Buying a house is stressful enough, but uncovering all of its secrets? No one needs that stress! These homeowners were completely blindsided by what the previous owners had kept hidden away from prying eyes! Content has been editde for clarity.
I’m Not Alone Here
“It was one of the worst experiences I think known to man. I moved into a condo complex in 2009, and I immediately fell in love with the place. There was a big lawn, the property looked well maintained, and the common charges were cheap. I didn’t realize what secret the complex was hiding from its residents until one fateful night. After unpacking my bags and settling in, I looked out of the front door into the parking lot and remarked to myself how beautiful the place was. I then noticed a window open across the parking lot that had its shades open. There was a television inside with what appeared to have a static image on it. For some reason, the image looked strangely familiar. It appeared to resemble the inside of a condo because of the setup. I squint to get a better look and yes, it was in fact the same layout as my condo. I immediately froze. I then decided to wave my arm in front of the solid wall on the right side of my door. Lo and behold, I see my arm ON THE TELEVISION across the parking lot, waving back and forth! Nowhere in any document that was signed does it say that they have a surveillance system or program here which gives the owners a free pass to eavesdrop in peoples’ homes like this! Buyer beware!”
A Heartfelt Secret
“We bought the home as part of an estate settlement for a woman who had died from cancer. Her sons were selling the rural property. My new wife and I fell in love with it, despite it definitely needing some TLC. We started small on projects, as money was tight early on. During one such project, I had to pull away a section of wall and replace the cabinetry behind and under the sink. I uncovered a bag of almost two pounds of weed, as well as the lady’s diary from the last six months of her life. Her entries were heart-breaking, but so deeply moving and among the most profound observations I had ever read. I found myself deeply touched by her insights. The entries got harder to read as her condition worsened each day. When I got to the final entry, it was brief. It read, ‘I’m so weak I can barely write. Each breath is like gargling molten glass from my chest out of my mouth. Where is Death? Where is my peace? Why has God forsaken me! Burn this memoir, as I will be cremated after writing it.’
I never told my wife about either the weed or the diary. The pot got scattered over the drop off in the backyard into the stream that fed the small lake across the gravel road. I did burn her diary as requested, but only after trying to contact both sons we bought the property from. Oddly enough, both numbers provided to us had been disconnected. The realtor who sold us the house did not have a forwarding address or new number.”
The City Under The Stoop
“We bought our home in 2013. My husband went through with the inspector and it all checked out. Since we were buying it with a down payment from my mother’s life insurance, I got to make a couple extra demands. I wanted a septic inspection and draining, and a fireplace and chimney inspection. We found out that the septic tank was much smaller than the size of the house warranted. When walking through before we made an offer, I had checked the water pressure and drains in the kitchen and every bathroom, looked for signs of leaks under every sink, and walked around the house myself looking for signs of water pooling against the house. This was our first house, so neither of us were experts, but I tried to look for problems. I didn’t find any. At closing, the sellers were asked whether or not they were aware of any water leaks or damage. They said that one corner of the basement leaked only if the drain spout came unhooked from the gutter. They had lived in the house since 1968, and we trusted them when they said it was a great house, so we figured they would know. After we moved in, a friend noticed a large anthill in the backyard by one of the trees. I asked the guy about the ants and he told me they were carpenter ants, and that he could spray the anthill but then they would just move to the nearest wood source, which was the house. In fact, all the woods and the entire corner of town we were in was one huge carpenter ant colony.
We also found that when it rains heavy or for a long time, the basement floods. It starts at the south wall and moves to the north. Sometimes it’s just along the side of the laundry room, other times water comes into my daughter’s bedroom. One time it went all the way through her bedroom and about halfway through the living room, flooding two-thirds of the basement. At least twice a year we are down there for an entire day with special vacuums and carpet shampooers just sucking up dirty water. There is no way that sweet old couple didn’t know about the flooding or water damage. And I don’t even blame them. Their son was a lawyer and they’re realtor was a dirtbag. I have no idea if one or both of those two convinced them to lie so they could sell the house. It had been on the market for a year, but we were told that was because they priced it high and weren’t accepting any offers below asking price. Also, there’s an entire city under the front stoop, inhabited by toads and chipmunks, and I’m pretty sure that’s where the water at the base of the stairs comes in.”
