So, this little piece of cr.....charming little fixer-upper on ten acres should have cost a lot more. It should have been well out of our price range, in fact. Why wasn't it? It had been under contract when we first located it, but the buyer dropped out, and we swooped in. During the buying process, we figured out what was happening.
This home has a wooden joist floor design, on a perimeter concrete foundation, leaving a 33" crawl space below the floor. It is a truly horrible place. The floor joists are 2x10 pine, and had fiberglass insulation in-between the joists with a black poly plastic sheet stapled to the bottom covering the entire bottom of the house.
The myriad leaks in the house must have dumped a large amount of water through the subfloor and onto the insulation and plastic over the years. The sodden insulation weighed the plastic down and popped the staples. It must have been something to see before it burst, but burst it did at some point, leaving the plastic in tatters and drifts of soggy insulation everywhere in the crawl space. Season for a year or so and add bugs and you have a really wonderful place to spend some time.
When we were looking at the house, we found out immediately that the plywood subfloor was rotten (easy enough to tell just walking on it) but there was no way to tell if the 2X10 joists were also rotten. Replacing plywood subfloor is not easy (more on that later) but is possible on budget. Replacing joist beams, however, requires lifting the house. Much, much more difficult.
So, we hired Professional Home Inspector Man, and he provided a report with a few blurry photos and told us that the joists were rotten because of poor drainage on the property completely filling the foundation during heavy rains. Since we had only been on the property a brief time during the showing, who were we to argue? We did some soul-searching, and decided this was our one shot at a home in the country we could afford, so we bought it. I researched methods of replacing floor joists for weeks (most involve jacking up the house!) and finally settled on a technique called "sistering" involving adding new joists on either side of the old rotten ones.
When we returned to the house to take possession, I immediately dove underneath into the crawlspace to survey my rotten joists...which turned out not to be rotten at all! The Professional Home Inspector Man had taken one look at the fresh Hell that was our crawlspace, said "no freakin way" and decided to write a fiction instead of a report. This apparently happened to the previous three bidders, according to the listing history, and that's why the property had been discounted several times before we ever saw it.
As it turned out, only about 20% of the plywood subfloor needed replacing, none of the joists had problems, and the drainage here is fine.
The moral? If the home inspection report doesn't look professional, it isn't. Don't trust unprofessional reports. And, sometimes, you get lucky.