Of all the steps to buying a house, most people spend the bulk of their time touring properties.
Your real estate search will take you through many homes. Besides the qualities you know you love – a big yard, exposed brick walls, skylights – you also want to have an eye out for the less-exciting stuff that could cost you money down the road.
Whether you’re at a private showing or an open house, here are five things to watch for in your real estate search:
1.) Damaged foundation
The cost of replacing a water heater is one thing, but fixing the foundation of a home can lead you down a slippery slope of expenses.
Leaning, sloping, bulging concrete, foundation cracks, rotting joists — none of these signs need to be a complete deal-breaker. But, they could all signal a major structural issue that could result in major expenses, so you’ll want to move forward with your eyes wide open.
If a home is clearly having structural issues, you may not want to pursue it — at least not without an excellent inspector putting the risk level in perspective.
2.) Evidence of pest infestations
Make sure to open kitchen cupboards and check under the deck to search for active pests or sign of past infestations. A bunch of dead insects indoors means that insects are probably living inside.
Shredded paper in a dark corner can be evidence of rodent nesting. Partially-used pest control products in the garage or under the sink are a sign of an ongoing battle. Termites can be majorly destructive, and they may leave behind holes in the wood, sagging floors, or even sawdust-like droppings.
Know which pests are common locally and how to spot them – and decide what types or levels of infestation might be deal-breakers for you.
3.) Water damage
Look up at the ceilings.
Any spots, puffy streaks or brown corners? If so, get your agent to ask the seller what happened. Figure out whether you’ll soon be on the hook to fix a window, roof or plumbing.
Check out baseboards and basements for dampness or mildew – they could be signs of flooding. And with flooding could come mold problems that are an additional cost and health concern, too.
4.) Check faucets, light bulbs and toilets
Don’t be shy: Go ahead and flip that switch, flush that toilet, run that water! Does the hot water run hot? Cold run cold? Let it run for a second — see (or hear) any leaking or dripping? Check under the sink, too.
If lights won’t turn on, try to figure out if the sellers neglected to replace a light bulb or if you’re looking at an electrical issue.
5.) Water drainage outside the house
If the house has a basement, find out where water drains. Some sellers opt to paint over past water damage, so you may have to do some detective work.
If you have a chance to see a house on a rainy day, take it!
It’ll give you a good sense of whether water pools around the house, whether the gutters run onto the foundation, and whether you’re likely to have indoor water issues to contend with.