There’s nothing like buying a home. From the tours and open houses to the paperwork on the back end, there are so many pieces that go into the homebuying equation and it is easy to miss a step. With so many things going on, it is incredibly easy to miss a step or overlook a glaring red flag.
While your mind thinks about mortgage documents, school districts, and budgeting, it is easy to overlook the details of a home itself. There are some things that look great in pictures, but in reality, are far from it. This post will highlight the 10 things you should keep an eye out for while shopping for a home.
1. Cracks in the Foundation
The foundation is often considered the most important part of a home. It is what bears all the weight of the house, and it alone keeps all of the walls, doors, floors, and ceilings square and in line with each other. A cracked or damaged foundation can mean a sloping or lopsided house.
The big problem with a cracked foundation is that it can be very costly and difficult to repair. Foundational repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are major undertakings.
As a prospective homebuyer, the last thing you want to do is buy a home that will immediately need thousands of dollars of work. But on top of that, homes with foundational damage usually also have irreparable structural damage, as the house loses its shape and squareness as the foundation beneath it cracks.
Finding cracks in the foundation can be very difficult if the house doesn’t have a basement, or if the basement is finished. In these cases, only a structural engineer can reliably tell whether or not the foundation is sound. However, if there is an unfinished basement with a concrete slab floor, you can usually tell pretty easily whether or not the foundation is healthy.
2. Odors and Other Scents
Nobody wants to live in a home that emits a foul odor. Foul odors can be incredibly difficult to get rid of, and their causes are often hard to identify. If you want into a home filled with bad smells, you’ll likely feel like walking right back out the door.
While this is true, there are other things to be looking out for. If the windows are open but it is cold or rainy outside, this is likely a sign that the owner is trying to air the house out. Similarly, if there are artificial air fresheners strewn throughout the house, there is a good chance that the owner is trying to cover something up. In either of these cases, it is important to ask why.
3. Fresh Paint on Just a Few Walls
While fresh paint may be a great thing, fresh paint only on select walls may tell an entirely different story. When people repaint their homes, they usually do all of the walls, or at least all of the walls in a given room. If you see that one or two walls in a room are freshly painted, but the others aren’t, it is important to ask why.
Often, walls are repainted to cover up structural or water damage that may have occurred. All damage is important to know about as a prospective homebuyer, and identifying differences in paint color is a great way to figure out what the seller might be hiding.
4. Bugs and Other Pest Damage
Bugs and pests are everywhere, and most homes will have to deal with them at some point. However, if there are outward signs that a home has had a pest problem, or if there are clearly pests currently living in the home, these may be red flags.
Pest infestations can cause deep-rooted damage in a home, and much of it is invisible to the naked eye. When you see outward signs of an infestation, that likely means it was so bad that the damage couldn’t even be hidden. Most pests live beneath the floorboards and in the walls, and the damage is usually invisible. If you’re seeing bite marks on the walls, droppings, or other kinds of insect damage, beware.
5. Off-Limits Areas
When you buy a house, the entire thing becomes your property. Therefore, when you are touring a house, you should have the right to see the entire thing! If a seller labels certain rooms as off-limits, it is important to ask why and to make sure that you see them before agreeing to any terms. While they might label rooms as off-limits simply because they are currently filled with the owner’s things or equipment, you should still make sure that they are in good condition before you agree to purchase a home.
If the owner doesn’t want you to see certain spaces, like the attic, basement, or cellar, this is probably a red flag. You never want to discover the house’s dirty secrets after you buy it!
6. Amateur-Level Repairs or Renovations
Homeowners often look to save money by doing repairs on their own. This can really be a cost-effective way to repair or renovate! However, when amateurs do work, it is usually noticeable and can deteriorate the value of a home.
If you are touring a home and see gaps in the molding, unlevel cabinets, or poorly installed flooring, it is important to ask the seller why these things are occurring. If the floors were a DIY project, for example, you will likely have to replace them at some point on your own. This can get costly, especially if the previous owners had a real tendency to do things themselves.
7. Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew can be dangerous and hard to maintain. Mold is especially dangerous for immunocompromised people and children, and it can be very hard to get a handle on. If you see mold, or if you smell mold, you should absolutely ask about it.
Mold isn’t the worst problem in the world, but it is a serious one. While the presence of mold is a danger, it also means that there is likely water damage, a leak, or another air moisture problem within the house. These are all things you want to fix to make sure the problem is truly resolved.
8. Doors that Don’t Close Properly
You should take note of the way the doors in a house close. If you have difficulty closing doors, or if they look a little crooked compared to the door frame, this is a sign that the house has shifted. All houses shift over time as they set into the ground around them, but foundational damage can cause the house to really sit lopsided. If there are doors that won’t close, or if the doors appear to close but do not latch shut, there may be a foundational issue that you should look into.
9. Overall Negative Impression of the Neighborhood
When you buy a house, you’re buying its neighborhood and community, too. You want to make sure that the place you live is truly pleasant, and is truly somewhere you want to spend a lot of your time. If your impression of the neighborhood is bad, that probably means the neighborhood is bad. While it is never great to judge a book by its cover, curb appeal and the vibes of a neighborhood generally tell the story pretty well. If you are skeptical of a neighborhood based on its appearance, there’s a good chance that your gut feeling is accurate.
10. Long Time on Market
Houses tend to sell pretty quickly in most market conditions. As long as the economy isn’t experiencing a strong buyer’s market, a house shouldn’t sit for sale for 6+ months. If a house has been for sale for over half a year and the price keeps getting reduced, there is likely more to the story. While the slashes in price may be advantageous to some buyers, this usually indicates that there is a bigger piece of the puzzle that is keeping buyers from buying the home. This is absolutely something to ask about when touring it.
Thanks for reading our post on the 10 things you should keep an eye out for while shopping for a home. We hope that this post is helpful for you as you navigate the home buying process. There is no such thing as a bad question or even too many questions. It is better to know the truth before you close on a house than to find out afterward that the foundation is cracked!
If you visit Myrtle Beach or any other place in South Carolina and fall in love, we’re here to help. We at The Boyd Team are committed to helping you find the right property for your needs and dreams. Any question that you have about moving to the area and finding your dream home by the beach is our pleasure to answer. Feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text or call us at (843) 222-8566, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Being true natives of the Grand Strand and Horry County and with over 25 years of experience in the local real estate market, whether buying or selling, we can help you make your dreams a reality.
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