According to the National Association of Realtors, most average home buyers look at 10 to 12 homes before making a purchase. However, some can painstakingly look for months, even years, before finding the one.
With such a long and tiring process, it’s very easy to get starry-eyed when you finally find the house with the perfect exterior, outdoor space, paint, room sizes, and so forth. Within a month, you’ve bought and moved into your new home. It’s at this point that you discover the roof is leaking and the foundation is cracked; suddenly, everything isn’t as perfect as you imagined.
A lot of homebuyers, especially those buying their first home, get caught up in a situation just like the above by focusing most of their attention on all the pretties and easily fixed dislikes of a home. All the red flags that signal the house might be more expensive or more trouble than it’s worth are overlooked or ignored. That’s not to say that your perfect house should be nixed for having a few flaws, but you do want to avoid having one of the largest purchases you’ll ever make turn out to be a lemon. Here are a few tips on some common problem areas:
Foundations are one of the most expensive repairs facing a homeowner. Therefore, it should be one of the first things a homebuyer checks. Look for any cracks in the stone or concrete basement walls, brick fireplace wall, around all windows and doors, and along the outside brick veneer. These can be the first sign of an structurally unsound foundation and should be further inspected by a professional before the home is purchased.
If the home has HVAC to heat and cool it, then make sure to ask about the system’s age and operation, look for any poorly connected vents, and watch and listen as the unit runs. Minor issues with the system can reduce how energy-efficient the home is and increase electric bills, while a total replacement can cost several thousand dollars in immediate expense.
A home built in or before the 1930’s could still have knob-and-tube electrical wiring. This can be a problem if it has been tampered with, such as from attic insulation being blown-in atop the wiring. Such tampering can create dangerous fire hazards. Furthermore, most insurers don’t consider this type of electrical system safe and will charge you higher premiums or turn you down entirely. Keep in mind that rewiring the entire home will be a multi-thousand dollar expense.
4. Water Damage
Homes that have had water damage or leak issues might be hiding several expensive fixes and dangerous health issues like mold. Look for the signs of past leaks, such as any brown or white stains along the basement, main level, and upper level walls; mold growth under sinks; and horizontal stains along any bare floors. While fresh paint, especially in a basement, may just be updates, it could also be designed to hide the stains of water damage.
5. Look Twice
The first walkthrough of a home is often with rose-colored glasses. Even if you want to make an offer, take a few days to collect your thoughts and return to view the home at least one more time.
There’s a big difference between getting a good deal and coming across a home with a price too good to be true. Suspiciously priced homes or sudden large price deductions can be indicators of an undisclosed problem, which is why a home inspection is so important.
7. Home Inspection
Home inspections can be a buyer’s best friend and a seller’s worst nightmare. Never make an offer before getting a home inspection. Get a second opinion anytime a home inspector files an inconclusive report.
Be safe rather than sorry. First-time homebuyers can avoid many of the pitfalls to buying a home by just knowing what red flags to look for and not ignoring them.