Auction Property with flooded, in accessible basement...

7 Replies

Considering a first property off auction (pre-1900 duplex in STL City, typical foundation style). Unable to see basement due to 4-5 inches of clean clear (seemingly standing, or slow/low leak underwater) that was in the walkout stairwell - peeking through the window revealed entire basement flooded. Property management company had just been called. Could be an even sweeter deal, but I lack deep experience in the varieties of things this may be. (My thought, burst pipe over winter weather, but why did the water not drain?) I would love to hear from you both on the variety of things that might be causing a flood, and options with the auction or PM company for understanding the cause of or how they handled the situation. I'm thinking to call this morning and see what I can find out. I'm unwavered by small problems, but likely uneducated of how big a deal ($$) this might end up to be. Certainly get that I'll have to replace any mechanical equipment submerged. Seems not to be sewer water..... am I likely snaking a drain and fixing a burst pipe? What are the other big scary things I might find causing this in a St. Louis city basement?

Are you able to get in the rest of the house? It it was a burst pipe i doubt it was only in the basement. 

I personally don't like auctions because there is no inspection period. May be I'm missing out on getting the cheapest deal but I know what i'm getting into. St louis city basement could be a lot of things from burst pipe to bad sewer lateral line to the unknown. 

Let me know how it goes. 

I did get into the rest of the property.  Besides being ugly as heck, and needing the basic cosmetic work, its relatively solid.  I paid close attention to the roof and walls in case of any leaks, but no indicators of that.  Trying to get in touch with the property management company and/or get more info from the selling agent before the auction starts.  It wasn't the kind of water that had been their long, and the neighbors are watching the property pretty closely.

Is it at the bottom of a hill?  Has there been heavy rain recently?  Might be bad drainage...If so, you would to install French drains or some other kind of system to draw water away from the foundation.  Sump pump?

Geez you are braver than me. Over a century old, swimming pool in the basement, city, and auction! Man that would have to be an absolute STEAL of a deal. Keep us posted I am very interested to see how it turns out! Welcome to the site as well!

Go talk to the neighbors. Do they have any standing water problems? If you are going to fix up a property in the neighborhood, neighbors will really open up to you. 

My guess is that if it's a foreclosure, it was already winterized so somebody broke in and stole the copper water pipes and damaged the shutoff or broke the shutoff off.  That had happened once when I was looking at a property but it was draining out the floor drain.  So if it's clear,  something is probably clogging the drain and you can't hear the water coming in it because the source is now underwater.  If this just happened, you might need to wait awhile for the bank to fully understand that they now have a bigger problem and that the value of the property just dropped as they are missing water pipes (makes the property uninhabitable and very few lenders will loan on the property) and they have a potential mold issue.  Water pipes are cheap and easy to fix (install PEX so they won't be stolen again).  I replace most of mine myself but if you have a broken/missing shutoff, you will likely need a plumber that will work without pulling a permit unless you are lucky and there is already a new copper line coming into the property.  If you're not lucky and it's not copper coming in, with the age of the building, it's possible/probable you have a malleable soft metal water pipe that you're not exactly sure what it is when it comes to legal disclosures (thus the non-permit work, City would make you replace the malleable metal water line if you pulled a permit).

The only inspection rider that I do when making offers is a sewer camera inspection as I can't see it.  That cast iron pre-1900 sewer pipe is past the end of its useful life so it's good to know if you are going to need to replace that right away or not.  There could be a clog, or it could be a collapsed sewer pipe.  Make sure you camera the sewer so you know what you are dealing with and possibly have another bargaining chip.  Every property that you're willing to buy in St. Louis, do a sewer camera inspection because of the age.  It's the best $150 you'll spend.

So, here's the follow up.  It was either a busted pipe or stolen pipe.  The PM company has had the water turned off, but issues will have to be addressed after the fact.  Likely some drainage.  The property is not on hills, neighbors have no problems, etc.  In other news, I can't get the title searched fast enough so I'll skip this auction, and move on to another now that I understand the lead time for the other tasks.  "I learn by doing".  :)  Thanks for all the feedback, and the reminder about sewer inspections.  I'll add this to my routine as I make it - in fact I've done it on all past properties, just getting to the swing of a routine!  Truly appreciate all the fantastic advise and opinions!  Thanks all!

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