Buying a new home, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, is an exciting time. Whether you’re working with a real estate agent, flipping through photos on online real estate marketplaces, or touring prospective homes in person, there’s a lot to consider before making an offer on a house.
Before you close, you’ll hire an inspector to make sure there aren’t any major problems that need fixing. But if a house has issues and you know what to look for, you might be able to spot problems during your first tour—before you fall in love and put down a deposit.
Too Many Scents
There’s no doubt sellers want to make their house attractive to potential buyers. What better way than with an enticing scent like freshly baked cookies or a burning candle? But, air fresheners strategically placed throughout the house might be covering up something less pleasant. Whether it’s mildew, pet odors, smoke, or an overflowing septic tank outside, use your nose to sniff out any potential issues.
You might think you need to wait for an inspector to uncover a foundation issue, but you may be able to spot signs of a problem. Check doors and windows: Are they difficult to open or close? Are they sticking? Are there noticeable cracks above windows or archways? Do the floors seem uneven? These things don’t always mean there’s a problem, but they’re worth asking about.
Water damage leaves behind a noticeable trail. Whether it’s a stain on the ceiling where the roof leaked, brownish lines on walls, or rusty pipes in the basement, water damage isn’t always easy to cover up. Lift up area rugs to see what’s underneath. Check for stains, moldy smells, or exposed piping in basements and laundry rooms.
Off Limits Rooms
If you aren’t allowed in certain rooms during an open house, make sure you have the opportunity to see those spaces if you’re interested in purchasing the house. Sometimes homeowners use a spare room to store their belongings because the house is staged, so it isn’t always a sign the owner is hiding something. Even so, you should make sure that room is available to see before making any decisions.
Lack of Maintenance
Are there light fixtures with burned out bulbs? Are closet doors off their tracks? Is the grass properly mowed and are shrubs trimmed? Are the gutters cleaned? Inspect the electrical outlets and turn light switches on and off to make sure they work. Lights or electrical outlets that don’t work might be a sign of faulty wiring. Look for signs the owners have taken care of the home and performed routine maintenance.
Which Way Does the Water Flow?
Is the driveway or yard sloped away from the house or toward it? You want to know where water will flow when it rains. It doesn’t matter if there’s a basement or not, too much water can damage the foundation, too. Check near downspouts and follow any water trails left behind. Are there any areas in the grass where it looks like water puddles have settled?
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good start to uncovering issues. As you tour potential new homes, these tips can help you stay on track.