8 Real-Life Homeowner Horror Stories
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Homeownership is something many Americans strive for, but some people don’t realize all the work — and costs — that come along with it. Being a homeowner often means being a problem solver, and sometimes the problems homeowners face are very expensive to solve.
GOBankingRates spoke to homeowners about their most expensive ordeals and home repair nightmares. Some are identified by their first names only to protect their privacy. These stories might make you want to be a renter forever.
The Nightmare: Her Home Was Vandalized While It Was Vacant
Susan DiMezza, owner of PR Services, had already sold her home when it got vandalized in the interim between her moving out and the new buyers moving in.
“When a property is vacant for 30 days, most — if not all –homeowner’s policies won’t cover vandalism,” she said. “I found out the hard way when I had my home listed and had a sale agreement, and then it was vandalized. There were holes in every wall, windows broken, all kitchen cabinets and appliances were destroyed, and two toilets bashed to pieces, leaving four inches of water on the floor.”
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How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $30,000, plus loss of home sale
The vandalism wasn’t covered by her homeowner’s policy, so DiMezza had to pay $30,000 out of pocket to pay for the repairs. And the costs didn’t end there.
“Needless to say, the buyers backed out,” she said. “[Homeowners’] policies must be changed to reflect vacancy in order to cover vandalism.”
The Nightmare: Minor Cracks in His Shower Turned Into a Major Problem
Matt Ross, head of business development at RIZKNOWS, purchased his first home last year. He knew it was a fixer-upper but didn’t know how much he would really have to spend to make repairs.
“One thing I wish I knew before getting myself into a fixer is what elements of a house to take more seriously than others — which rooms or features you can ‘cut corners’ on and which ones you should pay up for a licensed contractor,” he said. “Well, unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way. I took a shortcut on a bathroom leak issue and it blew up in my face. I had a guy from Craigslist ‘fix’ cracks from a previous hot mop instead of just springing for a new shower pan.”
How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $15,000
The work had to be re-done, and it ended up costing Ross more than he bargained for.
“That particular incident ended up costing me about $15,000,” he said. “Bottom line, I learned that anything related to water or water damage should be taken extremely seriously and approached with the utmost concern. It definitely pays to hire an expert when dealing with water issues.”
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The Nightmare: Fixing a Ceiling Leak Turned Into a Months-Long Ordeal
Derek Hales, founder and editor-in-chief of ModernCastle.com, bought a home with his wife in Phoenix. Things were fine for the first couple of years, but then a small leak turned into a major problem.
“About six months ago, I noticed the ceiling in our garage had a small bubble of sorts in it,” he said. “I was in a hurry at the time, so I didn’t really think much of it, and went about my day. When I returned later that day the small bubble had grown into a what looked like a gigantic balloon on [the] ceiling. The paint had extended off of the drywall and was holding a massive six-foot bubble of water. Water was also steadily dripping into the garage.”
Once Hales realized the problem was major, he acted quickly. They turned the water off in their house and moved the cars out of the garage in case the ceiling collapsed overnight.
“It took a couple of days, but we had a plumber cut into the drywall, and find and fix the leak,” he said. “The problem was a leak in a pressure water line in the master bedroom that was leaking into the garage ceiling. The real nightmare was working with our insurance and their drywall repair vendor to fix the drywall damage. What seemed to be a fairly simple dry out and replace drywall process took close to eight weeks to fully complete, most of which was spent with the insurance company’s drywall company going round-and-round with scheduling.”
“When they finally did get a crew out to fix it, it took them a meager four hours, which honestly made it so much worse, as we had to deal with our garage being an unfinished mess for two months.”
How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $3,000, plus time lost and increased insurance premiums
The real cost in this ordeal was the time wasted dealing with the insurance company’s vendor, but Hales also paid some out-of-pocket costs.
“The final cost ended up being around $3,000,” he said. “In addition, our homeowner’s insurance for the next year increased by around 20 percent.”
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The Nightmare: A Dip in the Jacuzzi Ended Up Costing Thousands
Mary brought her college boyfriend home to Nebraska over their holiday break and decided to make use of the Jacuzzi in the master suite of the home her father had just purchased, while he was out of town.
“It was the first time the Jacuzzi was used, and I’d never been in a home with this amazing amenity,” she said. “Afterwards, we cooked up dinner and planned to watch a movie on the sofa. While I was making spaghetti, I looked overhead and saw that the ceiling was darkening in an unusual pattern. I’d never seen anything like that before so didn’t think too much of it. We ate dinner at the kitchen table and suddenly, I felt water dripping on my neck. I looked up again and the small dark spot I’d seen earlier had taken up most of the ceiling … and was conveniently in the shape of the octagonal Jacuzzi hot tub my boyfriend and I had just used.”
It turned out that the pipes had frozen, and all of the water that had drained from the ceiling got stuck and was now leaking into the ceiling overhead. Soon, the ceiling started to fall to pieces.
“I, of course, had to call up my father and explain that I’d used the Jacuzzi — I did not mention my invited guest,” Mary said. “It was quite some time before my father could actually use the lovely kitchen in his new home.”
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How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $6,000
“The repairs took nearly a month and cost thousands, though insurance covered most of it,” Mary said.
