Almost all homebuyers (hopefully) hire an home inspector to examine the home they want to purchase. But unless you have a large amount of cash flow, it isn’t financially plausible to hire a home inspector to inspect every house you have an interest in. While viewing homes, you must train yourself to look for any red flags about the home. Here are some red flags that could spell home distress. Of course, all of these problems can be fixed but for a price.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Mildew smell in the basement. A sign that water regularly seeps into the basement.
4. Brown stains on the basement walls are another sign of past or current water damage.
5. Chipped paint around the windows can indicate that window sills could be damaged and need to be replaced.
6. Failed caulk around window edges could mean an air or water leak.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.