Hidden History: how to know if you are buying a flood-prone home

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Water damage has been prevalent in the Lowcountry lately, but that doesn’t mean it’s obvious when you are buying a home. What can you do to protect your investment and make sure you aren’t buying a money pit? The News 2 I-Team identified three steps you can use to find a home’s hidden history.

When you first look at house, you may not realize how many times it’s flooded in the past year. That is, until it is too late and everything you own is underwater. That is exactly what happened to one family in West Ashley.

Sandbags still line the driveways of homes in Shadowmoss Plantation because they flooded so many times this past year, they aren’t taking any chances.

Dave Hale, who lives in the neighborhood, says, “Had I known prior to purchasing the house, the history that it had, of course I would not have bought it.”

The Hale family has seen their home filled with water too many times now, they have given up on repairing it.

Hale says, “We basically paid off our house with the insurance money and found a place to live where at least we know we are coming home to the same place everyday and my kids have some stability.”

He says the headaches from the floods could’ve been avoided if the former owner had been upfront about the flooding problems.

Hale says, “Now you can’t sell the house, at least I wouldn’t do that the somebody. I know the lady who did that to me, I’d like to thank her, but I certainly would not do that.”

Real estate agents say sellers are supposed to disclose any issues with the home, but it’s tricky because that is a lot of trust to put in someone you don’t know.

Real estate agent Matt O’Neill says, “Sometimes people are a little misleading on that disclosure because they want to sell their house and they want to minimize the problems that are written on that disclosure.”

So to avoid buying a house with more problems that it’s worth, there are three things you can do.

One, investigate the home thoroughly.

O’Neill says, “If there’s anything written on that disclosure, you should investigate it and you might want to ask a contractor to look further into it because what people write is a minimized version of what might actually of happened because they are trying to sell their house. But then what if they omit a problem? If they omit a problem that’s where you need to have really good inspectors and maybe a contractor look at a house before you buy it.”

Two, go to the house when it’s raining and talk to the neighbors.

O’Neill says, “Take a look, how does it look? Do I have standing water in the yard? If you ask the neighbors say, hey how is this area when it rains? How was it during the big storm of 2015? How was it during Hurricane Matthew? And the neighbors will tell you.”

Three, check out Hometrackr. It’s a startup out of Charleston, free, and can help give some insight on the home’s history.

Founder of Hometrackr, Rich Estes, says, “You get a full background check of the digital history of that property. We provide digital backgrounds from the city and county permitting offices and we bring that information together in one report that gives you information about damage like fire damage, water damage, pest damage.”

All you have to do is type in the address.

Estes says, “Any type of major flood where someone came in and actually repaired the work, that gets documented at the city or county permitting and planning office and that information will end up posting inside of our report.”

This system is not a catch-all for home issues, but it’s another step in the investigation process.

Estes says, “It just depends on who does the work. If the homeowner decides to do it themselves, and doesn’t report it do anyone, than no one is still going to know.”

All this information Hale wished he would’ve known before investing in a repeatedly flooded home.

Hale says, “There’s no end in sight for that. Unless something drastic is done with the drainage in that area there’s no end in sight for that. Every time it floods it basically turns your life upside down.”

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