Look for these 3 red flags when shopping for a home

Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Published on May 14, 2018

Call them “red flags,” or “warning signs” or even “whoa, don’t-buy-this-house” signs, but there are certain symptoms of a sick home that you need to be aware of before you fall in love with a sexy fireplace or a to-die-for backyard. Once you’re smitten, it may be too late. Now, don’t get me wrong, most houses, even new ones, have something wrong. Even if it’s a problem as easy to fix as a drippy faucet, no home is perfect. But what we’ll look at today are the biggies – those items that require emptying your bank account to repair. They don’t necessarily need to be considered deal breakers, but should prompt you to have the home inspected by the appropriate professional. Don’t be crestfallen if you happen to find some of these because the good news is that you found them now, rather than later. Now, as in you can either demand the seller fix them or you can back out of the deal. If you were to learn of these later, after you’ve moved in, the onus would be on you and your bank account to fix them. So, let’s take a look at a few of the big problems and some of the clues to look for. We always recommend that you include in a Sale & Purchase Agreement a Builders Report and LIM Report as part of your conditions for the purchase of your home.

“Pee-Yew”

Can you imagine taking a shower and being greeted by raw sewage bubbling up through the drain? Oh, yes, it can—and does—happen. It’s caused by a clogged sewer or septic line. Consider foul smells coming from the home’s drain a clue for further investigation. Likewise, if you notice these smells outdoors, near the home’s drain fields, if it is on a septic system. Then, test the drains. Simply turn on the taps and watch the water drain. If it drains slowly, or you hear gurgling sounds from the drain (or from the toilet), call in a plumber. Sewer fixes aren’t cheap. You’ll need to engage a plumber and obtain a quote to repair what’s required to fix things. If it’s a septic system that has you concerned, it may need to be pumped. If, on the other hand, the system needs to be replaced, engage a plumber to give you a quotient to fix.

“The basis or groundwork of anything” 

That’s the dictionary definition of “foundation.” For real estate purposes, and to keep it simple, it can be defined as “the thing a house sits on.” A home’s foundation has three functions:

  1. Support the weight of the entire building.
  2. Help the home withstand natural disasters.
  3. Keep ground moisture from seeping into the structure

Look for sloping or sagging floors , cracks in the foundation, walls and floors, doors that don’t operate properly and gaps around window frames or exterior doors.

Check the plumbing

Low water pressure is a lot more than an annoyance when trying to rinse the soap of your body in the shower. It may be a symptom of major plumbing problems. Now, don’t get freaked out. Most of the causes of low water pressure are easy fixes, such as the water softener requires service, or a clog someplace in the lines or mineral deposits in the faucet aerator or showerhead or even sludge in the water heater cylinder. Cracks or other damage to pipes, however, may result in a leak and that too would lower the water pressure. Look for evidence of leaks such as damp spots on the floors and walls, signs of mould or a hissing sound when the water is running. Leak repair can be costly, especially if the leak is in a tough-to-reach spot. If you suspect any problems in the home that the Builders Report and inspection didn’t turn up, we urge you to bring in a specialist. A structural engineer can put your mind at ease about cracks in the foundation and a plumbing contractor can give you an idea of the state of the home’s pipes and a builder can help with advice on most other things or advise you where to go if they aren’t able to fix things.

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