Hooray For Zero Sleep
“The previous owners neglected to tell us all about the neighbor’s neglected, yippy little dog. We didn’t hear this creature at all during our visits and inspections. After we moved in, that little monster started up and just kept going. The dog’s owners would leave it outside no matter the weather. It had food, water, and shelter, but it must have been so lonely. The owners went on a weekend trip, and that dog barked from all day until two or three in the morning. It will bark ALL DAY if left outside, and their back gate is right next to our bedroom. I have talked to the family many times, including once at two in the morning when they got home. I was up because that dog would go on a barking tear every time I would start to fall asleep. They told me that as neighbors, we needed to get along. I told them that it would be easier if I was able to actually sleep through the night. Another time, they mentioned adding a second gate so it couldn’t run along the side of the house near our bedroom. That never happened. I even offered materials and to build the gate for them!
In one of my more psychotic and sleep-deprived moments, I looked into the various laws. At the time it would have been easier to shoot or kidnap the dog(and get caught than to get the city/county to do anything about it. I would never hurt an animal no matter how annoying, but I did wonder what punishments I would face. I have taken to using a squirt weapon or a hose on non-cold days to scare it away from our gate.
The funny thing is that this dog has gotten out or was locked out and came to our door and barked until I came out. She led me to her house, I rang the bell, and the neighbors cracked the door open a tiny bit. I said that their dog got out and pointed to the dog trying to squeeze in the door. They barely acknowledge me and simply shut the door. I have a weird relationship with the dog, and I would even adopt it if it meant the dog would finally be quiet. I still hate the neighbors though.”
They’re Everywhere And Spreading
“When my ex-wife and I asked the owners to see the attic, we could see nothing strange. We were so eager to buy the house that maybe we were a little blinded by its size, by its monumental open fire place, or by the garden and the surroundings. The attic was very large, big enough to host a large living room and several large rooms, but that was just our fantasy. It had no windows, no floors, just a number of loose wooden planks. It was hot and dusty, and also contained a number of bizarre artifacts. What we did vaguely notice was small sounds, as if the beams produced a constant cracking noise. After a number of pleasant conversations with the owners, we agreed over a price, but before finally deciding, we asked if we could visit the house one last time, with a friend of ours who was a construction worker. And just before we left, he noticed the cause of the sounds: House longhorn beetles. Their larvae feed on wood, and they can grow so vast in numbers that they can be a real threat to a house. My friend started to investigate the beams which supported the roof and the floor and looked under the many planks. Our fear turned out to be true: they were EVERYWHERE. The sounds originated from the many bites that the many hundreds, or thousands, of larvae made in the wood of the beams.
After a quick assessment, we decided that we still wanted to buy the house, but for a lower price, and the owners agreed. When the house was ours, it appeared that the pest was far greater than we had evaluated. A specialized firm was needed to control the situation, and it cost us more than five thousand dollars, the replacement work for all the damaged oak beams not included. Even today, more than ten years later, the completely furnished attic (with windows, a nice hardwood floor, and much, much more) still produces the same sounds as before, only on a very modest scale. It was if some lucky larva survived our horrible attack on its existence, and it produced new generations every year to remind us of the way we were.”
Dripping Down The Walls Like Melting Wax
“We bought a house that I ruefully nicknamed ‘the money pit’ after a movie with the same name. Superficially it was a beautiful property, but a lot had gone downhill since the owners built it. When we got there on move in day, we found we had only some of the many keys we needed for the house. Some exterior doors we had no keys to. My husband refused to move our stuff into a home that someone kept half the keys to, so we had to call an emergency locksmith and get all the locks re-keyed and new keys made. It cost $700! We had come in from out of state, so it’s not like we had a choice. When I was moving in and putting stuff away in the kitchen, I discovered that a lot of the cabinet knobs were stripped. They had been stuffed with aluminum foil and stuck back on the bolt to hold them on. They would come off in your hand if you pulled on them. Cabinet doors fell off on my head because many of the hinges were faulty. All hinges had to be replaced, and I replaced all knobs and drawer pulls as well, which got so expensive so fast!