The Nightmare: Unwanted Guests Moved Into the Attic
Mark purchased his home in Culver City, Calif., in 2013, and a couple of years ago his nightmare began.
“We started hearing some sort of animal moving about in the attic near our back door,” he said. “Thanks to a bad addition by the prior owners, that portion of the attic is inaccessible. It was creepy to hear animals crawling around right above our heads, but they only did it at night. My wife and I just put it out of our minds — if the animals couldn’t get in the main house, we figured, then it wasn’t too much of a problem. Then, however, we started getting flea bites. It’s one thing to wake up with fresh bites, but I really started to feel bad when my 3-year-old daughter started getting bitten, too. For some reason I didn’t make the connection between the animals in the attic and the fleas — they seemed like two separate problems.”
Mark eventually had an exterminator come, who determined there were rats living in the attic.
“The rats were almost certainly the cause of the flea bites, too,” he said. “The exterminator closed off the entrances to the attic, left a bunch of bait traps and also sprayed for fleas. Within a week or two we didn’t hear noises in the kitchen and we stopped getting bites. Problem solved.”
Or so he thought. Last fall, the house next to his was torn down, and soon enough, the rats were back.
“I made another mistake and didn’t immediately call the exterminator,” Mark said. “Pretty soon after that we were getting bites again, and then I had the exterminator return.”
This time the exterminator put wire screens over any possible rat entrance point. Fortunately, the noises in the attic and the bites stopped promptly afterward, and Mark has the exterminator return four times a year to refill the traps.
How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $500
“All told I’ve spent about $500 dealing with the rats,” Mark said. “It’s definitely $500 well spent not to have flea bites. The main thing I’ve learned from this experience is if you’re a homeowner, it’s not good to ignore small problems — they’ll almost always grow into larger ones. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was living with rats in my attic for months.”
The Nightmare: Her House's Brick Walls Leaked When It Rained
Virginia bought a 1920s brick bungalow in Henderson, N.C., back in 1995, and in recent years, her home has become a true homeowner’s nightmare. Whenever it rains, the bricks let some rain seep through, and the construction of the yard on a slope has led to drainage issues both inside and outside of her house.
“I found a contractor who had a lot of experience with drainage issues and he came out and looked at the house and the yard,” she said. “He said that there were a few issues that needed fixing, including the slope of the land next to the house, foundation drains that needed to be installed, and more sealant added to the outside and inside of the walls below grade.”
How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $8,300 — and counting
$6,000 and we are not done yet because the walls are continuing to leak,” Virginia said. “It’s better, but it’s not completely fixed yet. The contractor has to come back out and add a third coat of sealant to the brick walls in the basement and extend the sealant up the walls on the outside of the house. The brick is porous and water will find a way through the walls into the inside. Another important piece of the puzzle was having new gutters installed because the old ones were not big enough to adequately handle the runoff from the roof. That was an additional $2,300.”
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The Nightmare: Drainage Repairs Uncovered Another Costly Issue
Unfortunately for Virginia, in the course of repairing drainage issues in the yard, her contractor discovered a rusty gas pipe that needed repair.
“A gas company representative confirmed that indeed it was a problem because left un-repaired, there was a chance that over time the pipe would completely rust away and cause my basement to fill up with gas fumes,” she said. “However, it was my problem to fix because the gas company’s responsibility ends at the meter.”
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How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $450
“I had to call a plumber to replace the gas line going into the house, and he recommended that instead of it being below ground, it should go above ground into the house, and then there would never be a risk of it rusting again,” Virginia said. “This cost $450 dollars to fix. I will leave out all the delays that took place while the foundation drains were being installed and the gas line fixed because of a severe winter storm that dumped 10 inches of snow, which stuck around for a couple of weeks making the ground too wet to work on.”
The Nightmare: Mold Had Been Growing Unseen in the Basement for Years
The homeowner nightmares weren’t yet over for Virginia. The 63-year-old retiree realized she had a serious mold problem when she developed a persistent cough and felt tightness in her chest. However, when two different people came over to look for mold, they found only minor growth and didn’t think it was an issue. It wasn’t until a third inspection that the inspector discovered mold growing half-an-inch thick under a wooden platform that had been built on top of a dirt section of her basement.
“This had probably been going on for years because of all the moisture in the basement,” she said. “The recommendation was to get rid of everything on top of the platform and then remove it. There was also a recommendation to put a thick coating of plastic on top of the dirt floor portion of the basement. This would keep the moisture level down.”
How Much It Cost
Cost to end the nightmare: $3,000
Virginia hired a dedicated contractor to clear everything out of the basement, remove an old oil tank out of the basement and dig more channels in the dirt floor of the basement to facilitate water going into a sump pump.
“I have paid him about $1,000 total for all this work,” she said. “With almost all of the stuff out of the basement, the workers came to put plastic down in the basement and they did a little bit of mold remediation on some of the wooden shelves. They also put gravel in the channels that had been dug in the floor to help reduce the amount of dirt flowing into the sump pump. They put a special mat on top of the gravel so if you walked on it, it would not tear up the plastic. This took most of a day, and it cost about $2,000.”
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Please note photos are for illustrative purposes only. Some of the photos are representational and do not depict the homeowners’ properties.