Buyer Red Flags - In Virginia or Anywhere!

     You aren't a professional home inspector.  But realty agents, buyers and investors are always critically looking at houses before any final decisions are made.  They have to.  Can I suggest that during these "inspections" you emply some common sense? Here are some things realtors and buyers can do before they hire a professional home inspector to investigate a home someone might want to purchase.  They are not listed in any particular order, but any or all could be important during your house search.  Below are 18 Red Flags that could spell home distress.  They are not listed in any particular order, but any or all could be important during your house search.  Some defects may be minimal, but others could empty your bank account.

Brown stains on the ceiling. A possible indication of a past or current leak. Water can and will move in every direction - don't assume that the source of the leak is directly above the stain. Water could be coming in from the roof, or a poorly flashed vent penetrating the roof, an AC condensate line, a plumbing vent - there are numerous sources.

Warped wood floorboards, peeling floor tile or cracked floor tiles. Warped hardwood floorboards point to water damage. If floor tile is peeling, the underlayment could have soaked, expanded and then destroyed the glue holding the floor together.  Purple stains telegraphing through vinyl flooring around a toilet can indicate a real problem - leakage around the wax floor seal, which can be deadly to subflooring.  In a basement, peeling or cracking tiles can indicate rising damp, or various small previous water leaks from plumbing or foundations.

Mildew smell in the basement. An indicator that water may be seeping into the basement or crawlspace.  Your nose is a great mold detector!   Employ it!  Remember , mildew and mold are not the problems but symptoms that there is too much moisture.

Brown stains on the basement walls. Another sign of past or current water damage.

Chipped paint around the windows. Wood sills could be damaged and need to be replaced.  Cracking paint on framing can indicate that water is getting behind. Pay close attention to rotten wood (appears smooshy).

Failed caulk around window and door edges. At best, an air leak; at worst, a water leak.

Two layers of roof. Look around the edge of the house. If there are two layers of roofing on the house, they will need to be removed when it's time to re-roof the house.  This is an additional expense to regular roofing costs.

Poor grading. If the ground surrounding the house doesn't slope away from the house, it could be causing water to run down the foundation walls and into the basement.  The topography behind the house, a hill or inclination without an evident swale causes huge amounts of water pressure to attack the house, and the foundation.

Knob and tube wiring. Typically, these parts are about 100 years old and common in some parts of Northern Virginia.  Usually they are no longer used, but don't be surprised if they are!  If they are still in use, you'll need to upgrade the entire electrical system to comply with local building code.  And your insurance company will balk at extending a policy.

Old windows and storms. If you have old windows, chances are a significant amount of air is leaking into the home. If the storm windows are old, they may not provide much insulation. To replace windows is expensive, but represent the most common remodel to an older home.  If you don't want to install new windows,  plan on spending a few dollars for caulk and new storms.

Wet drain in the basement. If the house is on a sewer system, it could mean tree roots have burrowed their way into the sewer. Plan to clear the sewer at least once a year or, more expensive, install a new PVC drain line from the house to the street.

Only one area has been repainted. If you see that the basement walls are freshly painted but no other area has been, it's possible the seller doesn't want you to see something-like stains from when the basement last flooded. This can also hold true for other rooms in the home, not necessarily the basement.  Pay attention to bedroom ceilings (including drywall repairs!)

Furniture, boxes and other items piled up in one room or corner of the house. The sellers could be moving items around, or they could be hiding something. If you can do so carefully, try to move enough that you can see everything.

Bad smells. If a house smells funny to you, it could have a serious mold problem behind freshly painted walls. Removing mold could cost thousands of dollars. Removing pet or smoking odors is less expensive, but it could take a long time to refresh the smell of a house - that is, if you ever can.

Appliances that don't work or that the seller tells you "Don't turn that on." The most obvious red flag:  If the seller doesn't want you to do something, or go somewhere in the house, the first thought is - Beware!

Cracks in the foundation or slab. If the foundation or basement floor has a crack bigger than 1/8", it could be a structural problem that will be expensive to fix.

Synthetic stucco homes. In general, these homes are expensive to maintain and need to be inspected by a synthetic stucco specialist at least once a year. Cracks or gaps in caulking are Red Flags.

     And Finally - Strange goings on!   If you enter a house that has windows open or many fragrant candles burning, windows or doors covered with blankets, carpeting or hardwood floors that have small rugs or furniture placed in unusual ways, bedroom doors that are locked, or lights in the corner of dark basements that "don't work" - there is probably a reason!  Anything strange can be a Red Flag!

    If the house you are investigating has few or none of the above Red Flags, it is time to call Jay Markanich!  He loves his job ...

     

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Jay performs inspections Monday through Saturday, throughout Northern Virginia, from his office in Bristow to Leesburg and Centreville, to Great Falls and Vienna and everywhere in between!