They had painted the bathroom with latex paint that had dripped down the walls like melting wax. I saw that. When I went to repaint, I discovered that what I hadn’t seen was that they had painted around every fixture and curtain rod bracket, effectively sealing them to the wall. Everything that was removed took chunks out of the wall. All the bathroom walls had to be sanded smooth and then spackled and repaired. They had slopped the dark brown paint all along the edge of the tub, and it was a mess. It honestly looked like they handed a chimp a paintbrush and said, ‘Go for it!’ Sadly, that was not the only room the chimp had painted. Oh, and the tub upstairs hadn’t been plumbed right because the overflow drain was not hooked up. My teenage son took a shower that first week and must have accidentally closed the drain, because the next thing I knew, water was pouring down through my kitchen lights!! The ceiling AND the tub had to be fixed. Every time I removed an outlet cover in a room in preparation of painting, ladybug carcasses literally poured out. If they were using them as insulation, they failed to disclose that. We used to get smirks from the tradespeople we called over who were familiar with the previous owners. I now have a more comprehensive list of what I inspect when looking at a house!”
Burning Up Inside
“The first problem we encountered in our new home was that the ‘new’ roof was actually installed by the previous owner’s inexperienced family member five years earlier. Shortly after moving in, a bulge appeared in the living room ceiling. It was enough of a leak that the area was soft like dough, with the paint being the only barrier in its way. Rain would also visibly pool in our large kitchen light fixture, so we had to remove the cover to drain it each time.
The second issue we had was even more frustrating, until we determined the cause and resolution over a year later. Our dining room was uncomfortably warm, and it was the only room with a different temperature. The ceiling was hot to the touch year round, and it being an open floor plan with the living room and kitchen, it was incredibly odd that it was only in this one area. We discussed the issue with many people, including a family member who works for the county building inspectors. No one had any new ideas for us, and we got by with central air conditioning combating some of the extra heat. Many moons later, we discovered that the previous owner had custom-heated ceilings installed out of luxury. Not only were we unaware of this feature, we were unaware of just how many rooms it existed in. They forgot to turn it off in the dining room only. The home also came with another type of old school heating unit in each room, heat lamps in the bathrooms, and separate heating vents below sinks around the house. Between both central heat and a wood burning stove, we had no need for all the extra heat options. You wouldn’t believe the drop in our utility bill after it was shut off.”
When I bought my first home, there were four major things wrong:
While doing the inspection, I noticed that there was a small breaker sub panel beside the existing bus fuse panel. Long story short, my wife wanted a water garden, and there were no outlets in the backyard. So I thought I would add some and just use the breaker panel to add them. After running the circuit and trying to tie it in, I found that the fuse labeled outside lights did not cut power to the sub panel. When I removed the panel cover, I found that the sub panel had been tied directly into the feed wires for the bus fuse box. How the owner got it in there without shocking himself I do not know, but there was no way to cut power to the breaker box without pulling the meter.
The home had an addition, which was really the one car carport enclosed and another carport added to extend the living room. This was not really ‘hidden’ per se, but what was kind of hidden was that in the kitchen, if you stepped on one line, you could feel the foundation was uneven. It raised up in the kitchen. Once you knew where it was you could see it, but no one ever saw it until they stepped on that line. This made arranging the rooms very difficult.
