Six red flags to look out for in a new home
You got your pre-approval, found the perfect home and made an offer. At this point, you’ve probably already started daydreaming about sipping drinks on the back porch, cooking dinners in that giant kitchen or cozying up in that little reading nook that seems like it was built just for you. We know it’s easier said than done but try not to get too attached. Until you’ve signed all the closing documents and have the keys in your hand, the deal isn’t done.
It’s often difficult to remain objective during this emotional phase of the home purchase because you want the house to be perfect and you’re ready to make it yours. But before you close the deal, you should have a reputable home inspector to give the home a thorough examination to make sure that you’re making a good decision. After all, it’s probably the biggest financial decision you’ll ever make.
The importance of an inspection
Once you find the home that you’re ready to move into, you may not think you need a home inspection. After all, you’ve likely been in the house, looked in all of the cabinets, closets attics, crawl spaces and anything else. But it’s also likely that you don’t know all the red flags you should look for. There could be issues with the house, and once you get the keys, those issues become yours and yours alone.
Keep this in mind: most of the major issues that occur in a home tend to be found behind walls and under floors. So, while you may be able to spot less serious issues on your own, you’re going to want a professional to do a thorough investigation of the home to make sure there are no ticking time bombs lurking just out of your sight.
Here are a handful of red flags that an inspector may find that you should be on the lookout for.
A leaky roof is a huge red flag during the home inspection. If rain and snow are coming in, money is flying out. And replacing or repairing the roof is just one aspect of addressing the issue. There’s also the water damage to worry about—mold, mildew and wood rot—which can lead to health hazards and structural weakening. Replacing the roof and eliminating the effects of water can run up a huge bill, so be very wary of any problems in this area.
The plumbing of a house is often called “the guts” for good reason: it’s embedded within the walls, out of sight and hard to access. If the main sewer line or plumbing in your target home is many decades old, a leak or burst pipe is just waiting to happen, effectively acting as a ticking time bomb that can explode in a big financial loss.
Old and outdated electrical wiring can also be a big problem. Not only does it pose a fire hazard, it can compromise other essential home functions. If the electricity goes out, so do the lights, refrigerator, sump pump and temperature control, leaving you vulnerable to any number of disruptions and dangers.
Like putting in new plumbing, upgrading the home’s electrical wiring is a costly undertaking that requires opening up and repairing the walls. In short, there’s no easy or inexpensive way to get it done.
Along with the roof, the rest of the house should exhibit full waterproofing against the elements. Moisture in the floor and walls is just as serious as it is in the ceiling. Doors, windows and skylights will probably be the biggest areas of concern, where caulking and weather stripping may be dried out, disintegrated or destroyed. Replacing or resealing windows and doors isn’t typically a big deal; again, it’s the water damage that’s cause for alarm.
5. Safety issues
There are many unseen elements of a home that could be dangerous to you and your family. Carbon monoxide, radon, mold, and other safety issues should be tested for before you close on the home.
Sticking doors, uneven floors and cracks in the wall may indicate defects in the foundation. Some signs of stress are due to normal “settling” of the house, whereas others point to more serious structural concerns. Though your home inspector is trained to know the difference, he or she may call in a specialist to determine the extent of the issue.
If the foundation “tipped” or settled unevenly, it could slowly be ripping the frame of the house apart, and you don’t want any part of paying a structural engineer to save your home one day.
How to handle red flags
If you encounter potential deal breakers during the home inspection, you have a few options:
Continue with the purchase knowing you’ll need to invest in future repairs
If you go this route, you’ll accept the red flags and take on the responsibility of fixing them. Or getting used to living with them. If you’re handy, or build some renovations into your budget, this may be the option of least resistance.
Ask the seller to take care of the repairs
Talk to your real estate agent about going back to the seller and ask them to take care of the repairs themselves. They can usually do this in one of three ways: Take the cost of the repairs off the purchase price, offer to pay for the repairs themselves or take care of fixing the issues themselves.
Terminate the deal altogether
If the red flag reveals enough of an issue that you don’t feel comfortable buying the home, the home inspection gives you the ability to walk away from the deal. There may be a cost associated with terminating the deal, so talk with your real estate agent if you decide to go this route.
Whatever you decide, it’s important to try to keep emotion out of the equation. Work closely with your real estate agent to make sure you’re making the right choice. And consult with an expert loan officer if you decide to attempt to renegotiate the financial terms of the deal.