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Old 09-11-2011, 12:50 PM
 
5 posts, read 14,060 times
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The following are some of the pitfalls we have personally experienced over the past couple years while hunting for a rural property in the Four Corners Area – namely the towns of Pagosa Springs, Durango, and Bayfield, which all have a relatively high percentage of “second homes” that are vacant for a significant portion of the year. As with many parts of the country, there are a significant amount of foreclosed homes currently for sale that have sat vacant for undisclosed periods of time. Again and again, we notice three main issues that present themselves with regards to a rural property transaction in the area.

Number One Issue: Wet Crawl Spaces & Mold: It is somewhat counterintuitive and unexpected that wet crawl space conditions develop in the high mountain desert, semi-arid environment of Durango and environs. The standard of practice of the local residential construction industry, is to construct homes with bare earth (unlined) crawlspaces. Note that the majority of the air you breath in your house originates from the crawl space (the so-called “stack effect”). You will find homes with basements, however, ones on slab-on-grade appear to be relatively rare in this area. The local geology generally consists of relatively shallow shale bedrock that decomposes to yield a soil horizon of heavy, expansive (fat) clay soils. These soils have a very high affinity of water, thereby functioning as sponges to absorb and hold moisture from rainfall and snowmelt.

The shallow foundations in this area are generally about 42 inches deep below grade for frost protection. This depth also serves to mitigate for expansive soils present to various degrees throughout the Four Corners area. Surface water (snowmelt, rainfall) and perched groundwater flowing along the top of the shale bedrock percolates underneath the house foundations and collect in the bare earth crawlspaces. The accumulated water is then transmitted as water vapor upwards into the house. If you go into the crawlspaces, one can see “efflorescence”, which is a white chalky mineral deposit, on the concrete foundations, providing evidence of high moisture levels. More often than not, builders do not install perimeter foundation drains due to the perception that it is simply not necessary, due to cost, or simply due to inadequate fall of the terrain to direct the water to daylight some distance away from the house. Some crawl spaces have sump pumps, which automatically trip when ground water levels reach a certain level (a good idea). Still others have lined their crawl spaces with plastic liners (tarps)….some of these are done rather haphazardly (and ineffectively) by homeowners to minimize cost, while others are professionally done for thousands of dollars to completely prevent water vapor transmission into the crawl space.

Crawl space ventilation is paramount to prevent mold formation, and due to the cold winter temperatures, some owners do not understand its importance and deliberately seal the crawl space vents to minimize heat loss. We have seen this time and time again. This moisture in a semi-heated space like a crawlspace can translate to a breeding ground for mold, which forms in high humidity and warm(er) temperatures. We have also observed mold in attics, when an attic fan has stopped working and there is stagnant air – some of this moisture may come from bathroom fans inadequately vented, or even vapor transmission upwards from the crawlspace. We have walked away from homes that had mold present, just because we simply don’t want to deal with it, and I believe we are in the majority of folks who feel this way.

We have made diligent efforts with regards to proper inspections, however the real estate industry is so conflicted and self-serving such that the inspections are hardly unbiased. Inspectors want to appease the agents so they will be used again – so they are generally hesitant to call much attention to it. Furthermore, we’ve had real estate agents trivialize it (they are not our agents anymore) in order to get their commission. Know that inspectors in the area treat wet crawl spaces as the norm and shrug it off. Mold inspections are especially tricky in that visual assessment of the mold is so limited – there is only so much you can see. The problem is obviously compounded in a house that has sat empty due to foreclosure where there has been a lack of maintenance to prevent mold formation. The amount of mold present could be significantly more than either you or the inspector can see.

Number Two Issue: Water Wells: Division of Water Resources (DWR) is a good resource for discussions about water wells in the area. There are many, many marginally producing wells in the area – by this I’m talking about significantly less than 5 gallons per minute (gpm). Some owner builders have even decided to forego a pump test during well installation due to cost, so you may see an “estimated” production rate when you examine the permit, available at DWR website. This may not be accurate at all…you get the picture.

Many go 200 to 300 feet deep to get water. Also, there is tremendous variation within even a quarter mile and within the same subdivision. DWR recommends that a cistern be incorporated into the water supply for wells that produce less than 8 gpm (for practical reasons as well as fire suppression). If you’re buying a house with a well, do your research at the DWR website, and go talk to them in their Durango office if you have additional questions. And by all means, spend the money and perform a pump test during the inspection period. From now on, this will be my first inspection, because no matter how nice the property, if you don’t have good water quantity/quality what’s the point. The cost of drilling a new well is formidable and can get real expensive if you have to drill multiple locations to find enough yield.

Number Three Issue: Sewage Lagoons: San Juan Basin Health Department administers septic systems in the area. Back in the day, sewage lagoons were permitted by SJBHD and remain prevalent in the area. They no longer permit them and in some instances encourage owners to convert them to engineered septic systems (infiltration chambers, beds, etc.). We just looked at a house built in 1997 and it has a sewage lagoon on the property. For good reason, SJBHD has done away with lagoons. They present health hazards and are unsightly…not exactly you want to look at every day on your property. I think it actually diminishes the value of the property, at least in my mind.

