An ugly Decatur inspection

Matt: I had a reader e-mail me about the inspection they had done on their Decatur unit (Decatur is a conversion on Pioneer Square by the Wysong Group who has done the conversions for the Press, Tobira and Windsor Court. It certainly does not sound good. Are there any other Decatur readers here? What did your inspections yield?

Here’s my take on the Decatur. The units are awesome. I have taken a look at many, many, many 1-bedroom units in the city for less than $275,000 and in my opinion the Decatur has them all beat on layout, square footage, and aesthetics. So I happily, and excitedly, put in an offer.

Then came the home inspection.

Be forewarned that although Wysong Group replaced the plumbing in individual units, they did not replace the plumbing throughout the whole building – and this is a problem. A very big problem. One of the sewage pipes is leaking and corroded at every joint in the garage (yep, it’s leaking waste onto the cars that dared to spend the $45k on a parking spot)…if it’s leaking where it’s exposed, does it leak through the whole building? Maybe. There are also 4 other signs of serious leaks throughout the garage – some so bad that they’ve created puddles on the ground from where the leak comes through the roof (again – how far up does this leak go? All the way to the top floor?). Finally, the 6 boilers that heat the bldg’s water are at the end of their ropes – one is a potential fire hazard.

Wysong has stated quite clearly that they will NOT be fixing theses problems.

So, where does that leave potential buyers? It leaves them with the very real possibility of a special assessment in HOD right off the bat to fix these problems. HOWEVER, keep in mind that there are 146 or so units in the building – any special assessment will be spread far and wide and shared
among many. Will the cost of this assessment (or, the potential thereof) – when added to the sale price – weigh heavy with buyers? I guess time will tell…

About Matt

Matt , Urbnlivn's publisher, has a love for lofts, floating homes and mid-century moderns.

For years Matt resisted becoming a real estate agent preferring to be an executive in the startup world but he recently caved in the spring of 2014 and became an agent.

You can also find Matt on Twitter or skiing.

  • Seattle

    Just a correction, Decatur is in First Hill off of Madison, not in Pioneer Square.

  • Seattle

    Just a correction, Decatur is in First Hill off of Madison, not in Pioneer Square.

  • EconE

    One word IMO.

    Lawsuit.

    I would go after not only the builder but any person that was involved in the transaction of selling me a unit.

  • EconE

    One word IMO.

    Lawsuit.

    I would go after not only the builder but any person that was involved in the transaction of selling me a unit.

  • EconE

    One word IMO.

    Lawsuit.

    I would go after not only the builder but any person that was involved in the transaction of selling me a unit.

    I wouldn’t have wasted any time and would have obtained representation immediately.

    I’d be pissed.

    just my opinion.

  • EconE

    One word IMO.

    Lawsuit.

    I would go after not only the builder but any person that was involved in the transaction of selling me a unit.

    I wouldn’t have wasted any time and would have obtained representation immediately.

    I’d be pissed.

    just my opinion.

  • Foster

    The building is quite old, not nearly in new condition. I don’t personally feel the builder is liable, because he built it ages ago. Things fail over time. Thats expected.

    As for Wysong Group, I wouldn’t touch anything they were involved in. They are in it for the cheap and quick, not the fine and sturdy. Lets not forget the foundation and shoring issues at Tobira which they of course don’t mention to potential homebuyers.

  • Foster

    The building is quite old, not nearly in new condition. I don’t personally feel the builder is liable, because he built it ages ago. Things fail over time. Thats expected.

    As for Wysong Group, I wouldn’t touch anything they were involved in. They are in it for the cheap and quick, not the fine and sturdy. Lets not forget the foundation and shoring issues at Tobira which they of course don’t mention to potential homebuyers.

  • jo

    This is exactly why I do not touch conversions.

  • jo

    This is exactly why I do not touch conversions.

  • EconE

    sorry…I meant whoever put the lipstick on the pig and tried to pass it off as renovated…not the original builder.

    sure…it will all boil down to semantics and the wording of the advertisements and contracts most likely…but hey…let the jury decide.

    I’d still name EVERY person that was involved in the transaction all the way down to the people who answered the phone.

  • EconE

    sorry…I meant whoever put the lipstick on the pig and tried to pass it off as renovated…not the original builder.

    sure…it will all boil down to semantics and the wording of the advertisements and contracts most likely…but hey…let the jury decide.

