Following a disaster with her own home, Winter Garden resident Torey Eisenman has set out to educate the community on handling the many issues that may come up after closing on a home.
What should have been a beautiful dream home located on Johns Lake in Winter Garden soon morphed into a nightmare for one family. Following the discovery of 22 issues with her $1.09-million home, Torey Eisenman — a real-estate broker and general contractor — was devastated.
After several months of litigation and thousands of dollars later, the Eisenman family has since moved into the home and hired their own contractors to handle the remaining repairs.
“It’s not just us; it’s a huge epidemic,” Eisenman said. “And I mean, it’s unfortunate because these builders are making millions to billions of dollars, and they’re buying more companies, but they’re just not hiring skilled people. And they’re not holding their company accountable — and that’s obviously a problem.”
The stressful experience her family endured because of the builder — Lennar Homes — and the shoddy work performed by the subcontractors motivated Eisenman to do what she could to educate other potential homebuyers and ensure they do not fall into the same all-too-common trap.
“I just want to educate people because it can be very frustrating when things go wrong,” she said. “I think what’s happening in the industry right now with some of the bigger builders that are not doing what they should and forcing people to fight them is just unnecessary and unconscionable. But I think if people gain an understanding of how to get things done and protect themselves, they’re less likely to be put in such awful situations.”
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Eisenman invited about 25 homeowners and potential homebuyers to an educational meeting last fall. During the meeting, which Eisenman said will be the first of many, attendees heard from Bill Ostoyic, a residential and commercial inspector based in Windermere.
Ostoyic, who has been conducting inspections in Florida for the last 13 years, offered insight into the home-inspection industry. He warned attendees to do heavy research on who they hire as home inspectors, because aspiring home inspectors can obtain their licenses after taking a two-weekend course.
Inspectors also often provide vague reports that fail to provide details on a specific problem and follow a routine inspection checklist that could potentially miss major issues in a home, he said.
“One of the problems with the home-inspection industry is the standards and practices,” Ostoyic said. “They tell you that you’re only responsible for checking a representative number of items like, say, maybe one outlet in every room. But you need to inspect everything — every light switch, door, window, plumbing fixture — from top to bottom as if you’re the one buying the home. That’s the only way you won’t miss anything.”
Ostoyic also said that, before hiring an inspector, one should request to see sample reports to check how thoroughly they conduct home inspections. He also suggested hiring a professional who has proven experience with the type of home in which you are interested.
“If it’s a new home, they need to hire a home inspector that has experience with new-construction homes,” he said. “New construction requires more of an eye for detail. A contractor is only as good as the subcontractors that they hire to do the actual work. I’ve found guys using broken and cracked pieces of wood for trim work. And the painters don’t care; they just caulk it, paint it and keep on going. And most superintendents don’t have any building knowledge, so they just let it go, because the building industry is all about making money — it’s not about putting out a quality product. Because if one person doesn’t buy the home, there are two other people behind them who will.”
AN EYE FOR DETAIL
For older homes, Ostoyic usually instructs potential homebuyers to be wary, because he frequently catches people trying to hide issues with the home they’re attempting to sell. His advice: If something looks suspicious, investigate it.
“A lot of people will try to hide issues with a home if they don’t have the money or gumption to fix it,” he said. “If you see something that doesn’t make sense, there’s usually a reason for it. I inspected a house not that long ago, and the sellers were showing off the kitchen but piled all this stuff in the corner by the breakfast nook. At first you think, well, they’re moving out so they’ve got to stack this stuff somewhere, but at the same time, that’s not the first place where one would think to stack it, because people usually like to display the kitchen features. We later found out that corner was where all the termites were, but they made it inaccessible to inspect. Unfortunately, my clients didn’t know until after the people moved out and they closed on the house.”
Relying on people to be upfront with the issues of an older home is one of the most common mistakes for new homebuyers, he said.
“Trusting other people is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make,” Ostoyic said. “I hate to put it that way, because you’d think someone selling a house has taken measures to maintain it and take care of it, but that is often not the case. So people really have to be careful. Especially if it’s a home that’s been flipped because the state of Florida says you don’t have to disclose what’s wrong with a house if you haven’t lived in it.”
However, buyers can take a few measures to verify what they’re told during home-sale negotiations by researching the home, he shared. Whenever a home has construction work done, a permit is required. So one can pull the permits online to check any upgrades or replacements that have been done to the roof, air-conditioning unit, plumbing system, electrical wiring and the like.
Eisenman and Ostoyic said they plan to collaborate this year to offer opportunities for the community to become more educated on subjects related to home inspections and builder warranties.
“I really want, and will continue, to educate people even before they close on properties or buy from a builder, because they need to understand how the contract reads, what they’re signing, and what their rights are,” Eisenman said. “Bill (Ostoyic) and I have both talked about doing more meetings for people before they actually buy their homes. I mean, I don’t want to imply that every builder is a bad builder, because it’s not all builders, but it’s definitely some of the bigger ones, and people need to be educated and prepared.”