Termite Inspection Articles


The House Calls

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI

ON a Sunday morning earlier this month, Dave Zappulla was inspecting the 1920's Craftsman colonial home of Ginny and Jim Stewart in Manasquan, N.J. "This house once had extensive termite damage," said Mr. Zappulla, who owns Zappulla Property Inspections, also in Manasquan, which covers Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex and Union Counties.

"The plumbing and the electrical systems were also outdated," he said.

Five years ago, Mr. Zappulla turned those findings over to the Stewarts, who got the seller to make the needed repairs — which cost nearly $30,000 — before they bought the house for the list price of $305,000.

The Stewarts had their reasons for going ahead with the deal.

"Jim always had his eye on this house," Mrs. Stewart said. "We both thought it had a lot of charm and a lot of potential."

Mr. Stewart said that despite all the red flags, the sheer size of the lot, 90 by 150 feet — "You can't get a lot that size around here," he said — made the house a worthwhile investment.

He was right: It was recently appraised at $705,000.

Falling for a house is a lot like falling in love. First there is physical attraction; then a more serious relationship begins to develop. If the timing is right and the opportunity presents itself, time, energy and money are invested in what could be a lifetime commitment.

But in a heated rush to purchase property in the booming real estate market of the past few years, buyers more interested in making a profit than in making a commitment have been sealing deals everywhere, hurdling huge obstacles to make them work.

Their love may be blind, but their home inspectors and appraisers are not.

Mr. Zappulla, who has been inspecting homes since 1999 — he returned to the Stewarts' this month to make sure the termites had not — said that in recent years he had often seen buyers invest huge sums of money in homes that had major problems like structural damage, faulty plumbing or insect infestation. In some cases, like the Stewarts', the sellers paid for needed repairs; in other cases, the buyers did it.

"When prices of homes were accelerating the past few years, people were more willing to accept problems with houses they knew were in bad condition because they could turn it over and make a profit," Mr. Zappulla said.

In many cases, wealthy buyers didn't even show up for the inspection, he said. "They were just happy to be buying a home in exclusive waterfront areas, and they were going to buy those homes, no matter what."

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