Nobody likes to point out their own flaws…especially sellers on homes. Sellers are legally required to fill out a seller disclosure form to be up-front about issues with the home. However, it is very common for the seller to not point out everything that you need to know. A home inspection is vital to making sure you are protected. Even home inspectors miss things though, so it’s important for you to do your own homework. Caveat Emptor in Latin means Buyer Beware. Here are the top 7 flaws that sellers disguise:
1. Leaks – Roof leaks are the most common leak. This could mean that the roof has reached the end of its economic life, or it may have faulty flashing. The rubber boots around vent stacks oxidize over time and can start to leak. Sellers will frequently paint kilz to conceal a leak. Your question as a buyer is to find out if it is a current leak or one from the past. Is there deferred maintenance that you are going to have to fix again in the near future? Look for water stains on the ceiling or walls. Leaks can also happen from tuck pointing, plumbing leaks, and radiators. If you see the signs then you better dig further!
2. Insects, Spiders, or Other Pests – The famous Brown Recluse Case in Whitmoor subdivision in Weldon Spring is enough to understand a worst-case scenario! All homes have insects…just make sure it isn’t infested. Termites are the biggest danger when buying a home. Often homeowners don’t even know they have them as their walls are being eaten out from under them. Termite inspections are not typically covered in home inspections. You have to pay an extra fee to be sure it is fully inspected.
3. Emotional Defects – What does this mean? If a house is haunted or has had a murder or suicide then legal precedent may require that it is disclosed. I recently did a refinance for a client bought their house two years earlier. When I asked them how they liked the house, they said great, except that it was haunted. The couple were both doctors and very credible people. This is a real issue for many.
4. Foundation Issues – This is an area that you really have to do your homework. We’ve heard numerous stories of sellers putting furniture in front of cracks in the foundation. If you are buying a house and there has been obvious work done to the foundation, ask for a copy of all receipts and warranties. If there is appears to be an active leak then you better consult a professional!
5. Systems: Furnace, AC, Hot Water Heater – Sellers will frequently withhold information on the age of the systems. Your home inspector can help in this area. You can also look for tags on the systems with model numbers that you can research on the internet later. The cost of upgrading systems later is extreme enough that you need to do your homework!
6. Floor Stains – Stains in hardwood floors can be impossible to get out. Sellers will frequently just cover the hardwood with carpet to hide the stains. One of the most common stains on floors are from pets.
Here is my #1 tip in this area: get a black light and go into a prospective property after dark. All bodily fluids will stand out under a black light. I bought a very expensive home and made this mistake. There were three cats in the house with some odor of cat urine. I made the mistake of thinking that the smell would leave with the cats…it didn’t! I ended up spending many hours trying to clean the carpet until I gave up and replaced all of it.
7. Holes in the Wall – Look behind all pictures and posters. Parents often don’t even know about holes that their kids punch in the walls. They are conveniently covered with posters! Some walls are textured and very difficult to patch properly.
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