The real estate industry (agents, inspectors, mortgage and insurance personnel, etc.) has no motivation in bringing these various issues to light for the obvious reason of threatening the closing of potential real estate deals. If you press them for acknowledgement of these issues (described in some detail below), the general response is one of trivializing as the norm or “sweeping under the rug”. Know, however, that the issues below are prevalent, present financial risk, and merit careful consideration when purchasing a home in the area. We have learned much from our real estate adventures and hope that we can not only apply this knowledge in finding and successfully negotiating a house for ourselves, but also assist other non-local Buyers.

Last edited by FourCornersKid; 09-11-2011 at 12:53 PM.. Reason: font issues
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Old 09-11-2011, 01:37 PM
 
16,438 posts, read 18,513,116 times
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Thank you! Very informative.
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Old 09-11-2011, 02:49 PM
 
10,869 posts, read 41,139,178 times
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The real estate agents/agencies in this area are practicing the same level of ethical performance ... or lack thereof ... which I have posted extensively about in the Wyoming forum.

The situation is identical: most real estate agents I have encountered in rural Wyoming put their self-serving interests (re: Profits & Commissions) ahead of their clientele.

The same reaction to sweep stuff under the rug, or to minimize it's signifcance, or to allow a client to make judgements based upon what they know from out of the area concerns re water ... it's quality and availability, or bentonite soils in Colorado, or similar issues prevail.

The reason that the form of construction causes so many houses to have moisture ingress is because the basement area is a conditioned portion of the house; especially so if the owners have blocked off airflow in an effort to contain heat in this space. It's not uncommon to see in excess of 12 lbs of moisture per 1,000 sq feet (in the form of moisture vapor) being driven into the basement area by the differential in ground temperature and the conditions in the crawl space/basement. There's generally a ready source of seasonal moisture in the clay soils, which can take the form of sub-surface streams fed by snowmelt, rain-run off, or landscape water use ... either on the property, or even some distance away from a given structure.

Colorado also has radon gas present in significant amounts in various locales, and it's advisable to have a basement/crawl space tested for concentrations of this. Closing off a lower section of a house to have no ventilation airflow can trap very minute amounts to a health hazard level.
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Old 09-11-2011, 06:11 PM
 
5 posts, read 14,060 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
Colorado also has radon gas present in significant amounts in various locales, and it's advisable to have a basement/crawl space tested for concentrations of this. Closing off a lower section of a house to have no ventilation airflow can trap very minute amounts to a health hazard level.
Yes, yes, yes. A radon test is highly recommended in Colorado for basements or crawl spaces. A home inspector can do it and it adds about $100 to his bill, but well worth it.
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Old 09-12-2011, 12:25 AM
 
16,438 posts, read 18,513,116 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FourCornersKid View Post
Yes, yes, yes. A radon test is highly recommended in Colorado for basements or crawl spaces. A home inspector can do it and it adds about $100 to his bill, but well worth it.
What would a meth contamination test add to it?
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Old 09-15-2011, 08:27 AM
 
3,764 posts, read 7,199,178 times
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Excellent info, 4cornerskid! Thanks
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Old 06-28-2012, 06:25 PM
 
5 posts, read 14,060 times
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Ended up buying in Glade Park, Colorado near Grand Junction...no wet crawl spaces up here (nothing but sandstone below us!). We have never regretted buying here - it is superior in our minds to Durango/Bayfield/Pagosa Springs - area just flat out has more to offer - more opportunities, more real town unlike touristy Durango, just as much if not more variety with regards to outdoor recreation. We live 30 minutes drive from the biggest city in western Colorado, but feel miles and miles away. 2 hours to Moab, 2.5 hours to Ouray, what's not to like?
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:25 PM
 
Location: OKLAHOMA
1,778 posts, read 3,479,129 times
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Where did you move from?
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Old 07-05-2012, 08:24 PM
 
Location: mancos
7,044 posts, read 6,169,737 times
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Glad you didn't move here. We like it the way things are and don't need newcomers with all their unfounded fears trying to change things so they can sleep at night. I have lived in Durango,Bayfield,Ignacio and now Mancos and have never experienced any of your fears. now wash your keyboard with antiseptic soap and relax.
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Old 08-12-2012, 10:37 AM
 
1 posts, read 2,954 times
Reputation: 10
Default getting out of florida AGAIN!!!!

i am wanting to come back to Colorado-was there years ago(Conifer) and loved it. i want to come to the 4 corners area-where in your opinion is the best area? i looked into Ignacio-very pretty. just getting started looking at real estate listings. would appreciate info. just want a quiet place to do my beadwork and ride my horse. no zoning area my favorite. i know i can ask a realtor but i trust local opinions better. and i definitely like wildlife better than people! and trees.....and water..... thanks!!
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