Home sellers can be crafty in disguising the deferred maintenance of their homes. You must look for tell-tale signs of required maintenance when you tour both the inside and outside of a house. The care with which you examine the inside and outside of each prospective house carefully.
Discover the perils of deferred maintenance
How does the masonry look? Are there visible cracks and crumbles?
Are there broken fixtures?
Are there any barricaded spaces in attics, basements or corners of rooms?
Take time to examine the condition of all windows, doors, gutters and steps. Look out for peeling paint and cracks in plaster.
Use your nose as well as your eyes. Smell the rooms. Does anything smell musty? Musty smells, in the basement in particular, can be a sign of mold.
Your sense of touch can help locate potential problems. Are electrical faceplates warm?
Use home inspections as a good defense
A home inspection can locate termite infestation that you may not have noticed. The reliability of the heating and ventilation system will be more apparent to the inspector than to your untrained eye. Foundation and structural problems will also be more recognizable to the inspector than to you. Your reliance upon the expertise of the home inspector allows you to mount a little offensive in this home-buying process. You can use the defects described in a home inspection report as an effective negotiating tool to get a better price with the buyer.
Look out for the lure of the neighborhood
You are buying into a neighborhood as well as into a home. Therefore, you should be looking at the red flags a neighborhood can present. Bars on the windows and doors, abandoned or boarded-up buildings and excessive amounts of garbage and graffiti are obviously not good signs. Drive through the neighborhood and look to see if there are signs of gang activity, loitering, truancy or any other unsavory activities. Is there local industry in the form of factories or business parks? Do neighbors park on the streets or in garages? Are cars and debris filling adjacent yards?
Now make that offer
You've looked out for the red flags of home conditions that cry out for repair and replacement. You've examined the neighborhood for the positive and negative signs on your personal checklist.
Now you are ready for that next step: Make an offer. Go ahead and buy the dream house that you have intelligently selected.