Timing is everything in real estate. So if you’re in the market for a house, congratulations. Real estate experts agree that many markets are in the midst of one of the strongest buyer’s markets in years. That means that as a buyer, you can afford to be picky. Be on the lookout for any indications that a house has problems, whether they’re small issues that can be addressed before closing, or large ones that make you think twice about making an offer. So while you are tripping over for-sale signs, make sure to notice the ones that say: “buyer beware.”
1. Nice house, not-so-nice neighborhood
Start your inspection as soon as you enter the neighborhood and check out the condition of community commons areas as well as other houses. You have little control over either of these, but they have an impact on overall home values.
2. Downhill dampness
Once you get to the home, notice whether it has a front or backyard that slopes toward the house, which could spell drainage issues. Check for a wet basement or crawl space, and be alert for damp, musty odors inside.
3. Shaky foundation
Look for cracks in the brickwork or a chimney that seems to be pulling away from the house. These could be signs of foundation problems, which generally are fixable, but expensive.
4. Topside trouble
Bring your binoculars and check the roof for loose, missing or defective shingles. Roofs typically last 20 to 30 years, so if you’re looking at one that’s getting close to the two-decade mark, consider that when you make your offer.
5. Household hazards
If the house is more than 25 years old, be sure to ask whether it was built with asbestos materials, lead paint or plumbing or other well-known toxins. Asbestos can be a major hurdle if you’re considering renovations down the road, and lead abatement can be pricey.
6. Aging air systems
Find out the age of the heating and air conditioning systems. If they are older than 10 to 15 years, assume you’d have to replace them at some point.
7. Future foils
This is where a REALTOR® can really help. Your agent may know if there are road-building plans or zoning issues that could negatively affect the neighborhood in the future. If not, you may have to do the leg work yourself, checking with local government transportation and zoning departments.
Don’t just beware, be smart and hire a professional home inspector before you agree to buy any house.