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Home buying guide: watch out for these home problems

Watch out for rusting and varying pipe styles

In today’s sellers’ market, many home buyers choose not to include a home inspection contingency in their purchase contracts. While this could be a winning strategy in a bidding war, it comes with quite a few risks for the buyer.

You can minimize your risks by being vigilant and highly observant during home showings and open houses. Watch out for problems and issues that may prove critical and cause you bigger headaches down the road.

And if you do ask for a professional inspection, you can alert the inspector about the observations that set off alarm bells in your head.

Here are some of the things to watch for while inspecting a home.

Water damage and mold problems

Water damage should be taken seriously, as this can lead to foundation problems and mold issues. Here are some ways to spot water damage or mold problems:

  • Examine the sink and tub caulking, and watch out for cracks, holes, and dark spots.
  • Check for dark spots on ceilings and walls. Likewise, be wary of fresh wall painting, an unusually placed rug, or patching on the carpet. Any of these could be a cover up for water stains.
  • Watch out for musty odors, especially in the basement. These could indicate a mold problem or the presence of moisture.
  • Are the windows foggy? This could mean water vapor is seeping through the seals.
  • Are there sufficient vent pipes? There should be one for the kitchen and for each bathroom, and they must all go beyond the attic. While a missing vent is not necessarily a problem, it could also mean the home has accumulated too much moisture.
  • Check the basement columns and watch out for rusting or peeling.

Plumbing issues

Plumbing problems are more common in older homes but could be present in newer ones as well. Here’s how you can spot potential problems:

  • Check under all sinks and examine the pipes for any leaks.
  • Turn on all the faucets (or as many as you can) and observe the drainage rate and water pressure. If it’s draining too slowly, this could mean clogging in the pipes or poor installation. Likewise, low water pressure could indicate plumbing problems.
  • Check the basement while all faucets are turned on and be on the lookout for drips and leaks.
  • Inspect the pipes and be mindful of varying pipe styles. This could mean some pipes have burst and have been replaced. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it could indicate lingering moisture problems.

Structural problems

You can detect structural problems by doing the following:

  • Keep an eye out for crooked wall and uneven floors as these may indicate structural problems.
  • Cracks on the walls or the foundation are often the result of potentially major structural issues.
  • Check all doors and windows. They have to open and close easily, and can be opened all the way. Difficulty in operating one may simply be a case of poor installation, but it may also mean a structural defect.

Roofing problems

Roofing should be thoroughly inspected by a professional, but you can get a general idea of its soundness by inspecting it from the ground. Check for missing shingles, cracking, or curling. Ask how old the roof is and check any warranty to see if it’s nearing the end of its useful life.