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10 Small Signs Your Home Could Have Bigger Issues In The Future

ForSaleByOwner September 8, 2023

Whether you are buying or selling your house, you need to prepare yourself for a complete home inspection and all that it will reveal. When you contract the services of a home inspector, you are asking an expert to survey the house from top to bottom, inside and out.

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A good home inspection report will show you exactly what needs immediate attention, as well as issues you might have to address “down the road.” In fact, an inspector should provide estimates on the age and remaining lifespan of significant home features such as roofs, exterior paint, siding and windows. Even if the house on the market is new construction, expiration dates still apply.

The results of a home inspection can affect the final negotiated price for any property. Inspections can also delay closing dates. However, you can stay one step ahead of the process by training your eye, not to mention your camera, on these early signs of house issues.

1. Improper Drainage

Start your inspection on the outside of your house. Make note of the slope that surrounds the base of the structure. Does runoff hang around – or even trickle back towards the house – or does it easily find its way toward the street? Improper drainage can lead to a whole host of problems, and fixing them can quickly deplete your rainy day fund.

Excess moisture is often a factor when cracks appear in your foundation. Water can even seep up from the foundation into the walls. And mold loves to grow in wet, warm, dark conditions.

If you already know or ultimately determine that drainage is an issue, make sure to have your inspector double check for evidence of these otherwise invisible threats to the house’s integrity.

2. Electrical Wiring Issues

Electrical wiring is another potential issue lurking deep within a house’s walls. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a high percentage of home structure fires are the fault of bad wiring.

Check the house’s electrical outlets to ensure they are working properly. Poke into closets and garages and locate the home’s breaker box. What shape is it in? Are all the switches inside properly labeled?

What does the meter read? Any electrical curiosities might be reason enough to have the wiring thoroughly tested. Depending on the size and age of the home in question, a complete electrical system overhaul could cost $8,000 –$15,000.

3. Inadequate Insulation

The home you’re inspecting may feel nice and cool in the summer. But is it cozy during the winter? You can get a preliminary sense of the structure’s energy efficiency by reviewing its utility bills for seasonal spikes. And be sure to have your inspector make a trip to the attic. If they determine the house is inadequately insulated, you’ll want to bring the insulation level up to the proper R-value, or resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. R-values are shown on products and product packaging. This fix can be both quick and relatively inexpensive ($500 – $1,200), but it often translates into significant long-term savings for you or your buyer.

You might also consider putting the property through a complete energy audit. The results of this assessment will give you a big picture of what it takes, on average, to heat, cool and otherwise make the house comfortable. The audit can also uncover tiny inefficiencies in duct work, weather stripping, lighting and other areas that can add up and result in a significant amount of wasted energy.

4. Dangerous Components

The appeal of a historic home can be hard to resist. But all that architectural charm can also make upkeep both tricky and expensive. For homes built between 1900 and 1950, have your inspector be on the lookout for these obsolete (and in some cases hazardous) components.

5. Uneven Floors

If a home has uneven or bouncy floors, there may be foundation problems, which can be costly and time-consuming to repair. Bring a marble to a property you’re interested in and place it around different areas of the floor to determine if the floor is uneven. If the marble rolls lengthwise and widthwise, the floor is uneven. The marble test is particularly important if the home is older.

6. Old Roof

If the roof on the home you’d like to buy is more than 15 years old, it’s past its prime. It may create serious water damage when it rains or even cave in on you. In addition, it can lead to a higher insurance premium. Find out how old the roof is and look for signs of wear like cracked or missing shingles to get an idea of whether it will cause any problems.

7. Insect Infestation

Not only is it annoying and uncomfortable to live in a house infested with termites, getting rid of a termite infestation comes with a hefty price tag. If you notice active termites or signs of infestation like sagging floors or walls, a cracked foundation, or small pellets, you have a serious problem. It’s a good idea to hire a professional pest control company to come in and inspect the home and educate you on your options.

8. Old Windows

While old windows may be charming and add some character to a home, they can be a major source of energy loss. So, what does this mean for you? High utility costs that you’d probably like to avoid. If you notice old windows in a home, ask the owner to share their utility bills for the past 6 months or year so you know how much you’ll have to pay. You don’t want to move in and find out that you can’t afford your utility bills.

9. Musty Smell

A musty smell in an attic or basement is usually no big deal. However, if you find that a home has a musty smell in most of its rooms, a mold problem likely exits. Mold can lead to allergens, irritants, and even toxic substances in your home. If you and your family are constantly exposed to it, health issues may arise. If you’re unsure of whether there is mold present in a home, a professional inspector can help.

10. Drywall Cracks

Small cracks in drywall or flooring rarely indicate a major problem. But, if you notice visible cracks and larger crevices, there may be foundation problems. Not only can a damaged foundation significantly reduce the value of a home, it can lead to serious structural issues that are not cheap to repair. Doors and windows that are difficult to close, sloped floors, and cracks around doors all signify a shifting foundation.

Be Selective With Your Home Inspection

Finally, as with many things in life, so too with the home inspection: you get what you pay for. Consider the $300 – $400 (on average) you’ll be paying a reputable company to perform this essential service an investment in the present and future value of your home.