It’s easy to fall for a property at first site. But sometimes your first impression can cause you to overlook the signs that warn you, “Slow down. Danger ahead.”
Whether you are looking at a home for the first time of reviewing the inspection report on a property you’ve made an offer on, pay attention to the following red flags to avoid a costly mistake.
A little chipped paint here. A few rusted fixtures or a clogged HVAC filter. Are these the signs of a busy homeowner? Just a few oversights? Or could they mean expensive repairs on the horizon?
While not every home will look like it was built yesterday (and even some new construction has issues), you should be wary of a pattern of neglect by the homeowners.
If you find windows with broken screens or unpatched holes in the walls, they aren’t necessarily deal breakers. But these minor defects can add up to serious problems over time.
A deck that hasn’t received proper cleaning and sealing, for example, could need repair or replacement soon. Or the condenser for the air conditioning system might fail prematurely because it hasn’t been regularly serviced.
All of these minor problems can cost you money. They could also indicate major problems that you just haven’t found yet.
Poor water flow around a house is not always obvious, especially if you are buying during a dry season. You can look for low spots in the yard, or try to identify any signs of standing water.
Landscaping is a small part of the equation, but the main issue is whether the water is directed away from the house and the foundation.
So the yard should slope away from the house. Gutters should be clean and in good order, preventing all the roof run off from causing problems.
If you find that water does gather near the foundation, you should be on the lookout for indications that the house is no longer level or that the foundation is cracked.
Signs of a failing or damaged foundation should throw a major red flag.
When the foundation cracks or is no longer level, the house shifts and problems start to show. Windows stick when you try to open them. Doors won’t close or latch properly. Floors can be sloped, or tiles might crack.
Cracks in the sheetrock, especially at the corners of doorways, are often a sign of foundation issues. As are stair step cracks in exterior brick walls.
Sometimes the flaws occur over time as the house settles, so they are not definite signs of foundation problems. If you start to see more than a few of these issues, though, you should have an engineer evaluate the foundation to see if it needs repair.
If it does, you don’t necessarily have to walk away, but you should be aware of the potential repair issues you’ll need to deal with. Also, some lenders won’t sign off on a house with structural problems, so you might have to ask the seller to make repairs before you close.
No matter the material, a roof will deteriorate over time. And since the roof is your first defense against rain, it needs to be in working order.
You’ll want to note broken shingles or missing flashing before you buy a house rather than after a tropical storm or hurricane blows through.
If you have a shared roof, like in a condo or townhome, you should find out how old the roof is and what the estimate is for the next repair. This is also a good time to look into the COA’s finances to find out if you should expect any special assessments in the near future.
You might not have to replace a damaged roof immediately if repairs can address the problems. However, if these issues have been present for a while, they can cause even more problems in the attic and below.
Water is a primary enemy of a home. Penetrations through the roof, an unnoticed leaky pipe, or air conditioning drip pan could cause problems.
If the damage was properly repaired, you likely have nothing to worry about. But if the homeowner just tried to cover up the leak, you could have a host of problems on your hands.
Water can cause sheetrock to lose its strength. Wood can rot or be weakened by water damage and compromise structural integrity. And, of course, there’s the issue with mold, which is something no new homeowner wants to deal with.
So look for water stains or other signs that water found its way to an unwelcome place. If you, or your inspector, find anything suspicious, investigate the history of the problem.
Neighborhood in Decline
Aside from the building itself, you should also pay attention to the surrounding neighborhood.
Obviously, you want to live in an area that suits you, but you should look at the condition of other homes in the area as well. Do they look well-maintained? Are there any signs of abandonment or other indications that the area is in distress? Have there been recent foreclosures or short sales?
Your Realtor should have a good sense of the market’s general health, so be sure to ask.
Also, try to find out how diligent the HOA is about enforcing deed restrictions. While it can feel like a hassle when they send you a notice, an efficient HOA can help keep a neighborhood healthy and maintain everyone’s property values.
Unwary home buyers can pull the trigger a little too quickly on a home that looks promising but is actually a money pit. Sometimes they have been looking for a long time and just want the process to end. Sometimes they just fall in love with a place and want to forgive all its faults.
This is why a home inspection is critical. Even before you’ve made an offer though, an experienced Realtor can help you keep at least one eye open for some of the more common red flags when you view properties.
If you’re looking to buy in Boca Raton or the surrounding area and you want a trusted agent to help you steer clear of the common pitfalls, contact the Jablon Team today.
Marc Jablon, the Jablon Team