Utilities have been off for over 2 years...

19 Replies

What problems should I be looking for in a home that has had no utilities on for over two years?

This is a brick home that was built in 1955. I know our extreme temps in TX can wreak havoc. Any advice is appreciated.

There are certainly lots of problems that can creep up when a property hasn't had utilities for that long, but I think a lot depends on where the property is.

I don't know the environment in Texas well enough to help you with your climate (in my area the first concern is winterization so plumbing doesn't freeze).

I think in any climate you can have concerns with it being sealed up due to changing temperatures inside and out causing condensation, mold, etc.

You will likely want to be there when the power is turned on in case any rodents happened into any wiring.

Others will likely know more than I for your area

If the house has galvanized plumbing, the pipes could be completely blocked up and ruined. Ask me how I know....

My intention is to wholesale this property. I suppose I should just assume the mechanicals will need lots of attention and adjust my offer accordingly since I will not be turning on the utilities and neither will the seller.

Originally posted by Rob K:
If the house has galvanized plumbing, the pipes could be completely blocked up and ruined. Ask me how I know....

plus aren't the pipes down there buried in slab flooring ???

we get some here with pipes burst, rodent damage, mold etc etc but they are great buys if you can do a lot of the bull work y'self.

I got a 4broom no-one wanted for $13,500. Pipes burst, floors ceilings, walls totally ruined put in about $3500 & flipped it drywall etc unfinished to a local for $29,500. Not bad for a bad location, shared driveway etc.

I got a 4broom no-one wanted for $13,500. Pipes burst, floors ceilings, walls totally ruined put in about $3500 & flipped it drywall etc unfinished to a local for $29,500.

That's essentially the example of taking a trainwreck and turning it into a fixer-upper.

I've seen formica separate and de-laminate on counters and backsplashes, my guess due to thermal expansion and contraction (no heat or other temperature control).

Chimneys and dryer vents can become a place where birds and insects nest.

As somebody else mentioned, winterization is another factor. It may have been cold enough to cause water to freeze in any plumbing that wasn't properly winterized. The dishwasher is vulnerable because it's easy to forget. All traps should have had anti-freeze poured in (that's sinks, tubs, shower pans, toilet bowls).

2 years ago was the big freeze here during the superbowl. Concern about busted pipes. If the pipes are original then they may be rusting from the inside out.

I agree about laminates separating and the varmints moving in.

Beware if there is a septic system, they will dry up without water pouring through, stuff is like concrete! Laterals can get clogged as water is not running out, the dirt hardens arond the outlets and vegitation backs up with roots and debris falling in.

Wells can have pressure/storage tank problems without running for long periods and being filled. Pump motors that don't operate can sieze up.

Washers in faucets and fixtures dry and crack. Ceramic can crack in fixtures, may just repalce faucets.

Slabs can crack with wide quick tempature variations, the heat is off keeping the floor at a more constant temp.

Check the windows and doors, there is more expansion and contraction in frames without temps controlled and mositure removed. Door seals stick too.

Check for mold and mildew down there!

Don't forget the exterminator. Something has been living in there. :)

Updated over 5 years ago

Forgot, sheetrock nails pop, look for demples on ceilings and walls.

Thanks for the insight everybody.

I will be touring this property and the one next door with the seller on March 2 (the seller owns both and is from out of the area.) From what he says they are both in about the same condition, which he says was "fair" two years ago when he was last in them.

@Josh R. If the power has been off for 2 years, be on the lookout for the local power company to want to charge for a "safety" inspection, where you need an electrician to verify plugs and power are up to code. Just a new sneaky fee for municipalities to bring in new revenue. Ask me how I know!

Also, when you tour, take a simple painters mask with you, so that you do not breathe in any possible mold, contaminants inside, again, ask me how I know!


Thanks @Jack Bobeck I will definitely be wearing a mask!

As for the power company possibly wanting to do a safety inspection I am not intending to turn the power on. I intend to wholesale this property so that will be something for the next guy to work out. Good info though for future reference!

Along with the dust mask, you should wear a pair of 3D glasses. After a home is vacant that long, ghosts think its safe to walk around naked!

@Randy F. I'm sure there is a local Ghostbusters team I could call up if need be ;)

I suggest you get the owner to turn utilities on, the same owner may have better luck avoiding inspections as he had the account.

I'd have electric on, you'll get a better price, a house built in '55 may only have 100/120 amp service too, not sufficient today.

Without elect, how would you check the HVAC, an expensive deal, you'll be lucky if it only needs to be charged, no air in Texas, hmmmm? I doubt many landlords would be interested unless it was a steal of a deal, and for you to make money, well, you'll have to buy better than that!

Have the seller do it, just about anyone else would.

@Bill Gulley the seller is the executor of his parents estate. The electric was never turned on under his name so he might run into a problem with the electric company. Also, he does not want to do anything to sell these houses and just wants an easy cash experience. Asking him to jump through hoops to sell will probably be a huge turn off.

My thoughts are to just assume that all these items need replaced and make a low low offer.

I guess he's an only child and gets it all, most would have an obligation to get the highest price.

But, if he really wants out, you may have a good find, wack another 10 k off for good measure! Good luck!

@Jack Bobeck

I know I am late to the party but one quick sidebar question. Jack you mentioned bringing a painter's mask to help against breathing in the mold. I was in a condo the other day where I couldn't stand to be in the upstairs for more than 2 minutes due to the mold. Will a simple dust mask combat this or do I need to splurge for a more heavy duty mask? I noticed there was a "household" dust mask and than a "painter's" mask that was slightly more expensive. Didn't know if there was really any difference on quality, or if there were just up-selling on the perception of quality.

Thank you in advance for any and all feedback.

If you are a buyer, and you are worried about problems put the utilities in your name to test the services.

Joe Gore

@Chris Elliott Your call on this one. How much are YOUR lungs worth to you? Yeah, you can get the cheapo 30 cents mask, or get a real respirator and control the air you consume.

If the house is worthy of a respirator, perhaps you should walk away. There will always be another deal somewhere else. Probably in air you can breathe!


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