Over 5 million Americans will buy a new home this year.
But if you aren’t careful, that new home could turn into a money pit really fast. Just because a house looks nice on the surface doesn’t mean it’s in good condition.
We’ve put together this guide to help you learn what to look for in a home before you buy.
1. Check for Structural Issues
Buying a home that has structural damage can cost you a lot of money farther down the road. Make sure you keep a close eye out for any of the following issues when you start to browse houses on the market.
Find out how old the roof is and what the life expectancy is for the roofing material. If you buy a home with an old roof, you may have to replace the entire thing right after you move in.
But don’t rely completely on the seller’s word.
If the roof looks like it’s in bad condition, you may want to walk away from that home. Repairing roof leaks or, in serious cases, a collapse can be expensive.
Look for any type of damage to the foundation of the home. If you see any cracks or if the foundation looks like it’s seen better days, the house might not structurally sound.
Cracks in the Walls
Cracks in the walls, even small ones, are signs of serious foundation issues. You should also check for cracks around the door frames and windows.
Take the time to open all the windows in the house. If the window sticks in the frame as you pull it open, be wary.
Sticky windows could mean there’s something wrong with the foundation. But they could also mean the seller DIYed the installation.
A poor DIY job might force you to reinstall the windows yourself, but even more important, it should serve as a warning that the seller might have taken short cuts with other important features of the home.
2. Turn on the Furnace and AC
An old or damaged HVAC system isn’t energy efficient. Even if it can still turn on and heat or cool your home, it will suck a lot of extra money out of your energy bill.
Turn on both the heater and the air conditioning. Make sure they’re in good condition and can heat or cool the entire home.
3. Examine the Plumbing
Get down on your hands and knees to check the plumbing under the sinks. Check the pipes for any sign of damage or leaks.
But don’t stop at the pipes.
Make sure you examine the entire house for water damage. There might be leaks in the pipes you can’t see.
Don’t Overlook Mold
Mold is a serious problem that can have some dangerous effects on your health. If you or anyone in your family has allergies or asthma, you’ll want to pay careful attention to any signs of mold in the home.
Look for mold around the pipes or any other area that gets exposed to moisture. If you smell a foul, musty scent in any of these places, there might be hidden mold in the walls or behind the paint.
4. Look for Signs of Electrical Problems
Many older homes have subpar electrical systems. Though you can’t see the electrical wiring itself, you can find other hints the electrical work in the home might have some issues.
For example, things like junction boxes or a lack of high-amp outlets are bad signs.
Even small electrical problems can turn into a serious safety hazard. So if you have any concerns about the electrical system, you might want to go browse other homes or hire an inspector.
5. Don’t Ignore Weird Smells
Every time you walk into a new room, take a big whiff of the space. If you smell any scents like gas or sewage, something has gone seriously wrong inside this house.
And don’t let the smell of freshly baked cookies or lit candles fool you. The seller might be trying to mask something less pleasant.
Always smell every room, closet, corner, and crawlspace you can.
6. Don’t Take Insulation for Granted
If it has nice walls and a good roof, you might assume the house you’re considering has proper insulation as well.
Don’t do this.
Old or damaged insulation won’t be able to keep the house a comfortable temperature year-round. Because of this, heated and cooled air will escape from your home, meaning you lose money.
Do your best to check the insulation in the home. Poke your head in the attic and any crawlspaces. You should also make sure the windows are double-paned and the doors seal properly.
7. Walk Through the Entire Property
Don’t focus so much attention on the house itself that you forget to examine the rest of the property.
Take a slow walk through the front and backyards. Are the fences in good condition? Is the driveway paved or full of holes? Is the home at risk of flooding during the rainy season?
If the property has a lot of problems that need fixing, the house might not be worth the amount of money it’s going to take.
8. Touch Everything
Make sure you touch everything in any house you’re considering.
Turn on all the lights to make sure they work. Flush the toilets. Turn on the faucets. Move any area rugs to check the condition of the floor underneath them.
You should even taste the water.
The last thing you want to do is buy a house and realize something doesn’t work the day after you move in. So test everything—even if it takes a while to do so.
What to Look for in a Home and When to Stay Away
You should always hire a home inspector to examine a house before you buy it. They know what to look for in a home and will be able to tell you if the house has any problems or needs any repairs.
But it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for these issues yourself. If you notice any of these warning signs, you might want to look for a new home somewhere else.
Want more advice about buying a new home? Make sure you check out the rest of our blog!