    I’d still name EVERY person that was involved in the transaction all the way down to the people who answered the phone.

  • Cameron

    This post just adds to my general concern about buildings this old or older. Built around the time of the viaduct and we know how sturdy THAT is. In this earthquake-prone area I want to be in VERY recent construction.

  • Cameron

    This post just adds to my general concern about buildings this old or older. Built around the time of the viaduct and we know how sturdy THAT is. In this earthquake-prone area I want to be in VERY recent construction.

  • Brian

    I think that if the Public Offering Statement is comprehensive enough, a lawsuit will be futile.

    People let list prices dictate their attitudes, sometimes you can spell out all the problems or potential problems and they won’t care because they get in on the low end.

    I can’t say if I was in the biz I would put the disclaimers in advertising, but if the POS is complete and you take the time to read it you usually get 10 days to back out. That’s about as honest a shake as you can ask for in the shark pool.

  • Brian

    I think that if the Public Offering Statement is comprehensive enough, a lawsuit will be futile.

    People let list prices dictate their attitudes, sometimes you can spell out all the problems or potential problems and they won’t care because they get in on the low end.

    I can’t say if I was in the biz I would put the disclaimers in advertising, but if the POS is complete and you take the time to read it you usually get 10 days to back out. That’s about as honest a shake as you can ask for in the shark pool.

  • jason

    I’ve also seen buildings built in the 1990s, or the cheapest decade of bldg IMHO the 1980s, be special assessed for much much more. Take each bldg on its own merits, I’d never write off an older bldgs. If anything they are usually built more solidly than a cheaper new building.

  • jason

    I’ve also seen buildings built in the 1990s, or the cheapest decade of bldg IMHO the 1980s, be special assessed for much much more. Take each bldg on its own merits, I’d never write off an older bldgs. If anything they are usually built more solidly than a cheaper new building.

  • Ted

    Sure sue away then post how annoyed you are at pricing structures and play retard at the correlation coeffecient. You’d be amazed at how much your pavlovian reaction of “litigation” is causing the problem more than solving it. Reality check. If your fix assessment is 5k and you sue the converter to get it, how much do you think will find its way back to you after atty fees etc.?

  • Ted

    Sure sue away then post how annoyed you are at pricing structures and play retard at the correlation coeffecient. You’d be amazed at how much your pavlovian reaction of “litigation” is causing the problem more than solving it. Reality check. If your fix assessment is 5k and you sue the converter to get it, how much do you think will find its way back to you after atty fees etc.?

  • EconE

    “Sure sue away then post how annoyed you are at pricing structures and play retard at the correlation coeffecient. Youd be amazed at how much your pavlovian reaction of litigation is causing the problem more than solving it. Reality check. If your fix assessment is 5k and you sue the converter to get it, how much do you think will find its way back to you after atty fees etc.?”

    I’ve lived places where “fix assessments” have been pretty darn high…and yup…there was litigation…and these were fully occupied also….Seattle RE history and litigation has a healthy history…pavlovian as you describe it…or well deserved in some cases.

    Plus…there are some people that would rather just make a point and losing a few bucks in atty fees is worth it even if they lose.

    I guess in this case if they have clearly disclosed the problems and clearly state that they aren’t going to repair a pipe spewing fecal matter (it was a sewer pipe wasn’t it?) on to my car nor repair/replace the boilers that are reportedly on their last legs…all I can say is Caveat Emptor.

  • EconE

    “Sure sue away then post how annoyed you are at pricing structures and play retard at the correlation coeffecient. You’d be amazed at how much your pavlovian reaction of “litigation” is causing the problem more than solving it. Reality check. If your fix assessment is 5k and you sue the converter to get it, how much do you think will find its way back to you after atty fees etc.?”

    I’ve lived places where “fix assessments” have been pretty darn high…and yup…there was litigation…and these were fully occupied also….Seattle RE history and litigation has a healthy history…pavlovian as you describe it…or well deserved in some cases.

    Plus…there are some people that would rather just make a point and losing a few bucks in atty fees is worth it even if they lose.

    I guess in this case if they have clearly disclosed the problems and clearly state that they aren’t going to repair a pipe spewing fecal matter (it was a sewer pipe wasn’t it?) on to my car nor repair/replace the boilers that are reportedly on their last legs…all I can say is Caveat Emptor.

