When you’re ready to buy your first home, the excitement of finally owning a place and “nesting” in a property you can truly call your own can be a bit blinding. Those shopping for a home naturally attend open houses and showings hoping that today will be the day they find one – wishing that this next one is the one. Nobody wants to drag out the process of finding a home. And if you’ve been approved for a loan, that approval only lasts so long, so you may not even be able to afford to drag out the process. T
he clock is ticking, and if you don’t find a place before that loan approval runs out, you miss out on that great rate you got this time around. Furthermore, you may just be fed up with the place where you currently reside, increasing your sense of urgency surrounding finding a home. All of these matters and more can cause us to wear rose-colored glasses when we look at homes. And first-time buyers are most at risk for missing major flaws. Leneiva Head, owner of Welcome Home Realty, went over some red flags for which first-time buyers should keep an eye out.
Beware of flippers
There’s one interesting reason we may be finding a particularly high incidence of issues today. “We’re in a time when there is a lot of flipping going on,” explains Head. “So we have an influx of investors, and they don’t all have the same integrity when renovating properties. They can make it look good on the surface – counters, painting etc. – but if you go deeper, you find problems.”
Check for cracks
Head recommends looking for cracks in the foundation. Cracks in a foundation could pose small risks, like water finding its way under the home during heavy rainfall, but they can also be indicative of more severe problems, like structural issues. Then you can face problems like a sagging roof or angled floors down the line.
Open and close doors
“Pay attention to corners of doors,” instructs Head. “Can the doors close flush? Do they fall back open? You don’t want settling issues.” Doors that hang open or don’t close flush with frames can be signs of settling issues, and settling issues can be indicators of problems with the foundation of the property. Some settling is normal with time, but have an inspector look into this.
Open and close windows
“Windows aren’t always replaced during renovations,” Head advises. She recommends opening and closing all windows to see if they close flush with their frames, especially in older houses. Windows that don’t close properly can lead to poor insulation, and can even allow moisture inside of the home during rainfall.
Get in the crawlspace
Okay maybe you don’t want to personally go into the crawlspace, but Head recommends having your inspector go in there and look for standing water. “Full gutters can lead to wood rot,” Head warns. Dry rot is very dangerous as it can lead to structural issues, and in some cases, can even lead to brickwork and timber collapsing.
Look for roof damage
Head instructs potential buyers to look for visible rain damage on the roof. Keep in mind that the shingles on your roof are your home’s first defense against moisture issues. If those are wearing down, then they can let moisture into the house, which can eventually impact the structural integrity of the property.
Head recommends potential buyers look at the age of appliances. “There is the age of the AC and water heater on their stickers,” she says, adding, “HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) units should last 20 years.” If these will need to be replaced soon, that can be a negotiating point when making an offer.
“Flush toilets and run showers,” advises Head. “See if the water drains.” Slow-draining water in sinks and tubs can mean the pipes are clogged with hair and other debris. However, not addressing that type of clogging for a long time can lead to more serious issues, such as interior damage and even broken pipes.
Look under cabinets
Head recommends opening cabinets, particularly those under sinks, and looking for water stains, as these can also be signs of interior damage or pipe corrosion. Stains often mean there is a leak in the drain, which can happen when connections are worn out, or when plumbing lines have shifted. These issues need to be addressed.
A couple assurances
When in doubt, Head suggests asking an inspector to give you a checklist of items to look for when you’re first touring houses. You won’t pay for an inspector to look at every place you do, but this checklist can help you eliminate some properties right away. Or, know to ask for the seller to fix the issues. Should your inspector find problems once you’re in escrow, and the seller won’t fix them, Head says you can just ask for your earnest money deposit back.