Home buying in the melting months: Time to trust your gut

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JAMESTOWN, N.D. (Valley News Live) - "We decided we wanted to stay here, and we were pretty excited," says Amanda Stinson. "We were really excited – thinking, 'Oh my gosh! We get to buy!'"

It started out as love at first sight.

"When we came in, my husband just fell in love with it. It has some really beautiful fixtures, it has been freshly painted. All remodeled," Stinson says.

But that feel of love turned into frustration and fear just three weeks after the family moved in and the snow started melting.

"Two weeks ago in our basement room a lot of water started coming in. And my husband has been mopping it up and taking it out in five gallon buckets as fast as he could," Stinson says.

But after calling a contractor, the news only got worse. "We came out and found out it's coming from the other side of the wall where he started digging next to the foundation and chunks this big of brick and mortar are coming out," Stinson says. "He was showing us cracks all the way around the house where there is potential for this to happen all the way around the house,"

Experts say sometimes inspections will find these defects before you buy the house, and sometimes they won't.

And another protection for potential home buyers – property disclosure forms – have their own drawbacks as well. Those forms only include problems the previous homeowner was aware of. Stinson says her disclosure forms didn't mention any issues with the home's foundation or flooding.

"I don't know how these plants could be growing there if this is something that just started three weeks ago," says Stinson. "Based on the disclosures that were provided to the real estate company, there is no mention of foundation problems."

Tyrone Leslie with Berkshire Hathaway suggests home buyers trust their gut when it comes to property disclosure forms.

"In this industry, you always hope that people are always being honest," he says. "A property disclosure form, for the most part – if it doesn't feel right, it doesn't look right, maybe it isn't right. And maybe you and your realtor want to consider looking elsewhere."

If you can prove the previous homeowner knew about the problems, you can take them to small claims court. But if you can't - you're on the hook for the financial fix.

"Buying real estate is a fantastic investment and you absolutely should do it – but understand all of the ramifications involved in owning your own home," Leslie says. "A lot of times, the realtor will be able to help, the prior homeowner will be able to help. There's always options. But if that doesn't work out, then there's always that expensive fixing it that's part of home ownership. When you buy a home, there's always maintenance involved in the home. Sometimes sooner rather than later."

"We do love the house – we want to fix it. But at the same time, we paid $145,000 for this house that is possibly falling apart underneath us," says Stinson. "It's not right to sell a home as one thing and then get into it and realize it's about to fall down."

So for now, with more melting on the way, Stinson's family can expect more flooding and more costly repairs.

If you are looking into buying an existing home, there is one way to protect yourself from expensive issues like these. Experts recommend talking with your realtor about home warranty programs. These policies can cover repairs on certain appliances, along with the home's furnace, air conditioning, and plumbing units.

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