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House Hunting? 8 Red Flags You Cannot IgnoreMay 4th, 2017 by
Buying a home is a headache. There’s no other way around it. There’s so much involved and so much money wrapped up in this single purchase—a purchase that will likely make or break the next decade of your life—that it’s hard not to lose your head over the whole ordeal, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer.
And when you find what looks to be the perfect place for the perfect price, it’s easy to overlook a number of obvious red flags. Not only that, but some real estate agents will employ some pretty dubious tactics—like showing you not-so-great homes beforehand or putting out cookies and treats as a distraction—just so you don’t notice a home’s potentially expensive blemishes.
With all that in mind, it’s best to prepare yourself beforehand and have a mental list of all the red flags to look out for when perusing a potential new home. Here are eight to get you going.
1. Brown or Yellow Spots on the Ceiling
Nobody paints their ceiling with brown or yellow polka dots, so the only reason they would be there is if water had found its way into the drywall and discolored the paint, which means there’s probably a hole in the roof or some leaky plumbing.
Head up to the attic—if there is one—and check it out. Look for standing water, damp spots on the floor, potential mold growth, and daylight shining in where it shouldn’t be.
If the troubled area is between floors, check and see if there’s a bathroom above it. And then ask questions, lots and lots of questions.
2. Poor Outside Sloping
If the land around the house is too flat or if it slopes toward the foundation, drainage problems can and will occur when it rains—often in the form of a flooded basement or crawl space, which is the opposite of ideal.
Experts say that the land surrounding a home should slope away from the foundation at a decline of about two to five inches for every ten feet. (Any more than that and you’ll end up with erosion problems, which you should also look out for.)
If it isn’t sloped properly, check to see if there’s a drainage system—like a French drain or a rain barrel—to help mitigate potential issues. If there’s not, ask them to fix it or consider walking away.
3. Random Fresh Paint
It’s not uncommon for a real estate agent to suggest that a homeowner spruce up their home with a fresh coat of paint before putting it on the market. What is uncommon, however, is painting only one or two areas of the house, or doing so just before it’s shown.
So, if you smell fresh paint fumes when you step inside, or if you see splotches of newly applied paint on the ceilings and walls, something might be up.
4. Crooked Doors and Stuck Windows
One or two stuck windows is easy enough to explain away. The painter probably just painted them shut. And a slightly crooked door is hardly enough to complain about. But they could be symptoms of a much larger problem.
When a house shifts and sinks, it can drastically alter its composition, making the doors uneven and the windows off-kilter. This problem is especially prevalent in older homes, so check the foundation and floors for cracks, sags, and crumbling, and make sure everything is even—or at least stable.
5. Noisy Plumbing
I live in an old house, and a week after I first moved in, I flushed the toilet at the same time the laundry machine and the dishwasher were on. What resulted were a series of clangs, bangs, and growls, almost as though there was a war waging beneath my feet.
Turns out, the plumbing was out of whack and hardly up to code. And it’s something I could have found out had I turned on the sink and the shower at the same time.
6. A Multicolored Roof
Even though roofs come in a variety of colors and styles these days, cracked, curling, or completely missing shingles are nothing to ignore. And if you see random black or brown patches or a blue plastic tarp flapping in the wind, you should probably just run.
According to one of Homewyse’s cost-calculators, replacing a 1,200-square-foot roof with basic, builder grade materials can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $4,000—which is not the kind of cash one often has on hand after purchasing a new home.
A well-built roof should last about 30 years, so if you’re unsure of the age, ask. Or better yet, hire a roofing specialist to figure it out for you.
7. Wall Paint on the Ceilings, Baseboards, and Floors
One can tell a lot by the way someone solves a simple problem.
If the people that put the house on the market couldn’t even bother to hire a professional to paint their walls, or to do it diligently themselves without getting splatter all over the surrounding areas, then there’s a good chance that a lot more is wrong with the home.
The same thing goes for cracked or crooked light sockets, uneven ceiling fans, dead or dying bushes, trees, and shrubs, and unclean appliances. Buyer beware.
8. Uncut Grass Next Door
The last thing you want to do on moving day is to find out that your new neighbors haven’t lived in the house next door for some time. Not only is it annoying to mow a lawn next to a house surrounded by weeds, but trashed and overgrown lawns and yards can decrease the value of adjacent homes by up to five to ten percent.
Mix in crime, loud and unleashed animals, unruly college kids, and current and potential foreclosures, and you have yourself a series of problems that have nothing to do with paint, plumbing, or anything else inside the home.
If you suspect something’s up, make it a point to drive by the property at night, or park your car and walk around on a weekend. Talk to the neighbors. Ask them how they like it. You’ll learn a lot.
House Hunting? Know Your Rights
The bottom line with any blemish, bruise, or excessive flaw found in a home, whether it be a sticky window or a sagging roof, is that you have every right to know everything about it. And if the homeowner or real estate agent would rather not talk about it, you have every right to walk away.
Because even though most states have laws that require homeowners to disclose information regarding the home’s value and desirability—thus making it illegal to lie about most major defects—minor imperfections and unknown ailments can end up undisclosed.
So, check the roof, check the windows, check the doors, check anything and everything that you can and can’t see inside and outside the house. And then hire a contractor to check it all again so that you have the information you need to ask for the necessary repairs.
Otherwise that perfect house on the hill might end up becoming the haunted, money-sucking home you never wanted, and if you’ve already signed on the dotted line, it’ll be way too late to run away.