would have negotiated even more off the price. Shortly after we owned the home and became more educated we realized ours was on borrowed time. Luckily the city put sewers in our neighborhood about a year after we moved in and we were able to connect (but at a cost of $24k - knowing that cost prior to settling on the final cost of the home would have been a big negotiating point for us).

  • 4 years ago

    Ok if no city sewers are available I’d find out the price to replace the system that’s there if after a camera inspection proves the lines are failing.

  • 4 years ago

    Ok, thanks for the input. We will look deeper. As for the well, it's shared between 6 houses, so any maintenance is split 6 ways. We will have that inspected also.

    when doing the walk through, I checked a couple faucets. Pressure was great and the water also tasted great.

  • 4 years ago

    Looks like a septic camera inspection can be as high as 1000 bucks. Would you say it's absolutely necessary? That's a pretty big chunk. Maybe some systems are able to be checked pretty thoroughly without a camera, or no?

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I guess that's hard to answer, in your case an extra 1000 in inspections would have paid off

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    No you need the camera. Trust me on this. Yes, we really learned a lot too late in the game. Our realtor / realtor's inspector should have asked for a thorough septic inspection (we didn't even think to ask). The yard is also an indicator of a failed system. Really green patches? See the 'line's' of the system evident by rows of dry/green areas? Any smells when you walk around out there? Yes. Gross.

  • 4 years ago

    Right now there's snow on the ground and pretty cold out. Didn't notice a smell, but probably wouldn't right now anyway. We'll go with a camera check. Google's first response was up to a thousand bucks, but it looks like 3 or 4 hundred is more common.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    A heads-up on the shared well. How well that works out depends on who lives in the other houses. Maybe everyone on the well gets along now, and they really do share the maintenance costs, and nobody fusses about other well users entering their property to work on the well. But things can change in the future.

    I don't think it's a deal breaker, just be aware that it could be a sticking point down the road.

    On the septic tank, as long as it passes the county inspection (assuming you have such), future maintenance is just part of the deal. Bank the money you'd otherwise pay for a sewer bill, and you should be OK when it needs repair or replacement.

  • 4 years ago

    Ok, we'll keep that in mind. It does seem like a bit of a messy situation, like what if one person is broke when maintenance is needed and just doesn't have the money? The listing agent did let us know that there is a shared electric bill for the well that comes to about 75 per year. The other day I realized I know the next door neighbors. Parents of a good friend from high school, nice people. So that's at least good to know

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    If it passed the inspection, simply maintain the system by adding bacteria products like Green Pig. Simply flush down the toilet and you will be amazed at how clean the effluent tanks are next time it is pumped. It also prevents and helps to remove bio-mats in mound systems. $13 on Amazon for a 12 month supply. We had a 50 year old septic system at the cabin that worked like new, but had to replace it when we remodeled, due to the proximity to the lake. Now we have holding tanks that require pumping every other month.


    Unless you have issues with the water table, don't worry too much about the well. Pumps are relatively inexpensive. I did my pressure tank, backflow/check valve and pump for $750 a few years ago. The original check valve (in the well casing) was PVC that broke. I replaced it with a brass valve that should be good for another 25 years.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I guess I'll throw in my .02 regarding septic, more of a story. Sorry, don't mean to worry you. Just for some info, just in case.

    My sister and Bil purchased a home that was built in mid seventies around 1992. Home had a few issues like needing new siding and a few windows, everything was original to home but they really wanted home, owner had financial issues so motivated. It was just outside a smaller town that had city sewer but they were about 1/2 mile out in unincorporated part of town (not sure if correct terms). Was told by city they can't get city water or sewer, or at least won't happen for many many years.

    House has septic system that was inspected a few weeks before closing. Was informed by the licensed inspector that it was not up to present code, not failing however. But since inspector was licenced his licensing required him to report his findings to whatever authority. Since home was changing owners new owners are required to bring system up to current code. I am pointing that out because they found out if it had not inspected by licensed inspector the county would not have been notified and the requirement to replace would not have been triggered, just a fyi for you.

