Home Inspection: 18 Red Flags To Look For
By Samuel J. Tamkin, Attorney at Law, Studio One Networks
Almost all homebuyers hire a professional home inspector to examine the home they want to purchase. But unless you have ample cash flow, it isn’t financially feasible to hire a home inspector every time you find a house you like. Thus, it’s likely you’ll make an offer before a home inspector steps in. Fortunately, you can protect your investment by training your eyes to detect possible home weaknesses. And then you can base your offer on any future maintenance or renovation costs. Below are 18 red flags that could spell home distress. Of course, all of these problems can be fixed but for a price.
- *Brown stains on the ceiling. *A possible indication of a past or current leak. Water travels; so don’t assume that the source of the leak is directly above the stain. Water could be coming in from the roof.
- Warped wood floorboards, peeling floor tile or cracked floor tiles. Warped floorboards point to water damage. If floor tile is peeling, the underlayment could have soaked, expanded and then destroyed the glue holding the floor together. Cracked ceramic tile could be a sign of water damage also.
- Mildew smell in the basement. A sign that water regularly seeps into the basement.
- Brown stains on the basement walls. Another sign of past or current water damage.
- Chipped paint around the windows. Wood sills could be damaged and need to be replaced.
- Failed caulk around window edges. At best, an air leak; at worst, a water leak.
- Three layers of roof. Look around the edge of the house. If there are three layers of roofing on the house, you may need to pull them off when it’s time to re-roof the house-an additional expense to regular roofing costs.
- Poor grading. If the ground surrounding the house doesn’t slope away from the house, it could be causing water to run down the foundation walls and into the basement.
- Knob and tube wiring. Typically, these parts are about 100 years old. While they may function, if you decide to renovate or expand the house, you’ll need to upgrade the electrical system to comply with local building code.
- Old windows and storms. If you have old windows, chances are a significant amount of air is leaking into the home. If the storm windows are old, they may not provide much insulation. To replace windows is extremely expensive, but plan on spending a few dollars for caulk and new storm windows.
- Wet drain in the basement. If the house is on a sewer system, it could mean tree roots have burrowed their way into the sewer. Plan to clear the sewer at least once a year.
- Only one area has been repainted. If you see that the basement walls are freshly painted but no other area has been, it’s possible the seller doesn’t want you to see something-like stains from when the basement last flooded.
- Furniture, boxes and other items piled up in one room or corner of the house. The sellers could be moving items around, or they could be hiding something. Try to move enough of the stuff so you can see everything.
- Bad smells. If a house smells foul to you, it could have a serious mold problem behind freshly painted walls. Removing mold could cost thousands of dollars. Removing pet odors is less expensive, but it could take a long time to refresh the smell of a house-that is, if you ever can.
- *Appliances that don’t work or that the seller tells you “Don’t turn that on.” *The most obvious red flag: If the seller doesn’t want you to do something, or go somewhere in the house.
- Cracks in the foundation. If the foundation or basement floor has a crack bigger than 1/8", it could be a structural problem that will be expensive to fix.
- Synthetic stucco homes. In general, these homes are expensive to maintain and need to be inspected by a synthetic stucco specialist at least once a year.
- Strange feeling. In the dead of winter, if a house’s windows are open, with candles and incense burning and the heat blasting, there’s probably a serious problem the seller is trying to hide.
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