  • Cameron

    I would think that both the old boilers and the rusted out pipes would be obvious in an inspection. Unless you are buying brand new, which means the building has just been signed off by city inspectors, ALWAYS pay the few hundred bucks for an inspection.

  • Cameron

    I would think that both the old boilers and the rusted out pipes would be obvious in an inspection. Unless you are buying brand new, which means the building has just been signed off by city inspectors, ALWAYS pay the few hundred bucks for an inspection.

  • PhilW

    Always find out what infrastructure was replaced. Major systems do not last forever, not even 50 years.

    My landlord bought another small apartment building and guess what died right away…the very large, but older, water heater.

  • PhilW

    Always find out what infrastructure was replaced. Major systems do not last forever, not even 50 years.

    My landlord bought another small apartment building and guess what died right away…the very large, but older, water heater.

  • EconE

    It gets nasty when major plumbing systems have to be replaced.

    this article discusses the issue of plumbing in older buildings.

    http://www.randpc.com/AskTheEngineer/genAsktheEngineerRe-piping.asp

    and here is a passage from HSB.com (Hartford Steam Boiler) that discusses the costs associated with boiler replacement/repair.

    ———————————————————————

    “Boiler and Pressure Vessel Losses

    School

    Sediment in a boiler caused a low-water condition that resulted in severe over-firing, shutting down the boiler and a school. a rental unit was needed until the damaged boiler could be replaced.
    Property Damage: $ 98,500
    Extra Expense: $ 25,164
    Total Loss: $ 123,664

    Manufacturer

    A faulty circuit in a water pump caused a fire tube boiler to dry fire. The boiler was severely damaged.
    Total Loss: $ 90,600

    Church

    A section of a boiler and a steam pipe fitting cracked. Steam damaged the church organ, choir robes, and public address system.
    Total Loss; $ 34,969

    ——————————————————————–

    Basically…to me…any conversion is not much more than trying to sell me a “condo” that I wouldn’t have even considered renting when it was an apartment.

  • EconE

    It gets nasty when major plumbing systems have to be replaced.

    this article discusses the issue of plumbing in older buildings.

    http://www.randpc.com/AskTheEngineer/genAsktheEngineerRe-piping.asp

    and here is a passage from HSB.com (Hartford Steam Boiler) that discusses the costs associated with boiler replacement/repair.

    ———————————————————————

    “Boiler and Pressure Vessel Losses

    School

    Sediment in a boiler caused a low-water condition that resulted in severe over-firing, shutting down the boiler – and a school. a rental unit was needed until the damaged boiler could be replaced.
    Property Damage: $ 98,500
    Extra Expense: $ 25,164
    Total Loss: $ 123,664

    Manufacturer

    A faulty circuit in a water pump caused a fire tube boiler to dry fire. The boiler was severely damaged.
    Total Loss: $ 90,600

    Church

    A section of a boiler and a steam pipe fitting cracked. Steam damaged the church organ, choir robes, and public address system.
    Total Loss; $ 34,969

    ——————————————————————–

    Basically…to me…any conversion is not much more than trying to sell me a “condo” that I wouldn’t have even considered renting when it was an apartment.

  • FutureRes.Floor6

    Another Decatur reader here.

    I’m getting ready to close in the Decatur and the above inspection reads similarly to mine. Except I’ve found Decatur to be accommodating in addressing repairs. They even had a plumber meet with me one-on-one today to walk through items and mark where any additional repairs will be made. I guess the way I see it is show me a building in Seattle that doesn’t have a few kinks. What matters is the willingness to work on them.

    Specifically addressing the above it sounds like Decatur is having another expert come in and recheck the boilers and certify their safety and they’re going to be resealing the waste pipe. The garage will also be getting a whole new roof.

    My personal advice to anyone looking at this building is to have faith and proceed. The units are solid, and the staff is friendly and concise, and it really is a gorgeous place in a central location.

  • FutureRes.Floor6

    Another Decatur reader here.

    I’m getting ready to close in the Decatur and the above inspection reads similarly to mine. Except I’ve found Decatur to be accommodating in addressing repairs. They even had a plumber meet with me one-on-one today to walk through items and mark where any additional repairs will be made. I guess the way I see it is show me a building in Seattle that doesn’t have a few kinks. What matters is the willingness to work on them.