After being there for a couple of years we had a fuse blow. I replaced it and it blew instantly. So I went around the house unplugging everything I could. I replaced the fuse again and it blew instantly again. I called my dad and he came over. Nothing was plugged in we could see. The only thing left was the dishwasher. So we pulled it out and found that the previous owner had, instead of putting in a 3-prong outlet for the dishwasher, had taken it completely out of the wall and pulled some of the wiring out of the box in the wall into the cavity behind the dishwasher. Then he had cut the plug off the dishwasher and hardwired it directly to the feed for the outlet. Also, he did not use wire nuts on splices, only electrical tape. Evidently over the years the heat and moisture from the dishwasher caused the tape was to come off, and bare wire was exposed. There was about a two-foot black burn spot on the back of the dishwasher where the wire had been shorting out. After replacing the outlet and cord from the dishwasher, we replaced the fuse, and everything was fine.
As I mentioned before, there was an addition to the house. This caused water to run towards the home in that spot. With the way the nook was built (one side extending out slightly farther than the other), it looked like water would simply hit the part that was slightly extended, then flow into and out of the nook. No big deal, right? Since the concrete leaned towards the home, water would go in and sit there, and after about five years in the home, we came home in a storm and the kitchen was flooded. Water had finally eaten though the exterior wall and inside the dry wall. So water from the storm was flowing down the hill across the back of the house, and when it hit the slightly extended part of the nook, it was being forced directly though the wall into the kitchen. THat was super fun to clean up!”
So Much Gassy Grief
“A mechanical engineer retired about eight years ago and decided to be the general contractor while building a brand-new custom lake-front home for his wife and him to live during their retirement years. They only lived in their newly completed home a few weeks before he suffered a massive heart attack while landscaping the yard, and he died the following day. The wife didn’t want to continue living there alone, so she had a realtor list it for sale. She accepted the offer I made to purchase the home and, even though it was an almost brand-new home, I hired an inspector to make sure there weren’t any hidden problems. All he found were a few very minor things, nothing major.
There is a gas fireplace insert in the den with fake firewood that looks very real. I didn’t attempt to light that fireplace until the weather turned cold several months later. The fan that blows air out vents worked fine, but I couldn’t get the burner to light. After numerous failed attempts, I decided to call that engineer’s widow to ask if she could tell me how to light it. She told me that she doesn’t remember the fireplace ever being lit but, if it had, her husband would have been the one to do that. She gave me the name of the business that installed it, so I called there to ask what I was doing wrong. The owner of that small business pulled his records for this installation and said the men who had done the installation no longer worked there. He then said nothing unusual was noted in their records, so he would have to see it to determine if there is a problem. And there would be a service charge for him to do this, so I agreed to pay it. He and his adult son showed up the next afternoon. They inspected the fireplace and attempted to light it, and then determined gas wasn’t getting to the burners. They said a gas valve must be turned off somewhere, so they looked around inside the house and then outside without success. Then they went up in the attic to search there, but it was very difficult to follow the gas lines because the insulation is very thick. They then recommended I find out who the plumbing contractor was and ask them where they would install a gas valve to the fireplace.
The widow gave me the name of the plumbing contractor, so I called them. Their search moved into the attic, where they located the gas pipe to the central heating unit. They then had to move a lot of insulation around in order to follow that line. No pipe went over to the fireplace and no valves were found. Then they went over to the area of the attic directly above the fireplace and began searching for a gas line there, with no success. They said the gas line to the fireplace must have been run under the slab and decided to look outside again. Then they used a stud finder to find and follow the pipe in the wall next to where the gas meter is located. So the boss contacted the plumber that installed the gas lines in my home and asked if he remembered running a gas line to the fireplace. He said that no one ever told him he needed to run one there. That was when we knew for sure that there was no gas line installed to the fireplace.
