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Be a smart home shopper – 5 red flags to watch out for

Homeownership

Homebuying red flags don't always take a trained eye to spot. Here are five you’ll probably see for yourself once you know where to look.

Found a home you love? Thinking about making an offer?

You’ll want to hire a home inspector to give it a thorough once-over before you buy. But even without a trained eye, you can spot potential problems during an early walk-through—and save yourself time and money.

Here are five things to look for:

1. Foundation cracks

Don’t sweat hairline cracks along the home’s foundation or crumbling along the corners of a concrete slab. They are probably the result of minor settling and are usually cosmetic.

But a crack that is ¼-inch or wider along the home’s foundation could be more serious. A HomeAdvisor survey of roughly 3,059 foundation-repair projects found the typical homeowner pays between $1,979 and $6,985 for repairs, but costs can run as high as $13,000.1

2. Water damage

Check that gutters and downspouts are in good repair and diverting rainwater away from the buildings. Check the roof for missing shingles. Peek into each room’s corners for shadowy stains or spots that could indicate water damage.

And remember to take a deep, long sniff—a musty smell might mean mold has infiltrated the home.

3. Fresh paint

A new coat of color on the walls can be a good thing. But if a house appears to have had recent renovations, you’ll want to look closer.

Pay close attention to the quality of the work, especially the things you can easily see. Loose banisters, wobbly fixtures, or a sloppy paint job could signal that the renovations were made hastily or done improperly.

Ask for a record of renovations, to verify that the work was completed according to code. If the previous owner didn’t acquire the proper permits, any costs to correct the damage would fall on you.

4. Deck dangers

Decks that are outdated or improperly maintained might not be structurally sound. Keep an eye out for loose nails or railings that are too low or widely spaced.

A good guideline: Rails should be at least three feet high with no more than four inches between each rail or post, for the safety of small kids.

Meanwhile, make sure flooring boards are solid, not soft, and that there are no gaps or cracks where the deck meets the building.

5. Critters and creepy crawlies

Look for subtle cues that the home is hosting unwelcome visitors—little wings that look like fish scales around the windows or doors, egg sacs along baseboards, small holes in walls, or shredded piles of newspaper in attics.

 

Learn more.

Whether you’re all settled in or still on the hunt for a house to call your own, explore additional resources for maintaining your home throughout the year.