A Holly Springs woman says she is out $7,500 after trying to buy a house that wasn’t what it seemed.
Abby Kalainikas says the seller misled her, took her money, then refused to give it back.
“It’s been a disaster. It’s been a nightmare,” said Kalainikas.
Kalainikas says her home search started in Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Raleigh – but she couldn’t find much to purchase.
She expanded her search to Sanford, where she found a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, fully renovated home on Cross Street.
She put in an offer that included $7,500 due diligence money – and the seller accepted.
An unexpected discovery
However, Kalainikas said her situation quickly turned into a nightmare when the inspection report revealed a problem with a floor joist that had been cut completely through at the front-center crawl space. Several issues were discovered:
- Several repairs had been made to the floor structure; however, the repairs do not appear to have been made by a qualified contractor.
- Screw jacks had been added – and were leaning.
- Some of the floor joists that were added did not span the entire length for proper support.
- Some of the joists did not rest on added supports.
- Some decay was observed in the floor structure at the front left.
- Some floor joists were not properly supported by a ledger strip or hanger.
Kalainikas says the seller misled her by giving her two assurances before she put an offer on the house.
One assurance was a disclosure statement saying the seller wasn’t aware of any issues with the permits for the renovation. However, records show there were no permits taken out for the remodel and therefore, no assurance the construction met safety codes.
“He came in, and he flipped this house. To mark on a disclosure, ‘no’, there’s no issues with permits, but you didn’t even take the time to go and get the permits, even though you’re a flipper,” said Kalainikas.
The seller’s other assurance was a letter from an engineer saying the home was structurally sound. However, after the inspection, Kalainikas hired her own engineer, who estimated repairs could cost her upwards of $15,000.
“If they didn’t have that letter,” Kalainikas said, “I would have done all the inspections and looked into everything in much more detail before I even put in any kind of offer.”
Typically when buying a home, once you sign an offer to purchase and hand over due diligence money, you do not get that money back, even if you don’t end up buying the home.
However, Kalainikas believes the seller made a negligent misrepresentation on the disclosure – and asked for her $7,500 due diligence fee back.
“And he’s like no, I think not,” Kalainikas said.
She walked away from the deal, without her money.
Within days, 5 On Your Side found the house listed for sale again. It’s not clear whether the owner made any repairs, but the disclosure form that Kalainikas believes misrepresented the condition of the house had not been changed.
5 On Your Side called the seller and the seller’s agent to get their side of what happened.
Both referred us to an attorney, then hung up.
How to protect yourself when buying a home
Real estate broker John Wood is not connected to this case, but 5 On Your Side asked him what buyers need to do to protect themselves in this ultra-competitive market.
“They’ve got to take a hard look at the house beyond just the first emotional look,” said Wood. “They’ve gotta look in the crawlspace, look in the attic. They should take a hard look at what the roof, heating and cooling is, and that can be done fairly quickly.”
Additionally, if any house has significant updates, make sure your realtor is checking for permits.
“You need to do your research before, and you need to pay attention while you’re there,” Wood said.
More than anything, Kalainikas says she doesn’t want someone else to go through what she did.
“Even if I don’t get my money back, if not a single person buys this house and I can help them not go through this nightmare that I’ve been through, I’ll be happy about it,” she said.
Two-and-a-half weeks after Kalainikas terminated the agreement to buy this house, an unlicensed contractor did go back and get a building permit finalized. However, it was only for a tiny piece of work done to the house: a wall removed in the living room. The application blamed a previous owner for taking the wall out without a permit.
Napoleon Gombio and EquityBuild LLC are listed as current owners of the home. 5 On Your Side tried multiple times to reach him and his attorney. We are still waiting for a response.
Kalainikas and her real estate agent have filed complaints with the NC Real Estate Commission and the City of Sanford. 5 On Your Side will continue to monitor the outcomes of those investigations.
Links to file a complaint for this type of issue in NC
North Carolina Licensing Board For General Contractors Complaint Page
North Carolina Real Estate Commission Complaint Page
North Carolina Attorney General Consumer Complaint Page
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