    Long story short. They bought house, upgraded on their dime. A few, maybe three years later the city decided to offer city water and sewer, they declined. A developer was building some homes/townhomes close by.


  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Starting to get nervous, our offer expires tomorrow at noon. Was kinda hoping to hear something today. It's been a day and a half now. We offered about 12k less than we would be willing to pay, but just assumed they would counter. Offer was at 8 percent below asking. Too much? I'm afraid noon tomorrow will pass with no reply. What's the best option then? We want this house, but obviously want the best deal possible. I hate this whole poker game thing lol. Probably won't sleep too good. I have a feeling they are taking our offer around to others that showed interest to see if someone can beat it, but I'm willing to pay more. I'll be pretty bummed if someone else gets it for how much I'm willing to pay. I hope we played it right

  • 4 years ago

    We got it! They countered this morning at 2k higher than we were hoping for, 3k lower than we were willing to pay, so we just took it. Figured giving them that small win would make them a little softer during negotiations after inspections. Now the fun begins! Luckily our agent asked for 60 days until closing and they didn't argue it. Gives us some time. Once it does close, it's gonna get crazy. I have 2 apartments to move, kitchen cabinets to build for mom, few other things. Trying to decide if I wanna risk starting on cabinets before closing. Just gonna be so much to do, would be nice to have that out of the way.

  • 4 years ago

    Congratulations! Enjoy your new home. I hope it turns out to be everything you hoped for.

  • 4 years ago

    So happy for you, how exciting for a home that will work so well for you. And whoa cowboy, wait on building those cabinets for a bit. A few bridges to cross before closing is a sure thing.

  • PRO
    4 years ago

    Congratulations! Just focus on one thing at a time and do everything quickly. Be sure to get your inspector in asap so you have time to perform any follow-up or specialist inspections done if he/she recommends it. I've had my clients bring in electricians, fireplace inspectors, mechanical repair co., foundation specialist...whatever is needed based on the initial report.

  • 4 years ago

    Went to the bank today to get the loan going. The loan officer previously preapproved me based on our credit numbers i gave from credit karma and our income. Bit of advice, don't trust credit karma for scores!! Had a Bit if a scare but it worked out. I thought wife had 686 and I had 710. Turns out wife had no score since she completely paid off all her debt, but I actually had a 760. Since my score was higher than expected, I was able to get approved applying individually even though dti was at 44 percent. Got a pretty great rate too. 3.62 percent. All worked out in the end and payment is about 50 bucks lower than expected. So at this point we are approved and locked in. Gonna get going on inspections right away. Try to get someone in next week. As mentioned, we will start with a pretty standard inspection and see if they recommend a closer look in specific areas. Doing good so far. Loan officer said we made excellent progress for a first day. Still 60 days left to close.

  • 4 years ago

    I'm surprised the loan officer didn't pull your credit reports initially for your pre-approval. Credit Karma doesn't use the FICO scoring model at all. Mortgage scores are from one of the FICO models.
    Anyway, congratulations on getting your home under contract!

  • 4 years ago

    Hope everything goes smoothly. If I had to do it all over again I would have gotten pre approval. We were delayed approval on a house and lost it because we had moved from out of state a few months before so there were a number of bank transfers and recombining and movement of money it made the loan people nervous. I had to prove where the money all came from etc.

  • 4 years ago

    Good luck with offer! I must add that the new-build house I bought in 1999 had A LOT more problems than the older (1930s) house I bought in 2016.

  • 4 years ago

    Asbestos, lead paint, old electrical, poor insulation, galvanized pipes, rotted gas lines.

  • 4 years ago

    I agree the well is something to take stock of later. I don't think it's a problem for purchase but if there is no signed agreement between the neighbors, maybe there should be one. No reason that has to be an unfriendly process, but it protects everyone and makes everyone equally responsible.


    How deep is the well, how much surface casing is there, and when was it installed? With septic tanks over it, you want to make sure it has good integrity and is deep enough. Would not cost more than a few bucks to have it tested for bacteria. Sometimes people are surprised at the results.