I was going to have to either pull some sheet rock off the wall next to the fireplace or have the fireplace insert temporarily removed while the plumbing company installs a gas pipe into the attic. Either way, this was going to be an expensive installation, so I called the home inspector to try and get his insurance to pay the cost of doing this. He remembered the gas was off when he checked the insert, so he wasn’t able to test it. I wanted to know why he didn’t write that on the inspection report. He simply said that he isn’t able to inspect gas appliances if gas isn’t going to it because he wouldn’t be able to determine if they are properly operating. However, he did check the gas central heat unit, the gas range, the gas clothes dryer, and the gas water heater. So I asked why he didn’t at least note there was no gas to the gas insert since it was on at each of those other appliances. I felt he failed to properly inspect the fireplace and wanted his insurance company to pay to have a gas line installed to it. He didn’t want me to file a claim, but I did. His insurance company reviewed it, but said they don’t pay to resolve a problem when the inspector isn’t able to determine if there is a problem. The insurance adjuster said they would have paid for the work had the report indicated the fireplace insert operated, but it wasn’t even mentioned in his report.
I then called the plumbing contractor again to ask if their insurance would pay to remedy the problem, because they failed to install that gas line while the home was being constructed. He said they don’t have insurance that would cover those things. Also, he doesn’t know why that gas line hadn’t been installed, but said it would have been had they been told to do so because that would have increased the amount of money they could have earned on that job. He even pulled the records for their work on this home and said there is no mention of a gas fireplace insert anywhere in it. I ended up calling another plumbing company to install that missing gas line. The total cost was a little more than $2200 because the fireplace insert had to removed, then an insulation company had to move a lot of insulation out of the way, then the plumbing company installed a tee and a valve on the gas line near the central heat unit, run forty feet of black pipe in the attic and then drop a pipe down to the fireplace, reinstall the insert, then test it to make certain everything worked properly, then put the insulation back over the new pipe.”
Is Anything About This House Right?
“When I bought my house in 2007, it was already 50 years old and had been lived in by five different families. The family I was buying from wasn’t even living there, as they had rented it out. The renter was fickle when I inspected the house, but was excited to show me all the problems he knew about. Since buying the house, I have replaced so many things that it became the joke between my wife (whom I married one year after buying the house) and me that the only thing we hadn’t replaced was the garbage disposal on the sink. Then that sprang a leak two years ago. So what have I found?
The roof of the house was massively sloped, but it was too short at first. They built an addition onto it, with the plan being the rainwater would fall off to one side, which just so happened to be on top of the basement entrance. During a very large storm, the basement was flooded. The roof actually held a small lake of water, two inches deep. It added hundreds of pounds of weight to the house. I’m surprised the roof stayed up. When I set out to fix the addition, I found they had put wood paneling on furring strips on the brick walls with no insulation, which explained why it was so cold all the time. The ceiling turned out to be drywall hung with bolts to a fiberboard tile ceiling. When I pulled the one corner of the drywall, the entire ceiling fell down, destroying a mirror I had in the corner and cracking the top stone on the fireplace mantle. I installed a flat roof drain in the middle of the “lake” so the lake would drain, and I put the pipe out the far side of the house. I then put insulation and a full stud wall with vapor screening in. Oh, and there was a gas heater in one corner, but when I fired it up, I saw flames shooting out the vent. When I took it out, I realized it had gotten damp and rotted through.
One of my favorite experiences in this house was the showers. The renter explained that the guest bathroom would mysteriously change from having hot and cold knobs to having cold and lukewarm knobs, and that it seemed to change randomly about every other week. I told my friend, who is a very handy guy, and he came over to troubleshoot with me. We laughed when we found it. It turns out that the pipes for hot and cold to both showers came as one pipe through the wall between both showers, then hooked into both the hot side and cold side of the valves to each shower. All good there. Each shower had a hot and a cold valve that led to the spouts. Again, all good. But the master shower had one other valve. The hot and cold both went into it and mixed. When we turned this single valve, it would turn on the shower spout in the master shower. This would allow us to set the hot/cold at the right temp and then just turn the master valve to get the same temperature shower each time. Except when used this way, the hot and cold lines were connected. I eventually replaced all the pipes with PEX anyway. I found much more in that house. Like that all the kitchen outlets, including the fridge and microwave, and the entire garage, were on one circuit. There are two or three different sprinkler systems in the yard. So many things. The list goes on and on.”