Is That Seller Hiding Something?

Real Estate Agent with Portland Vancouver Homes

Is that seller hiding something?  If so, how do spot it?  What are some of the common things to look for? 


First time home buyers and even the ones that have done this a few times,  need to know that buying a home has plenty of pitfalls. We all tend to believe that sellers are honest and upfront with the condition of the house, and truly most are, but there are a couple of issues that are common for a home seller to gloss over, of try to conceal.

In Washington and Oregon, a seller provides a buyer with a property disclosure statement which is identifies material defects known to the seller at the time of the disclosure.  If there is a material defect in the property the seller must disclose the decrepit even if the buyer waives the right to receive the disclosure form.  The options for completing the form include areas where the seller can select YES, NO, DON’T KNOW, or N/A.  Here seems to be where a few “White Lies” can take place.

So, just to be on the safe side, here are some common cover-ups and how you can uncover them.

Water damage

Water stains aren’t simply unsightly; they are typically a sign of leak, and a leak is a breeding ground for mold. Unfortunately, for a buyer, the stains can be easy for the homeowner to hide with strategic decoration or staging. That means the evidence won’t even be seen by a home inspector.

Stains on walls can be hidden by furniture or even by stacking moving boxes.  So, ask the homeowner if they will move items a few inches from the walls on the day of your inspection.  This will allow you to have your flashlight or the flashlight of your home inspector shine behind the items so you can take a peek at ALL the surfaces.

Another popular tactic for concealing water damage is for a seller to hide it with a coat of fresh paint.

Ask the homeowner when the last time they painted was, and ask for samples of the paints they used.  If the painting was done a year ago (or longer), they probably are not hiding anything.  If the paint used was stain or mold killer like Kilz or Zinsser, you may need to ask a few more questions.


A contaminated backyard

If you’re looking at an older home—specifically, if it was built before 1975—in a lot of locations, the house may have been heated with oil. Oil was stored on the property in a large oil large tank installed in the basement or underground in the backyard to conserve space and maintain the home’s aesthetic.  

The problem with the oil tank comes when the tank is buried.  After years under ground, the seams can become corroded and the oil can leak into the soil contaminating the soil and water if any near the tank. Removing the contaminated soil and decommissioning the tank can become pretty expensive.  

I have seen homes where the homeowner has cut the fill pipe, so that a potential buyer won’t see there is evidence of a tank on the property.  So, do your due diligence, look for a small pipe sticking out of the ground, ask the seller if the house was ever heated with oil in the past, or contact the county offices, they may have records of the tank being installed. 


A shaky foundation

Take a close look at the paint job done on the house, especially around the doors and windows.  If the paint looks zigzagged, and there are cracks in the walls, if could be that there is an issue with the foundation.  A bit of settling is normal, but if you are seeing cracks and cabinet doors are sticking or won’t close, there may be larger issues. 

In older homes, placing a marble on the floor in one corner of the room and seeing how fast it rolls to the other corner can be a definite sine that there is foundation issues, you will feel a bit like you are walking up or down a hill, don’t get yourself into a money eating house that needs a new foundation or hefty repairs on the current foundation.


Problem neighbors

Barking dogs, runsupervised teens, those cars that go Boom Boom Boom with their music cranked hign, and blaring horns are all factors that can turn off potential buyers.

Remember Mrs. Kravits on Bewitched? Beware of Open Houses that seemed to be held at “different” times, and be aware of sellers that only allow showings at specific times.  


Drive by at different hours, what is the neighborhood like at 1:00PM? 10:00PM, 8:00AM after you leave for work?


Weird temperature changes

Ever been in a home with a freezing bathroom or super warm bedroom? If so, you know that a temperature imbalance can result in avoiding that room altogether. This is definitely time to check your senses. When you walk through a potential home, notice if there is a change in the atmosphere, does it feel dry?  Or damp? Mugginess in the air? 

It is time to ask the seller what that room feels like in summer, (or in the winter if you are viewing it in the summer).  Many times it is poor insulation.  Sometimes it is the furnace system.  If there is central air conditioning, it could be the cooling unit is too small.  Go with your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, ASK!

“The culprit is usually poor insulation, sometimes as a result of the owner adding a second room or floor to the home.” Oftentimes, an owner isn’t trying to outright conceal that the did an addition, sometimes it is just the way it was done. However, if the construction was done without a permit— and this is more common than you’d imagine….you may need to ask the seller to provide the permits, which they can get after the fact from the county, or you may not be required to pay for the extra square footage. 

It pays to pay attention!  If you have hired a great buyer’s agent like the buyer specialists at Portland Vancouver Homes, you are in good hands, just make sure you have someone looking out for you!  Contact us at and learn how we totally have your back!




Posted by


// --> // -->


Denice Neddo is a licensed Realtor who specializes in Clark County, Washington and also works both Clark County Washington and Multnomah County, in Oregon including the cities of Vancouver, Ridgefield, Camas, Battle Ground, Brush Prairie, Hockinson, Salmon Creek, Felida, and inner city Metro Portland. Her favorite Portland neighborhoods include Belmont, Brentwood-Darlington, Brooklyn, Buckman, Creston, Eastmoreland, Hawthorne, Hosford-Abernethy, Kerns, Laurelhurst, Mount Tabor, Reed, Richmond, Sellwood, Alameda, Alberta Arts District, Beaumont-Wilshire, Grant Park, Hollywood, Irvington, Sullivan's Gulch, Vernon and Woodlawn.  

All information contained in these posts is copyrighted and cannot be used without prior written approval authorization from the author. If you are looking for an outstanding agent please give Denice a call she would love to help you with all of your real estate needs.

Get a free list of HUD, Fannie Mae, and other government foreclosed homes today.

Click here

What if there was a way to search the

MLS for FREE ...just like Realtors do?


Now you can access the MLS utilizing tools similar to those Realtors use. You are in control of what you want to search for, and you can search the MLS at your leisure. The information you submit on the form is used to put you into an automated system that you set up to email you all homes that meet your search criteria. Just think, you will have internet access to a website that includes pictures, prices, and addresses to real estate that's listed in the MLS!

Click here to start your FREE home search now

Comments (1)

John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Denice Thompson Neddo Thanks for the valuable report about when seller hiding something.

Apr 18, 2016 09:33 AM