A mortgage is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be rushed. At the very least, take the time to evaluate your dream home to see if it’s really worth the asking price. Many homes seem well-maintained but are hiding bigger problems. Here are some things to look for so you don’t wind up in a money pit.
Pitched floors in a wood-frame house are a dead sign of structural issues and high repair costs. A bad concrete foundation is much more difficult to deal with. Check the basement and perimeter of the house. Very small cracks are usually indicative of ordinary settling of the earth. These can be filled and sealed. Larger cracks mean major issues. One rule of thumb is that if you can insert a pencil into the crack, don’t buy the house.
Built-on porches, decks and so forth can also be very expensive to replace. Soft floor boards, loose hand rails, and wobbly steps could be a sign that the structure is seriously decayed or was poorly built in the first place. Repair costs could be considerable, but there’s also the safety issue. Unstable structures can lead to injuries for your loved ones or lawsuits from visitors.
Look for any brown spots or blistering on the ceiling or walls that could indicate leaks. Green or black spots mean dangerous mold and mildew, which could have spread through interior spaces that you can’t even see. This usually requires special services to remove and can mean costly reconstruction. Have a professional plumber from a reputable company inspect the house to track down leaks or identify pipes that need replacing.
Both rodents and insects will find a way in through the smallest openings. Frass, such as little piles of sawdust or fine droppings, can mean carpenter ants or termites. Rodents leave their own droppings everywhere they go. Be sure to carefully check vents or eaves for signs of bats, wasps and hornets, and even ordinary birds that can nest and contaminate hidden nooks.
Take a ladder if you have to, but get to where you have a good view of the roof. If you see a lot of split or loose tiles, and cracked or folded shingles, you’ll probably need to think about roof work. A roof that’s been leaking for some time usually means that water has soaked into the underlying wood to do structural damage. Rooftop depressions or rotted eaves can indicate a need for expensive repairs.
Even if you’re open to a low-cost fixer upper, you’ll still want to know the extent of the damage in order to negotiate a good deal. Don’t hesitate to get professional help if it means preventing a big mistake.