Homebuyers often follow their hearts, and they should. Sometimes just going
with a gut feeling is the best indicator. But when it’s house-touring time, it’s
important to set those emotions aside and replace them with clear-headed
thinking and a critical eye. Otherwise, your potential dream house might just
turn into a money pit.
Although you should always hire a professional inspection before you
complete the sale, you can spot the more obvious trouble signs early in the
process simply by knowing what to look for. You can quickly check five key
areas to determine if the home has serious problems.
Roof. A new roof can cost between $5,000 and $15,000 depending on
• A quick method to determine if the roof is leaking is to look in the attic.
WARNING: Don’t climb into the attic yourself, unless you know how to
walk on joists; you might step through the ceiling and injure yourself.
Simply open the attic access panel and look inside.
• With a flashlight, check the rafters. They should not show water stains,
which indicate leaking.
• With the flashlight off, look up at the roof. Any pinpoints of light shining
through indicate a worn roof.
Foundation. A cracked foundation is a serious matter. It can cost tens of
thousands of dollars to fix, and, in severe cases, may not be fixable. Keep an
eye out for these potential warning signs:
• V-shaped cracks (larger at the top than at the bottom) around the
perimeter of the house.
• Cracks in interior walls near corners of doors or windows. Look at all the
corners of windows and doors, and at joints where walls meet walls,
ceilings, or doors for signs that they are pulling away from each other.
• Doors that stick and squeak.
• Leaks and cracks in and around the fireplace.
• Obvious cracks in brick and mortar.
Piping. Copper piping rarely corrodes and is the plumbing of choice these
days, but many older homes have galvanized steel plumbing. After 30 years or
so it tends to rust out and leak. Replacing it can cost $5,000 or more, so it’s
something you’ll want to watch out for. Call a plumber if you have specific
Flooding. If a house is poorly situated on its lot, flooding can occur under the
house, which can seriously damage the home.
• In the basement, check for water stains on the foundation indicating flooding
during rainy periods. If you find these, call in a soils engineer to confirm the
problem and suggest solutions.
Unapproved work. All improvements to the property should have been done
with permits from the local building department. Work done without permit
may be substandard and, if discovered later, may need to be ripped out.
• Go down to your local building department and request copies of permits
for all work that was done at the property address. Compare these with any
additions or replacements done by the seller. If work was not done by
permit, you may ask the seller to obtain permits for the work and bring it up
to building-code standards before you purchase.
This information is brought to you by a proud member of the Texas Association of REALTORS®. Whenever you buy, sell, or lease real estate, make sure your agent is a REALTOR®.