    Specifically addressing the above it sounds like Decatur is having another expert come in and recheck the boilers and certify their safety and they’re going to be resealing the waste pipe. The garage will also be getting a whole new roof.

    My personal advice to anyone looking at this building is to have faith and proceed. The units are solid, and the staff is friendly and concise, and it really is a gorgeous place in a central location.

  • EconE

    “Im getting ready to close in the Decatur and the above inspection reads similarly to mine. Except Ive found Decatur to be accommodating in addressing repairs.”

    that sounds quite a bit different than the original statement made by the original poster that said…

    “Wysong has stated quite clearly that they will NOT be fixing theses problems.”

    Have they been reading this blog? Have they now changed their stance? Sure sounds like they are singing a *slightly* different tune.

    “Specifically addressing the above it sounds like Decatur is having another expert come in and recheck the boilers and certify their safety and theyre going to be resealing the waste pipe. The garage will also be getting a whole new roof.”

    sounds like a band-aid on things that needs replacing.

    I’d want everything in writing with guarantees personally.

    “My personal advice to anyone looking at this building is to have faith and proceed. The units are solid, and the staff is friendly and concise, and it really is a gorgeous place in a central location.”

    This sounds more like a marketing pitch to me. If I am wrong…I apologize…enjoy your new condo and best of luck!

  • EconE

    “I’m getting ready to close in the Decatur and the above inspection reads similarly to mine. Except I’ve found Decatur to be accommodating in addressing repairs.”

    that sounds quite a bit different than the original statement made by the original poster that said…

    “Wysong has stated quite clearly that they will NOT be fixing theses problems.”

    Have they been reading this blog? Have they now changed their stance? Sure sounds like they are singing a *slightly* different tune.

    “Specifically addressing the above it sounds like Decatur is having another expert come in and recheck the boilers and certify their safety and they’re going to be resealing the waste pipe. The garage will also be getting a whole new roof.”

    sounds like a band-aid on things that needs replacing.

    I’d want everything in writing with guarantees personally.

    “My personal advice to anyone looking at this building is to have faith and proceed. The units are solid, and the staff is friendly and concise, and it really is a gorgeous place in a central location.”

    This sounds more like a marketing pitch to me. If I am wrong…I apologize…enjoy your new condo and best of luck!

  • Jacque

    Well, A friend of mine just passed on a unit at press. HIs inspection revealed many unpleasant things. used appliances – tehre was lint under the washer and dryer, a hammered whole in the back of one of the kitchen cabinets, but the worse was a window with no flashing which frame was separated from the bulding wall.

    Pretty bad for a 360,000 condo.

    I have another question re:inspectors.
    Do any of you know how you can find out if an inspector is legal in WA. How do you check certifications?

    I am getting a lot of conflicting info….

  • Jacque

    Well, A friend of mine just passed on a unit at press. HIs inspection revealed many unpleasant things. used appliances – tehre was lint under the washer and dryer, a hammered whole in the back of one of the kitchen cabinets, but the worse was a window with no flashing which frame was separated from the bulding wall.

    Pretty bad for a 360,000 condo.

    I have another question re:inspectors.
    Do any of you know how you can find out if an inspector is legal in WA. How do you check certifications?

    I am getting a lot of conflicting info….

  • Eric

    I am scheduled to close on a unit in the Decatur in September. Last week (6-13)the sales staff had me come in to add a new limited warranty to my purchase agreement. Wysong is scheduled to do some additional work on the plumbing and several other structural items. Newer constructiion isn’t always better. I’ve been living in a late 90s condo. Within 4 years I was saddled with a $4500 assessment for water intrusion issues along with additional expenses for plumbing mishaps. The developer went bankrupt and the 10 year warranty was basically worthless after the first year. Always plan for the worst and set aside money for assessments. They’re more common than most people think. Overall the price point for the Decatur is excellent value for the money compared with some other Seattle developments. This remains true even factoring in a future assessment.

  • http://n/a Eric

    I am scheduled to close on a unit in the Decatur in September. Last week (6-13)the sales staff had me come in to add a new limited warranty to my purchase agreement. Wysong is scheduled to do some additional work on the plumbing and several other structural items. Newer constructiion isn’t always better. I’ve been living in a late 90s condo. Within 4 years I was saddled with a $4500 assessment for water intrusion issues along with additional expenses for plumbing mishaps. The developer went bankrupt and the 10 year warranty was basically worthless after the first year. Always plan for the worst and set aside money for assessments. They’re more common than most people think. Overall the price point for the Decatur is excellent value for the money compared with some other Seattle developments. This remains true even factoring in a future assessment.