  • 4 years ago

    There's a shared well document with all 6 names and stating maintenance is shared. Seller also provided us with document for recent septic pump and Inspection, done last August. They didn't do a camera inspection through the lines, but they did do everything else like tank inspection, flow, all that stuff. Seems to be in good health but we will still consider the camera inspection. No trees anywhere near so probably don't need to worry about roots. Septic document also shows that the well is 120ft away from septic at nearest point, minimum requirement of 75 feet. So the well is on my property, not sure it that's bad or good. House inspection will happen as soon as possible. Called inspector yesterday to schedule, still waiting to hear back.

    We are getting really excited though. My wife's parents offered to help out with money for the work we need to do like building cabinets for moms kitchen, new laundry, stuff like that, so that's pretty cool. We already had enough to get it all done, but now the bank account will look better afterwards.

  • 4 years ago

    We have a 74 house, and just got through a 26k repair, as all the sewer pipe is cast iron and had to be completely replaced. Cast iron only lasts 40 years or so before corrosion.

    However , if you have a basement the cost should be much less, as we live in TX and a good portion of the cost was drilling through the slab foundation. I would still find out if you have the original pipes (water pipes too) and find out what the replacement cost would be.

    Also, if your basement is finished, you will prob have to redo the ceilings after replacement of pipes

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    There was another document from 92 for septic replacement but I'm not really clear what all they replaced. It does say existing tank so that is original, but not sure about lines from house to tank. Maybe I'll post that document as well as the recent inspection document when I get home.

    As for other plumbing, everything I could find was copper or pex. There is no sheetrock in basement utility room, so I was able to see lots of copper going everywhere, pretty sure no galvanized in the house, not sure about the main septic line though, I'll have to look into that.

  • 4 years ago

    Inspection went great! Really no major issues. One toilet needs a new wax ring. Chimney has slight leak at roof. Just needs some sealant. Inspector said house is in excellent shape for its age. It was well taken care

  • 4 years ago

    Pretty minor things. Hope everything thing keeps going smoothly. It such a cute house. You won't have to come back to ask how can I improve the curb appeal. Your going to have to post inside pictures now.

  • 4 years ago

    One thing I forgot to mention that I thought was really odd. There is a 2 foot by 2 foot trap door in my basement slab that I noticed in one of the early walkthroughs. I figured it was probably just a hole that size and a few feet deep, maybe access to septic line or something. The trap door was stuck but there was a few inch hole in it for a handle. While inspector was there, we were able to look down in that hole with his flashlight. It's a whole friggen room! I'd guess 6 foot high, at least 8x8 under there, maybe bigger. I could only see 2 block walls and the dirt ground. So this means at least part of my basement slab floor is floating. Any ideas why its there? Maybe just as access to the basement plumbing and septic line? It just seems really weird to me. Inspector acted like nothing out if the ordinary. Is this a common thing to find? Is it likely the house was build this way? Or maybe someone sawed a 2 foot by 2 foot hole in the slab, excavated it out a 5 gallon bucket at a time, then added the block walls. But why? Just to add basement plumbing? To me it seems sketchy, mostly the fact that part of my slab is floating. Kinda wish I could get a better look down there, but the door wouldn't budge. Probably would have to cut it out and make a new door, but the house isn't mine yet. Any thoughts?

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    This may be out there. Could the house have been built to have its own well/pump/tank but instead went with the community well so it was unused or decommissioned.

    My parents had their own well when house was new in 1960. It had its own little alcove in the basement that was a bump out from the basement in front. It had a cover, about 6' x 6' slab that could be taken off to easily access to replace tank or service it, even though it was accessable from basement easily. Maybe for drilling the well?? I remember the thing being kind of noisy at times for pressure for the tank. They have had city water now for decades, well capped and tank removed and the space it now storage area. It sounds pretty similar size to my parents well tank area.

    Or maybe a space for possible cistern but never implemented.

    Funny the inspector didn't come up with what it could be.

    Kind of a creepy sounding space full of spiders. I would be spraying bug spray through the hole.

