Looking for a house can be an exciting time full of possibilities. You have your list of needs and wants and you are hoping to find your dream home that checks all the boxes. When you are touring potential options, whether at an open house or at a showing with your Realtor, don’t forget to look past the beautiful décor and focus on some important things that are often overlooked.
When a home is on the market, the seller tries to present it in the best possible light. Hopefully, it has been well cleaned and decluttered; sometimes freshly painted and even professionally staged. It is easy to be distracted by the furniture and décor that probably won’t stay with the home anyway and forget to look at the “bones” of the property. If you are having a home inspection, many of these issues will probably be covered during the inspection. If they are visible at the time you make an offer, a home inspection is not the time to negotiate items you could already see were problems. These things should be addressed at the time you make the offer. If you aren’t having a home inspection, then you really need to pay attention to these areas before you make an offer.
The first red flag during a home tour is heavy air freshener scent. Some people just like heavily scented home fragrances but it may be covering up an underlying problem. The two biggest offenders are stale cigarette smoke and pet odors. Both of which can be very hard to remove. If the problem is extensive you may have to remove flooring and drywall to completely eliminate the odors, which can be very expensive. If you are considering a home that has air freshener overload, take a good look at the walls and floors for signs of pet stains or discoloration from smoke. These can be red flags for an underlying odor problem.
Another often overlooked item is windows. Most often the windows are covered with either blinds or curtains and not readily visible. People don’t usually take the time to look behind the blinds to check out the condition of the windows and frames. They may be old, inoperable, cracked or fogged and the frames may be broken, have peeling paint or water damage. Windows are not inexpensive, especially if you have to replace a whole house full. Knowing the condition of the
windows before you make an offer can give you some negotiating room if they will need to be replaced.
Look very closely at the home’s foundation. This can be a very costly area to repair if there are issues. The most common problem is cracks leading to water seepage and/or flooding which can also lead to mold. Mold is very costly to remediate so look closely for signs of active moisture that is conducive to mold growth. Take a close look at the ceilings in the bathrooms and around the tub/shower area for signs of mold as well. Improper ventilation in bathrooms is a leading cause of mold and mildew growth and can be a continuing issue if not properly corrected. There should be a properly functioning and ventilated exhaust fan in every bathroom with a tub/shower to allow air circulation and prevent constant dampness.
Inspect the homes exposed plumbing pipes for signs of rust or leakage. Both of these can be signs of impending failure which can also be a costly fix. Having to re- plumb a house can cost thousands especially if the plumbing pipes are cast iron. Look under the kitchen sink and bathroom vanities for signs of leakage or water damage. Look around the toilets and tub area for signs of leaks as well.
If the home you are considering has area rugs in some of the rooms, don’t be afraid to see what is underneath them. Most often they are simply decorative but occasionally they may be hiding stained carpet or discolored or damaged hardwood. Again, better to know this before you make the offer than have a nasty surprise at your final walk through when the seller has removed them.
House hunting should be an exciting experience. Doing a little detective work before committing to purchasing that home can give you the peace of mind that you are making the most informed decision possible and help to make your home purchase a smart one. Happy hunting!