5 Insider Tricks to Weeding out Home Lemons

When searching for a new home, important features such as price, school district and number of bedrooms can overshadow other considerations very quickly. Taking a few extra minutes during the home tour to follow these tips may prove to be well worth your time at the end of the buying process.

1.) Find out what’s beneath the floorboards
Bring a marble along when checking out a home to roll along the floor, counter tops, and other smooth surfaces to find out if there is a foundation problem. Slanted floors may be nothing serious, but it could also be an indicator of damage. If your marble starts rolling, take it as a hint that trouble may be lurking. If you’re serious about the home, make sure an expert pays close attention to this during the home inspection.

2.) Take the seller’s “new appliances” claim with a grain of salt
A standard HVAC system can cost upwards of $8,000 for a 2,000 square foot home. If you’re pushing your budget in hopes to afford your dream home, an old or worn out system could break the bank if you’re not careful. Bring a camera with you and take pictures of serial numbers on the appliances throughout the home. You’ll be able to research them later to find out the real meaning of “new appliances”, their durability, and repair/replacement costs. If you find some that are on the brink of expiring, use it as leverage in the negotiations or walk away.

3.) Look closer at the ceilings and basement
If the ceilings could talk, they might have a lot to say. Pay extra attention to ceilings directly below the roof and attic or below plumbing systems. Check for discoloration, sagging, and other signs of water damage. Fresh paint is the perfect way to cover up damage and disguise mold. Take a look at the exterior to ensure proper drainage systems are in place. Basements are also problem areas when it comes to water damage. Bring a flashlight with you to check behind or underneath pieces of furniture and other home décor. If you don’t notice anything fishy, ask anyway.  The sellers are required by law to disclose any underlying issues with the property.

4.) I.D. the cracks in the walls and corners
Do you notice cracks in the walls and along corner edges? Compare the thickness of your I.D. to the cracks in the walls. If your measurements conclude the cracking is thicker than your I.D., this could indicate water leakage. Corner cracks could also indicate movement in the foundation. If you’re unsure if what you see is reason to worry, try opening and closing the doors in each room of the house multiple times. The goal is to have consistency each time. If you notice that the door sticks or gets more difficult to open or close, it could be a symptom of foundational movement. Foundation problems can cost you serious money, so the safest bet would be closing the file on this home. If it’s your dream home and you must have it, have a contractor take a look during the home inspection to give you an accurate assessment of the cost.

5.) Inspect small spaces – no space is too small
Take on the “out of sight, out of mind” notion many people feel with dark, creepy spaces to get an idea of what may be hiding. Grab your phone, camera, or video camera, turn the flash on and start snapping pictures inside tiny crawl spaces and other hard to reach places. It might just save you a headache in the future if you capture evidence of uninvited guests, mold, or rotting.


Do you have any tips or rules of thumb when you are looking to buy? Share them in the comments below.

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