Hidden Trouble For Homebuyers

House hunting is exciting. It's easy to get caught up comparing floor plans and front yards—envisioning a new life in a new place. But house hunting is serious, too. Try these tips to spot telltale signs of trouble.


Before a house goes on the market, most sellers will catch up on home maintenance projects like cutting the lawn and painting the front door and trim, so you'll need to look past the curb appeal.

Problems in any of these areas can cost thousands of dollars to repair or replace:

  • Check the roof for curled or missing shingles or multiple layers of roofing.
  • Are the gutters clean? Clogged gutters can cause leaks inside.
  • Inspect the siding or masonry for signs of wear.
  • Take a deep breath. Sewage or gas smells should set off your alarms.
  • Exterior features such as porches, driveways or grading that slope toward the home almost always mean water in the basement or beneath the home. This can lead to structural problems, mold and insect infestation.


Water damage is devastating to any structure. One freshly painted wall or an unusual rug placement or carpet patch could be an attempt to cover up water stains. Be sure to look for these signs of water problems, too:

  • Musty odors can mean a mold problem. At the very least, moisture is sneaking in where it shouldn't.
  • Foggy windows are a sign that the seals are allowing water vapor to seep in.

Obviously, you want your home to be structurally sound as well. Watch for these clues:

  • Poor water pressure can be an indication of plumbing issues.
  • Are the sellers using lots of extension cords? The home's electrical system is probably outdated.
  • Doors that are hard to close, swing open by themselves, or don't open all the way could just be installed incorrectly. This could also be an indication of serious structural problems.
  • Large cracks in the walls or foundation are dead giveaways for settling issues.

Everywhere Else

  • Anytime you aren't allowed to see a certain part of the house—be concerned. Any room or area you aren't allowed to see could be hiding some flaw.
  • Check out the neighborhood as well. If businesses are boarded up or there are lots of empty houses, think twice about moving in where so many seem to be moving out.
  • If you're getting a mortgage to buy your home, be wary of your lender. If you're not paying cash for your home, you should get a mortgage for 15 years or less, with 20% down and a payment that is no more than 25% of your take-home pay. Lots of lenders will say you can afford more, but stay conservative. Then your home will be a blessing rather than a curse.


Related Articles