Ann Arbor is charming, historic and full of "uniqueness". Check out this list before buying to make sure you know what to look for when buying a home in this specific area.
Deteriorating Sewer Lines – We love our charming, older neighborhoods in Ann Arbor but there is a cost to buying older homes. Modern-day sewer lines are typically constructed from PVC. Older sewer lines can be constructed from anything from clay tiles to the highly problematic bituminous fiber also known as Orangeburg. Mature trees, improper installation from the 1940’s to 1960s and age have taken quite a toll on the sewer lines. As you drive down many local streets you will see cutaways on the roads that lead to the main sewer line. You may see dozens of homes on each street with this repair. The sewer line is the homeowner's responsibility and a cost to replace typically will run $7,000-$10,000. During your home inspection or prior to selling your home you should have a camera scope that runs around $200. This will save you a huge headache going forward.
Galvanized plumbing – If you’re buying an old house, beware of galvanized steel pipes. They can build up with sediment on the interior, to the point where water flow is unusable. These pipes can also corrode at the joints which can lead to leaks and eventual failure. They were also installed directly at the water intake for the home so can be a costly repair.
Wet Basements – We love the beautiful rolling hills and rivers the glaciers carved out centuries ago, but they can sometimes come at an expense to homeowners. The neighborhoods of the City are at different elevations and some are prone to flooding more than others. Newer homes are built with sump pumps that pump excess water away from your home, but many older homes do not have pumps. The good news is there are numerous systems and options available for wet basements that can arrange anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Look for signs of moisture like staining on walls. Beware of fully finished basements where the walls are not visible. Your inspector can use a moisture meter and inspect the exterior of the home for signs of water infiltration. Your inspector should also inspect the grading around the home and gutter systems as water should be directed away from the foundation. Sometimes the problem is as simple as adding gutter extensions.
Foundation failure – Over the past 200 years, Ann Arbor has seen a lot of different construction methods. From the old mortar and stone, Michigan basements to the more modern poured concrete and everything in between. As one inspector once said to me, “your basement is a giant hole in the ground and no matter how much you try water will find its way in.” Knowledgeable inspectors will be able to educate you on the type of foundation, its maintenance, and if you need a further evaluation from a structural engineer. Poured foundations are solid concrete which may have settlement cracking that is considered typical. If wider gaps and separation appears there is probably a larger issue. Cinder block foundations are known to move over time as groundwater penetrates the soil and push them inward causing horizontal cracking. It’s not uncommon to see support beams and French drain type systems installed on these basements. Don’t panic though until you have consulted the experts. I have seen people walk away from homes with minor foundation issues that could be easily repaired.
Environmental issues- including mold, radon and contaminated groundwater – See Environmental Issues Unique to Ann Arbor