Warning Signs When Buying A House

Mark Moz/flickrChoosing a home is all too often based on emotion. New homeowners talk about "falling in love" or "feeling a connection" as soon as they walked in the door of a particular house. That is a great way to end up with a home that will drain your pocketbook with tons of expensive repairs. Assess a potential property purchase with your head, not your heart, and watch out for these 8 common warning signs when buying a house.

  1. Problematic location. Research the location before you go out to view any home. Buying a house in a flood zone, for example, can mean thousands of dollars in insurance premiums -- not to mention danger to your property and yourself. Check for zoning laws that might restrict future renovations or additions. Find out whether a high rise, which would block your sunlight and view, or a new landfill is scheduled to be constructed nearby. Most important: see whether there are large numbers of properties for sale -- or simply standing empty -- on local streets, often a red flag of a declining neighborhood.

  2. A house that doesn't look like a home. First impressions definitely matter. Most sellers put in an effort to add curb appeal to their home. When you view a house which looks untidy, neglected, or downright abused at the very first glance, chances are that what lies beneath the surface isn't any more appealing. Think faulty wiring, worn out pipes, and more.

  3. Hidden issues. Don't be shy. If you are seriously interested, open windows and inspect cupboard interiors. You're on the lookout for sticky sashes or difficult doors, both of which can be expensive to repair. At the same time, be aware of other problems like musty odors (which can be a sign of mold damage), mudlike material or tiny piles of sawdust (possible termites), or rodent droppings.

  4. Danger signals in walls and ceilings. Stains, water marks, and bubbling or peeling paint in either of these areas usually indicate trouble with dampness. Cracks, on the other hand, tend to signify that the house's frame has warped or that its foundation has shifted. While cracks smaller than 1/3 inch in an old house usually are nothing to worry about, major cracking in a home of any age is problematic.

  5. Poor water quality, pressure, or leaks. Turn on the taps and flush the toilets. The reason behind this is to check the condition of the water pressure and ascertain that all the drains are in good working order. At the same time, see whether the water comes out of the faucets rust-colored or smelling peculiar. If it seems all right, fill up your drinking bottle and take a few sips to sample the water's quality.

  6. Red flags in the bathroom. Wall or floor tiles that have lifted or cracked -- or are gone altogether -- are trying to tell you something, and it's not good news. Very possibly it means the shower was not correctly tiled and sealed, allowing moisture to penetrate. You can probably look forward to a hiring a contractor to re-tile the shower completely if you end up buying this house.

  7. Electrical hazards. Scope out the home's electrical receptacles and switches. Are they in poor condition with brown or even blackened areas? How about the breaker box? Is it up-to-date and orderly, with a neatly labeled diagram, or the opposite? Beware elderly knob-and-tube or aluminum wiring; they are fire hazards and will need to be totally replaced.

  8. Dismaying disclosure. A disclosure packet is a collection of documents prepared by the sellers, consisting of a preliminary title report as well as all material facts concerning the house, such as general condition of the home, details of all recent home renovations and repairs, and any deaths or crimes which took place on the premises. Often a professional home inspection report is contained in the packet. Beware these serious warning signs when buying a house: liens on the property, past problems with water damage, foundation issues, or un-permitted home improvement.

 Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

Updated November 4, 2018.

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