When you buy a home, a home inspection is a must. Don’t skip it, even if you’re buying new construction. Not to be confused with a home appraisal (required by your lender), a home inspection will give you information about the home’s condition from roof to foundation, appliances to plumbing, and much, much more. Be sure to choose a trained, certified home inspector (your Realtor® should be able to help you find one), and pay close attention to the report. It may contain deal-breakers, items that require negotiation, or conditions you’ll want to address sooner rather than later. However, even before an inspection there are red flags to watch for that may make you think twice about making an offer. Here are six warning signs when buying a home.
An Air Of Neglect. What’s your first impression of the home? Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can get a sense of how a home has been maintained by checking a few things. If there are exterior wooden or metal railings, are they solid or wobbly? Is the exterior paint peeling or the stucco cracked? Do you see any discolored patches on the walls (inside or out)? Check the appliances for signs of neglect and a hasty cleaning. Look at the yard, too. It doesn’t have to be a showplace, but if it looks like it just received a slap-dash makeover, check the state of the wood in the fence and the concrete on the patio.
Uneven Ceilings. Look up. Do you see a ceiling that has been painted more recently than other ceilings in the house? Does it look like it’s been patched or repaired? It may be evidence of a leak, so be sure to ask if the home has suffered any water damage, what caused it, and how it was repaired.
Doors (And Windows) That Don’t Close. Every home will change over time. Wood expands and contracts, and older homes are likely to have a few windows that stick and a door that won’t close easily. Keep an eye out for issues beyond usual aging. Take a hard look if a door frame appears to slant, or there’s an uneven gap between the door and frame. It may be evidence of poor construction, settling, or foundation problems.
Low Water Pressure. Saving water is a good thing, but trickling faucets could indicate plumbing problems or a poorly performing well. Turn the taps on and flush a toilet or two. If there’s not enough pressure for a decent shower, you need to know why.
More Water Issues. Water in the wrong places can cause major headaches and costly repairs. Look for rotten wood in windows or sills, stains near gutters or downspouts, and damp patches in the basement. Check on the slope of the land next to the home. You want to see that water will run away from the foundation. Finally, if you are in an area where sump pumps are the norm, and it’s a dry day but the pump is running constantly, investigate further.
DIY. Unless the seller is a regular on This Old House or a licensed contractor, beware DIY repairs. Some people will tackle just about any project, even ones that require a licensed professional. Wiring that looks questionable, plumbing fixes that aren’t quite right, and amateurish caulking can all lead to expensive repairs. Note anything that looks like it wasn’t a professional job.
Special Note For Sellers. While we usually think of a home inspection as something the buyer wants, consider an inspection before you put your home on the market. It may uncover issues you’ll want to address before you list, or it may tell you that you’re the best homeowner ever!
Senior Vice President, Collateral Services