Most houses have hairline cracks, which simply indicate that the house is settling into position, but large gaps signal a bigger issue with the house foundation, says Gamble. Other tipoffs: sticking doors or windows, visible cracks above window frames, and uneven floors. How do you know if the floors are uneven? Roll a marble from one side to the other.
Signs of deferred property maintenance
When you walk through a home, you need look for signs that the homeowner might have neglected routine home maintenance. Issues such as burned-out lightbulbs, long grass, leaky faucets, or faded paint are signs indicate the seller may have ignored other ongoing home maintenance tasks that can cause real problems.
An attentive homeowner is going to flush the water heater annually, change air filters monthly, clean the chimney, inspect the roof for leaks, and regularly recaulk around windows and doors, for example, which will keep all those systems in good working order. If the seller couldn’t afford the time or money to fix maintenance issues you can see at a cursory glance, just think what your home inspection will reveal.
That neighborhood creek might look picturesque now, but it won’t when it comes cascading through your back door. The increasing unpredictability of weather means that it’s vital to consider the possibility of flooding.
Take a second to pull back the curtains to check for lopsided frames, and then give the windows a tug to make sure they slide easily. If they stick, it could be a sign of foundation issues, as noted above, or just poor installation. The only fix for that -and it’s an expensive one- is new windows.
Without adequate interior ventilation, moisture sticks around, which can create mold and increase allergies. The tipoff: Look for condensation on windows or slightly bubbled or peeling paint around windows, doors, or vents. This can indicate moisture in the walls and ceiling drywall.
To detect possible signs of mold while wandering through a house, discreetly open bathroom and sink cabinets to take a look around water pipes or drains.
Even small black or gray spots indicate that more serious issues with the property may be lurking. You can also check the caulking around faucets and tubs for black spots, and look for patches on the ceiling.
A musty odor can indicate water damage, even if you don’t see standing water on the property. Check walls and ceilings for water lines; they probably indicate flooding from a leak or a burst pipe that may have caused internal damage. Also, take a peek at exposed piping in basements or laundry rooms, and check for rust, water stains, or leaking.
Before you rush into anything you may regret, watch out for the following signs of trouble.