  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    My thoughts too on the spiders ha! But yeah, it is a bit odd. Trying to decide if I need to check it out before closing. Ill probably need to break the door. I hate to be a pain and drag my agent back out there and hang out while I bust the door open and go down there, then come back out again when I make a replacement door. She's a 45 minute drive from the house and already been out there with me 4 times. My main concern was just the fact that it's a big floating slab that could cave in some day. It looks solid now, so I guess if there was a problem, it would have happened by now.

    I thought floating unsupported concrete was a big no no. I've seen floating garage floors, but they used special engineered premanufactured slabs. Is it normal for a house to have something like this? Maybe they had a floor form for this one area, poured the floor, and just left the form or something.

  • 4 years ago

    A real sub-basement! Lucky you! It might be a fallout shelter. 1972 is pretty late for that, well past the craze, but it's still possible.

    It could also be a wine cellar, or a hidey-hole for a survivalist (now they call them "preppers"). I wonder if the walls are lined with wine racks, or shelves of 40 year old freeze-dried food and rusty guns. :)

    I may be sticking my neck out here, but I wouldn't worry about it. It'll be something for you to explore once you're moved in.

    Hey, that's right, you have a 12 year old daughter! I bet she'll love having a secret hideaway.

  • 4 years ago

    Yep, daughter and wife were both pretty excited to hear there's a secret room. No one would ever suspect a room being UNDER a basement slab. The opening is right up against a wall, so I can build a tall cabinet to place over it with a false bottom.

  • 4 years ago

    Just had a thought. Maybe a storm shelter for tornadoes. Are you in a tornado prone area?

  • 4 years ago

    Nope, no tornados here in montana. Not really much for natural disasters around here. That is unless Yellowstone blows ha!

    Getting closer, loan has been in underwriting almost a week now so should probably hear back on that tomorrow. We decided to ask sellers to replace the old zinsco electrical panel and they accepted. Still 5 weeks until closing, but everything should be pretty much wrapped up within a week. The last hurdle is appraisal. Hopefully goes well.

  • 4 years ago

    Why don't you just ask the sellers about the sub-basement, see if they know whether it was original and what it was for.


    It actually sounds like a dandy cellar for wine and root vegetables. Or, finish it out, install some lighting and a heater, and have a cute hidey-lounge/library/wine cellar down there.



  • 4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    I'm glad the sellers are replacing the Zinsco electrical panel! That helps reduce your insurance premium:) At least it does here anyway.

  • 4 years ago

    Was the possibility of Aluminum wiring broached above. I've had two such homes from the early 1970s. Not a fatal flaw, just takes a little extra watching.

  • 4 years ago

    No aluminum wiring, all copper.


    Last week the electrical panel got replaced and the bank did appraisal on Wednesday. Just waiting to hear back on that, hopefully monday.

  • 4 years ago

    Its finally over. We closed the deal! Getting through the financing was pretty stressful once covid19 broke out but we got through it.

    So, the underground room. I cut the door open last night to take a look. It's about an 8x8 room, maybe 7 foot high, all the walls are cinder block. Here's the weird part, the whole floor is covered in ash and burnt pieces of wood, and a few bricks. Theres a few holes dug down in the ash like little fire pits. I can't figure out what it is. The house has a fireplace, but on the opposite end of the house. Any idea at all why I have an underground room with a bunch of ash and burnt wood in it? The floor of this room is at least 12 foot below ground. Any ideas?

  • 4 years ago

    Congrats on your closing!

    PS: I have no idea what that room could have been.

  • 4 years ago

    Maybe ask the owners, or have the realtor find out. Would be nice to know.

  • 4 years ago

    Congrats! Pictures please!!! Just wondering, because of your Mom's age (and she's not getting any younger) Wouldn't the basement be a better place for her, since it's a walkout and she won't have to use the stairs every day? I'm only asking since you said it would be suitable for your daughter later on or as a rental.

  • 4 years ago

    Maybe they had no other use for the pit, so they chucked the ashes in there when they cleaned out the fireplace. Otherwise, I haven't a clue.

  • 4 years ago

    Congratulations on closing. Let us know if you find out what the weird pit was for.