Major Homebuyer Red Flags Your 5 Senses Can Detect

You found a home. You’re ready to make an offer. But what’s that strange gnawing feeling that you can’t shake? Pay attention! It could be that your own five senses are warning you that this house just doesn’t make sense.

Most homeowners listing their home for sale are eager for quick offers and speedy closings. Their rush to find a buyer can sometimes lead them to cut corners on home repairs, or worse, attempt to disguise any issues that could hinder the sale of their home. While a professional home inspection of the property that you’re seriously considering will help identify any unforeseen issues, you can also do some subtle inspections yourself during the house hunting phase that can help you narrow down your choices.

How can you spot major red flags when considering the purchase of a home? Just let your five senses lead the way.

LOOK — Your eyes do not deceive you! Nothing is clearer than what is visible to the naked eye. Sure, a professional exterminator can spot evidence of termite damage and depressed structural issues that might not be easily visible to you, but there are some red flags that simply can’t be hidden out of plain sight. So look for:

  • Cracks: Cracks in walls and ceilings can be indicative of foundation and structural issues. Some homeowners attempt to cover cracks with caulk and fresh paint, but if you look close enough, you can usually spot a difference in wall texture and/or paint tint.
  • Water Damage: Water damage is also hard to cover up. If you notice areas of discoloration or mismatched paint color on a ceiling, chances are it’s evidence of water damage, which can lead to major structural issues. Check baseboards too, especially around bathroom, shower and sink areas, for any discoloration, rotting or molding of wood due to too much moisture.
  • Fence with Large Gaps: A fence is meant to provide privacy. So if you can see through it — beyond the typical ¼ inch gap between wood planks — you might be dealing with termite or rodent damage.
  • Too Many For Sale Signs: Is there a mass exodus occurring in your future neighborhood? If you notice tons of for sale signs, investigate the cause for mass turnover by talking with existing neighbors and/or representatives from the homeowners’ association. Check city-zoning permits to see if any major area changes are in the works, like building a new industrial park or transit system.

SMELL — One smart sellers’ trick is to entice buyers with a welcoming scent, like freshly baked cookies or fragrant floral arrangements. But what else do you smell?

  • Musty Air: If you notice the air thickens with a musty or mildew type smell, there may be mold or rotting wood nearby. Pay special attention to musty smells around kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and any other areas with plumbing.
  • Wet Dog: If the house is home to any pets, you might be greeted with a wet-dog or litter-box smell. Be diligent as you explore the property and try to pinpoint the source of the stench. Is it just from a recent hose down of man’s best friend that left behind an added aroma in the bathroom? Or is there evidence of potty training marked deep into an area of the carpet? If the odor is deeply rooted into carpets or hardwoods, you could have an expensive treatment and/or re-flooring project in your near future.
  • Harsh Chemicals or Gas: Let’s face it … there aren’t many good reasons to ever experience strong odors of bleach, natural gas or harsh chemicals. So if your sense of smell is heightened by odors you might describe as “sterile,” “rotten eggs” or “unusual,’’ ask your realtor for an explanation and report any concerns to the city as appropriate.

TASTE Taste the home? What? This may sound strange, but your sense of taste goes hand-in-hand with your sense of smell to send pleasant and unpleasant signals to your brain. So while you’re taking in the smells mentioned above, you may also notice a sour, bad or unusual taste when coming into contact with mildew, harsh chemicals, gas and moisture:

  • Mildew — Along with a musty smell, unseen mold and mildew can incite a sour taste in your mouth.
  • Harsh Chemicals or Gas Harsh chemicals can breathe a heaviness on your tongue.
  • Moisture — Humidity changes might awaken your salivary glands.

FEEL Of course, you want to end up in a home that makes you feel great! But have you taken notice of how a home and property literally feel underfoot and even on your skin? Take note of:

  • Uneven Surfaces: If you sense a tilt to the house as you walk or notice uneven surfaces underfoot, make sure you ask about any previous water damage, flooding or foundation issues in the home. Those are expensive problems to inherit, so do your homework and ensure repairs and upkeep have been maintained.
  • Temperature Changes: During a home tour, do you notice any significant shifts in temperature or humidity as you travel from room-to-room? Sometimes a previous renovation or addition to a home can be “felt” by a change in temperature due to inadequate air circulation that doesn’t account for the new living space. Also, humidity can be a sign of plumbing and/or mold issues.
  • Air Pressure: While noting the efficiency of vents and fans scattered throughout the house is a good idea, you should also take notice of the atmosphere adding any extra pressure to your head. For example, hidden mold within walls and flooring can induce a headache or significant sinus pressure.

HEAR Noises heard inside and outside of the home can be deal breakers for homebuyers. For example, a beautifully, well-crafted home can become immediately off-putting when it backs up to a noisy thoroughfare of city traffic. And an annoyingly noticeable and consistent water drip can send a buyer running, as plumbing fixes are not cheap. Listen for:

  • Leaky faucets: It’s okay for you to test out each faucet and water fixture, and it’s encouraged! Make sure the water pressure is good and that each faucet easily turns on, as well as securely turns off.
  • Running toilets: While you’re testing the water faucets, also test the bathroom facilities. Flush each toilet in the house to ensure there is a strong suction of drainage. Also, make sure that the toilets don’t continue running for a long period of time.
  • House Pests: As we mentioned in our “Did You Hear That?” blog, different house pests make different noises. If you think you hear a horse trotting in the attic, it’s likely that raccoons have taken up residency. If you notice any rolling, thumping, trotting or scurrying either up above or within the walls, you can expect to acquire some critters with your home purchase.
  • Moaning: Older homes sometimes come with original appliances and furnaces. If you hear moaning as the heat kicks on, make sure to ask about the age of HVAC systems. You’ll also want to check that all systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc.) are up to code.
  • Whistling: If you hear whistling and feel a bit of a draft, chances are the window seals and/or doorframes need repairing or replacing. Make sure you check the condition and energy efficiency of all windows and doorways.

Buying a home is exciting! It can be made better even by tapping into your five senses to figure out if a home is right for you. Do you have any additional buyer beware tips? Share them in the comments below.

When your five senses do let you know that a home makes perfect sense, be sure to call a PrimeLending loan expert to find out which mortgage plan will make sense for your financial future.

 

From the PrimeLending blog by Mandy Jordan.