Buying a house? Flush the toilet before you do
Recently I had occasion to walk through one of what I’ll call “pop-up” concrete homes being constructed at what seems like lightning speed around the island.
This home happened to be situated on a whopping 620-sqm property in Mangilao. The home is surrounded by a small walkway, and the backyard has about 5 feet before you hit the neighbor’s fence. The front yard isn’t much bigger. The interior is an open concept, but at 2,014 square feet of living space, you know the four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms are not going to be huge.
When you walk in the front door, the first thing you notice is what seems to be a nice decorative stone wall on the left, which goes all the way up to the high ceiling. But upon second glance, you realize that the contractor must have run out of the nice decorative tile about 7 feet from the floor, so they switched to a similar, but not quite the same, tile, which seemed to be falling in some places, revealing the dark grout behind the tile. Even the realtor admitted that it wasn’t the best quality.
Moving onto the kitchen, the cabinets seem to be made of particle board with some sort of shiny veneer covering. It may look nice now, but you know that with the natural oils from fingertips that will touch them, the veneer on these cabinets will soon start to peel. I give it a year.
But the crowning glory of this brand new home, for which some developer is asking a ludicrous $595,000, is the toilet anomaly. When you flush the toilet in one of the bathrooms, sewer gas immediately fills the house. “No P-trap,” said my better half, an engineer. This is a plumbing device designed to block sewer gas from backing up into the house when you flush the toilet. It’s a rather essential item that the contractor apparently “forgot” to install.
So all of this, for nearly $600,000? To potential buyers, my advice is: “No way.” They may want to sell it for nearly $600,000, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy it for that price. Especially with such substandard quality. Demand better products. Or, after you point out the flaws, counteroffer lower.
I asked a realtor if there were any standards that they hold contractors to when showing a house. The realtor referred me to the Guam Contractors Association.
GCA is not an enforcement agency,; however, the group noted several mechanisms in place supposedly to prevent this sort of shoddy construction.
First, the Department of Public Works is supposed to enforce construction building codes. Then there’s the Contractors Licensing Board, which, according to its website, is supposed to “safeguard consumers by regulating the construction industry through policies that promote the health, safety and general welfare of the public in matters relating to construction.”
And finally, there are banks. One would hope a bank would inspect homes upon completion of construction that were financed by the bank before the realtor and buyer step in.
But what if the builder self-finances the construction? Thank goodness, if you are getting a home loan, banks have inspectors who go out and inspect the home before you buy it. That way you as the buyer theoretically won’t get stuck with having to rip up a concrete bathroom floor to install a P-trap that the contractor “forgot” to install in the first place.
Bottom line here is that if you are house-hunting, you can probably buy a piece of property and build what you want for less than what some of these developers are asking for homes these days. Especially if the construction quality is båba.
But if you are looking to buy a ready-built home, especially one that has been constructed recently, here’s a piece of advice when you are walking through it with the realtor: Flush the toilets. Every single one.
Jayne Flores is the director of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.