Buying a home is an exciting process, but many homebuyers are also understandably nervous. Buying a home is a big investment you’re going to have for years. That’s why it’s important to watch out for home inspection red flags that signal big problems. Some slight problems or minor defects are fixable with a bit of TLC, but some issues can seriously detract from your investment, and even endanger your health and safety.
Here are 7 Home Inspection Red Flags To Watch Out For
1. Structural Problems
Structural problems top the list of home inspection red flags. Structural problems, like a cracked foundation or damaged load-bearing walls, affect the integrity of the entire home and signs of these problems should be taken seriously. When selling a house that needs work, some home sellers might not know about structural problems or they might not disclose them, so you may have to detect these yourself. A home inspector will include structural damages in their report, but you can find signs before you get to the inspection stage. Looks for these issues which may indicate structural problems.
- Cracks in the basement floor larger than ⅓ inch
- Bumps in the basement floor
- Misaligned door frames or windows
- Misaligned porch or front steps
- Walls have been removed
The grade or slope of the surrounding property affects the way water drains during storms or snowmelt. This subtle feature can be a big home inspection red flag if it’s not done properly.If the property slopes towards the home, even at a slight angle, it will cause water to pool in or around the home, perhaps in the basement or around the foundation. If the property slopes away from the home, but the yard forms a valley where water pools, this can also cause flooding and water problems. When studying the grade, look for the following home inspection red flags:
- The surrounding yard is completely flat
- Patches of dead grass, moist areas or puddles
- Property slopes toward the home
- Moist areas close to the home
Mold is often a problem if you’re buying a fixer-upper. Sometimes mold results from neglect and it can simply be cleaned up, but other times it can be a serious home inspection red flag. The major deciding factors are the extent of the problem and the cause of the mold. If mold has occurred due to a lack of cleaning and it’s isolated to small areas, the problem may be easily resolved. However, if the mold occurs due to a lack of ventilation or accumulating moisture, the mold will simply come back if you clean it, and you’ll have to fix the cause to stop the mold. This might mean replacing drafty windows, or it might mean redoing the entire attic, roof, or bathroom to ventilate the area or stop a leak. Watch out of these mold-related home inspection red flags to detect really problematic mold issues.
- Large patches of black mold anywhere in the house
- A noticeable mold odor
- Bathrooms without fans or windows
- Large areas of patchy paint
4. Old Wiring
Faulty electrical wiring can make it difficult to run modern appliances, and it is a leading cause of home fires, which makes it a serious home inspection red flag. Electrical wiring is also difficult to fix, making it easy to lose money on this home renovation. Homes constructed before 1930 may use dated wiring methods like knob-and-tube wiring, which can limit power output and even cause electrical fires. These wiring systems are often complex and disorganized, making future renovations difficult and expensive. They can even cause home insurance providers to refuse coverage due to the increased fire risk. If the home was constructed before 1930, ask about electrical updates or ask your home inspector if they can determine the type of wiring used. You can also look for the following home inspection red flags yourself:
- Flickering lights
- Outlet faceplates are hot to the touch
- Outlets aren’t grounded
- Certain appliances won’t work or won’t work properly
- Certain appliances can’t run together
5. Old Plumbing
Like faulty wires, faulty pipes are hidden behind walls and under floors, which makes them expensive to fix. However, this also makes it difficult to determine how big of a plumbing problem is present. Sometimes a pipe can simply be repaired or a drain snaked to fix a problem, other times the issue is much bigger. To uncover major damages or clogs, look for widespread and long-lasting symptoms. If the problem exists only with one sink, one drain, or one pipe, it’s probably an isolated incident that can be reasonably fixed. However, if all the drains, sinks and pipes show the same symptoms, there’s probably a bigger underlying issue. Watch out for these plumbing-related home inspection red flags to detect the difficult and expensive problems.
- Low drainage throughout the house
- Low water pressure throughout the house
- Water remains cloudy or discolored after running several minutes
- Faucets continually sputter
- Stained walls, ceiling, or tile
- Mold smell
- Wood rot around sink or bathtub
It’s almost impossible to keep your home completely pest-free, especially if you live in a rural area. However, there’s a difference between a few bugs and an infestation. If ants, termites, cockroaches, mice or other pests have taken moved in before the new buyers, it’s a home inspection red flag. In some cases, pests wander through a home and a thorough cleaning or a few traps can end a pest problem. In other cases, the creatures have nested in the home, causing structural damage and requiring full-scale extermination. So how do you tell the difference? Look for these home inspection red flags as signs of serious pest problems.
- Powdery substance around windows, door frames, counters or home exterior
- Scraping, grinding, buzzing or tapping noises
- A musty smell
- Dead or extensively damaged trees, plants or grass
- Tracks, droppings, discarded wings, or other bug parts
- Weak or hollow areas in floors or walls
- Colonies or swarms around garages, trees or neighboring homes
When looking for your forever home, the roof is an especially important consideration. A solid roof is so important that an older home with a new roof can be a better deal than a newer home with a bad roof. Besides the costs of replacement or repairs, leaky roofs can lead to other problems like mold, rot, and water damage. So how can you tell if the roof needs replacement? Look for these home inspection red flags.
- Roof replacement was never recorded
- Roof was replaced more than 20 years ago
- Excessive moss or plant growth
- Missing, curling or cracked shingles
- Dark spots or patchy paint on the ceiling
- Previous roof repairs
- Dark streaks on the roof
First-time homebuyers should be especially aware of what home renovations they can handle and what do expect. Some homes with minor problems can be a good investment that will increase in value over time. However, other homes with big problems can quickly eat up your renovation budget. Watch out for these home inspection red flags and work with an experienced home inspector and you can find a home that will build equity over time.
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