Sunday, June 22, 2003

Protect your house, yourself


Builder's book offers advice on risks of buying

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Most new homes are well built and have only minor imperfections. Then there are the cases that get headlines: Houses that have mold growing up the walls, luxury homes that are jeopardized by untrustworthy builders.

Veteran builder Robert Batcheller, formerly of Walnut Hills, has written a how-to guide for homebuyers with help from lawyers and building industry pros who have experience in housing hardships.

In his book, Home Building Pitfalls, Batcheller advises consumers to check a builder's reputation and product before buying a home.

"The building boom is turning into a freaking nightmare," says Batcheller, who wrote the book under the pen name Lawrence Thomas and who now is a small business owner in Russellville, Ark. "Things are getting way out of control."

He advises buyers to hire private inspectors to scrutinize various stages of construction.

Even then, buyers should be wary, Batcheller says. Inspectors often get referrals from real estate agents, he says, "so follow the money trail there."

"People need to take responsibility for the home they are buying," he says.

"A lot of people are buying a quarter-million dollar home, but they don't treat it like a $250,000 investment. They treat it like a new car when they could be sitting on top of a $250,000 home that is worthless because they have mold growing up the wall."

Among his recommendations:

• Research your builder. Always talk to previous customers.

• Research the neighborhood's history for any construction or environmental problems.

• Hire a lawyer to review everything related to the purchase of a home.

• Watch out for legal language that would keep any problem with the builder out of a courtroom. You might be forfeiting your rights.

• Read and understand your home warranty before deciding to buy the house. Know that your most serious warranty claims may stem from foundation and framing problems.

• Make no verbal agreements with the builder. Put all agreements in writing.

• Conduct a thorough walk-through of the home, after it is clean and 100 percent complete, with the building supervisor or person you have been dealing with. Bring along a copy of the contract, plans, specifications, options, selections and change orders for the house.

• Document serious problems in writing.

For more information about Home Building Pitfalls, call New Community Press at 1-888-578-0766 or go to www.homebuildingpitfalls.com. The book is available locally at Joseph Beth Books at Rookwood Commons in Norwood.




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