  • Eric

    Be sure to get clarification on the rooftop deck from the sales staff before you purchase, and get the clarification in writing. Several promised amenities including a rooftop deck and a rooftop garden on top of the garage have not been started. Several executives from the developer came out to a meeting of homeowners, and gave use a story of financial woes. Supposedly, some employees who were fired made promises such as the rooftop garden and they shouldnt have been made. The fired employees worked for the developer and the owners expect these promises to be fulfilled. It is also obvious that the planning for the renovation didnt take these amenities into account, as we were told that it is hard to add them on now. I really like the unit I purchased, but Id like it a lot better if the developer was making a better attempt to finish off what we were promised.

  • Eric

    Be sure to get clarification on the rooftop deck from the sales staff before you purchase, and get the clarification in writing. Several promised amenities including a rooftop deck and a rooftop garden on top of the garage have not been started. Several executives from the developer came out to a meeting of homeowners, and gave use a story of financial woes. Supposedly, some employees who were fired made promises such as the rooftop garden and they shouldn’t have been made. The fired employees worked for the developer and the owners expect these promises to be fulfilled. It is also obvious that the planning for the renovation didn’t take these amenities into account, as we were told that it is hard to add them on now. I really like the unit I purchased, but I’d like it a lot better if the developer was making a better attempt to finish off what we were promised.

  • e

    “Well, A friend of mine just passed on a unit at press. HIs inspection revealed many unpleasant things. used appliances – tehre was lint under the washer and dryer, a hammered whole in the back of one of the kitchen cabinets, but the worse was a window with no flashing which frame was separated from the building wall.”

    How could I get in touch with this person? I may have purchased this unit and am now dealing with the consequences. My inspector did not mention the frame defect.

  • e

    “Well, A friend of mine just passed on a unit at press. HIs inspection revealed many unpleasant things. used appliances – tehre was lint under the washer and dryer, a hammered whole in the back of one of the kitchen cabinets, but the worse was a window with no flashing which frame was separated from the building wall.”

    How could I get in touch with this person? I may have purchased this unit and am now dealing with the consequences. My inspector did not mention the frame defect.

  • Kristin
  • Kristin
  • http://www.extremesteam.biz/carpet-cleaning carpet cleaning miami

    Wysong must solve this problem.. They are responsible for this..

  • Cooper Square Owner

    All Wysong properties are terrible. I live at Cooper Square (Greenwood) and when I moved in, they gave me a list of the things that they were going to fix, as well as an extended warranty. None of those things got fixed, the warranty was not honored, and now our building is falling apart. Our HOA might as well be run by 5-year olds because a very motivated and vocal owner had been pushing them to file a lawsuit against Wysong more than 2 years ago. They didn't, and now 2 other Wysong properties have filed lawsuits, which means if Cooper Square now does, they will be 3rd in line and probably get nothing in the end. To make matters worse, our motivated and vocal owner has moved out, telling me that he couldn't let his biggest investment be affected by an HOA that is as useful as a rock. I wish I was able to get out of my unit now, but every unit that goes up for sale just sits on the market…buyer's agents all know what's going on with the building. How Wysong is able to still be in business is beyond me. This guy needs to be in jail.

  • Cooper Square Owner

    All Wysong properties are terrible. I live at Cooper Square (Greenwood) and when I moved in, they gave me a list of the things that they were going to fix, as well as an extended warranty. None of those things got fixed, the warranty was not honored, and now our building is falling apart. Our HOA might as well be run by 5-year olds because a very motivated and vocal owner had been pushing them to file a lawsuit against Wysong more than 2 years ago. They didn't, and now 2 other Wysong properties have filed lawsuits, which means if Cooper Square now does, they will be 3rd in line and probably get nothing in the end. To make matters worse, our motivated and vocal owner has moved out, telling me that he couldn't let his biggest investment be affected by an HOA that is as useful as a rock. I wish I was able to get out of my unit now, but every unit that goes up for sale just sits on the market…buyer's agents all know what's going on with the building. How Wysong is able to still be in business is beyond me. This guy needs to be in jail.

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