You’d be amazed at some of the things that sellers try to hide from buyers. Listening to a crowd of real estate agents gossiping over brunch is replete with tales to curl or straighten your hair. Some of the items can be less serious than others, such as claiming current-model year appliances in the kitchen remodel when they’re actually the previous year’s models. Other things are more serious, such as trying to pass off laminate floors as hardwood, or that there’s an unpermitted additional bed and bath, or even that there’s a problem with the foundation.
- Age of Vital Systems: Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems are the vital systems of your home. You need to know how old they are, what work was done when, if they’ve been maintained, and if possible who has worked on them. A home inspection can help you uncover some problems, but not all. Using your eyes and ears can often detect leaks and drips, or tell you that the “new” electrical panel isn’t.
- Pest Infestations: It’s easier to prevent an infestation than to get rid of one, so why on earth should you buy one? Look for signs of roof rats, termites, roaches, and other hard to get rid of nuisances. Look for eaten fruit around trees, insect or rodent droppings, termite mud tubes, and other signs of pernicious, persistent pests.
- Foundation Problems: Foundation problems are a big dealbreaker, and they ought to be. Replacing a foundation is a lengthy and expensive proposition – and not something you need to take on with a new mortgage. There are signs as plain as the nose on your face if you know where to look.
- Roofing Issues: There are a lot of different roofing issues that can make your dream house into a nightmare. One of the most common is to nail a new roof over an old one, or to not have a permit for a new roof. The insurance company will only see the last valid permit, and even if it is a brand new roof, will not acknowledge it. All roofing work must be performed by a licensed contractor, and must have permits unless it’s just for repairs.
- Unpermitted Work: One of the biggest problems is unpermitted work. The garage converted to a bed and bath, the sunroom, and even dividing a single family home into a duplex can and should break the deal. Unpermitted work is often not built to code, and there might even be tax penalties that you the buyer could be on the hook for. In the case of seawalls, pools, and other structures, you could end up with big penalties on top of making it right with the city and county.
When all is said and done, you need professionals on your side when you’re buying a home. Your realtor, insurance agent, title agent, and inspector are there to protect you from an untruthful seller or unethical agent. You need an insurable home with clear title and no hanky-panky about conditions that could affect either.