Every new homeowner has at least one horror story. From collapsing floors to ants in the bed, these frights can keep you up at night, but many of these stories could have been prevented if the owners had known then what they know now. In the spirit of Halloween, here are some of the scariest homeowner stories we’ve heard along with quick fixes, so you don’t fall victim to these issues in your home.
The mystery of the flooded basement
By Megan H.
My home horror story begins about a month after my son’s birth. We’d just returned from our first weekend away as a new family and discovered we had no hot water in the house. Now, this would not have been a fun situation regardless of the time, but AJ was born in mid-September. So it was late October, and it was freezing outside.
My husband and I were first-time home buyers, and we’re your stereotypical millennials. We knew we had something called a “hot water heater,” and it was located in the basement. But that was it. My husband ventured downstairs, but he didn’t just find the hot water heater. He also found two inches of water.
Two sleep deprived parents, a flooded basement, and a baby who decided it was the perfect time to gift us with one of those infamous blowout diapers – it was a nightmare.
Fortunately for us, we had family who lived nearby. The next day, my dad came over to explain that our sump pump had stopped working and caused the flood, and the flood water had shorted out the hot water heater. Luckily, my dad had the know-how to take care of the issue.
That week my husband and I learned how to remove excess water from the basement, fix a sump pump, and replace a hot water heater. Looking back, I know our sump pump was showing us the warning signs of failure for quite some time, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
How to stop an impromptu basement swimming pool
There’s actually a few easy things you can do to save your basement from taking in water.
First, consider installing an automatic water shut-off valve. This smart water device attaches directly to your water main. If sensors around the home detect water where it shouldn’t be, ithe device will shut off the water main and prevent more damage from occurring. Learn more about installing one of these devices in this episode of the vipHome Podcast.
Second, keep up with home maintenance. If homeowners complete an annual plumbing inspection or checked her sump pumps at least once a year, then sump pump failure can be avoided. The vipHomeLink home management app can help by sending personalized home maintenance reminders straight to your home’s dashboard. You’ll learn what to do and when to do it. Plus, you’ll also see your Home Fitness Index rise as you complete each task.
Close encounters of the creepy crawler-y kind
By Jeff R.
I am no longer allowed to choose where my family lives. The one time I did, I selected a charming cottage rental in the quaint seaside town of Scituate, MA. Soon after we moved in, we noticed the owners had not disclosed a few important features of the home.
A seemingly new musky smell got stronger by the hour, leading us to wonder if that was why the previous owners had candles burning when they showed the place. It was clear the previous owners had smoked inside, too, probably for a lifetime.
Then we noticed some mold on the ceiling. No big deal. That could be painted over, right? If that was it, we could have powered through, but along came the spiders.
I spotted one or two that first day in every room in the house. Again, no big deal. A few spiders I can handle, but that first night, my wife and I both woke at 2 a.m., overwhelmed by a creepy feeling. I asked my wife to turn on the lights, and to my horror, we saw several spiders on the move on our bedroom ceiling. After squashing them one by one, I ran into the bathroom to flush the tissue down the toilet, and a more aggressive spider suspended itself a couple inches from my face as if to say, “BOO! Now scream!” which I promptly did.
After a night of no sleep and slapping phantom spiders in our bed, I got up to take a shower and returned to my bed only to find a large “house centipede” chilling out on my pillow. That should have been the last straw, but I loved the place. It was located right near the cute little town and was reasonably priced. I was confident I could make this place our home.
I called an exterminator who pointed to a huge gap at the bottom of the basement door, which clearly had invited a number of interested critters into the cottage. He even found possum droppings all over the basement. A possum!
A couple days later – still in full-denial mode – we noticed a puddle in the front yard, even though it hadn’t rained in weeks.
Inspecting the area, I immediately knew by the smell that it was raw sewage forming a standing pool in the front lawn. A septic tank cap was knocked off and lying in the sewage, and inside, I found out that the septic alarm had been disabled.
That was the last straw. We left the “spider cottage” after a few days, never to return. And I now have lost all privileges of choosing where my family resides.
How to prevent spiders from taking over your home
There are definite steps you can take to stop bugs, critters, and other pests from entering your home. Sometimes, though, it’s best to just call a professional to handle the problem – especially with possums.
The growing black spot debacle
By Justin A.
My wife and I were newly married and excited to begin our life together in our new home. Like most newlyweds, we had champagne taste with a “beer budget,” although our budget was more like store brand seltzer. We chose a house with a listing that read, “Pride in ownership throughout.” The place did look nice and had everything we needed, so we signed the dotted line and got to work making the house ours.
As we were changing the sunny yellow to – as my wife says – a calming tea green, we noticed the walls seemed a bit warped in one area. Just old paint, right? After adding a fresh coat, we noticed a small black spot on the ceiling and thought it was mold. We got out the bleach and scrubbed it clean. All good.
Some time passed, and the black spot returned – with friends. The bathroom was right above the spot, specifically the toilet, so we went, “Oh crap!” (pun intended)
Due to our new-house budget, my wife got a toilet for her birthday that year, expertly installed by me. I also removed the offending section of the ceiling and replaced it with sheetrock (thank you, YouTube). And we lived happily ever after.
Just kidding! The black spot returned and grew. We opened the ceiling and part of the wall and discovered that the previous owners – the ones who took pride in their home – had decided to connect a copper pipe to a pvc pipe and fill in the gaps with wadded up aluminum foil. I’m not a plumber, but I knew something was wrong.
But we did what any other new homeowner with a limited budget would do – we patched up someone else’s shoddy work with our own shoddy work. Our pipes needed some kind of sealant, and we turned to the Internet and TV for a solution. Thankfully there was a commercial that provided our answer. We purchased a small arsenal of flexible sealant and got to work. Again we replaced the drywall, spackled, and repainted.
All was well and good for about six months, but then the other day, I looked up. Of course, the spot had returned.
Who are you going to call?
A home inspection can help to prevent this issue – if the mold is present when the home inspector comes for his walk-through. Otherwise, there isn’t much you can do for this issue other than damage control.
In this scenrio, you’d need to call in the professionals. Unfortunately, small issues – like one spot – can lead to bigger issues – and more costly issues – down the road. Mold can also lead to health problems for your family members.
Here, a homeowner would need the expert services of:
- A licensed plumber.
- A drywall repair professional.
- Perhaps a mold removal specialist.
- And if budget allowed, a painting professional.
If the issue persisted, a homeowner might even need to get a bathroom remodel.
To find the best offer, we provided links above to HomeAdvisor. This will help to match you with the best professional at the best price for your particular home project – or the part of your home project that requires a professional.
Cure your home heebie-jeebies
Prevent your home horror story from ever happening with help from vipHomeLink. Our interactive home management app takes the mystery out of home maintenance with personalized tips and tailored recommendations to help improve your home. With vipHomeLink, you’ll know what to do and when to do it. (You might have heard that before.)
Download the app today!
Originally published Oct. 25, 2019; updated Sep. 9, 2020