Once you’ve made the decision to purchase a home and started looking for the perfect pad, many home buyers find themselves overwhelmed and, frankly, a little snow-blind after looking at house after house… after house… after house… searching for the right one. When looking at potential homes, don’t be seduced by clever staging set up by the seller or the seller’s agent, and don’t let a fresh coat of perfectly plum purple paint on the accent wall in the living room blind you to the signs of poor home maintenance or more serious problems lurking beneath the surface. Remember that you are not just there to imagine how Grandma’s china cabinet will fit in the breakfast nook, or whether the existing paint color will match your perfect curtains that you bought at that outdoor market in Mexico during your last vacation. Once you’ve ascertained that this house is a contender – the floorplan looks good, the rooms are a good size, etc., now it’s time to look for red flags that might cause you to cross it off your list, or at least give your building inspector a heads’ up to pay close attention to and/or to question the seller closely about during negotiations. Here are some of those red flags to keep an eye out for.More about the author
Fresh Paint – But I thought a fresh coat of paint could add value to a home? It can, but fresh paint on just one wall, or worse yet, on just part of one wall, could be a sign that water damage, mold, or other problems have been recently painted over.
Funky Smell – Give the whole place a good sniff. Bring a friend with allergies. I’m not entirely kidding about the allergic friend, either. A damp or musty smell could indicate a mold problem, and an overwhelming air-freshener smell could be an indicator that the seller is trying to cover up a musty funk.
Water Damage – If there’s no funny paint or weird smell, keep an eye out for spots of water damage, flaking paint, brown spots on ceilings or walls, etc. Be especially vigilant for these around the tub and shower and around windows and doors. Soft shower walls can also indicate long term water damage causing rot problems.
Anything Unexpected in the Basement – If the house has a basement that’s newly finished that might raise an eyebrow. A newly finished basement is a convenient way to cover up a multitude of serious repair problems, so if the basement’s been recently finished out, make sure to let the home inspector know to be particularly up on his or her p’s and q’s in that area. Stained items in the basement can also indicate water damage or flooding in that area, watch for those telltale signs, as well.
Cracks in the paint or walls could indicate a problem with the foundation, cold spots in the house might point to poor insulation, a new deck or fence might not be properly permitted or zoned, dirty furnace filters are a sign that your seller might not have kept up with other, more serious, maintenance issues. These are just a few of the many things you should be on the look out for when visiting homes on your potential purchase list. Talk to your realtor, building inspector and other homeowners for a list of red-flag items to keep watch for in your area.