Do-it-yourself home inspections can save you time, money and heartache
Most real estate professionals agree that before you buy a house, you should shell out money for a formal inspection. But even when just browsing, you need to make like Nancy Drew the minute you set foot onto the property.
There are telltale clues of bigger problems that could transform your dream home into a dreaded money pit (even more than the movie with Shelley Long). Knowing what to look out for can keep you from getting too involved in the purchase of a property and spending money unnecessarily on finding out for sure what the evidence already indicates. If you see too many quick indicators of damage or neglect, no matter how great the neighborhood or cute the front door, run out of the house like you’re in Amityville, the walls are dripping blood and the voices are screaming, “Get out!”
And it might just be that scary.
Madeline Daraio, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Mortgage, has been in real estate for 24 years, so she’s seen it all.
According to Daraio, areas for concern are “cracks in walls, ceilings and exterior walls, doors that don’t close properly, bad odors, flat roofs, poor site drainage and water stains on ceilings and walls” and that’s just to start.
Daraio also believes that excessive days on the market could be an indicator of potential problems. A slower housing market can also account for a home not moving too quickly, but if that’s the only indicator, proceed with caution.
Sellers, of course, will try to disguise weaknesses, so there are signs to be on the lookout for, including freshly-painted areas and furniture or rugs in odd places.
Get on your hands and knees if you have to and make sure that La-Z-Boy isn’t covering a gaping possum-filled hole.
Bud Rozell, owner of Good Home Inspection and secretary of the Texas Chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors, has spent the last 12 years witnessing the best and worst of what sellers are putting on the market.
“Weak floors, sticking doors, unusual amounts of exterior wood rot and musty smell are all signs that the structure may need repairs,” Rozell says. “On newer houses with slab foundations, look for extensive cracks in the masonry. Your insurance agent may be able to provide you with a report where the history of claims made on the house is recorded in a universal database.”
Rozell stresses that most sellers are not trying to hide anything and may not even know the extent of problems with their properties until a professional inspection takes place. But he counsels being wary when walking into “an empty house with new paint, new carpet and no or few appliance updates. Crowded and cluttered houses are often hosts to multiple issues.”
Occupancy status is another clue. If the seller lives at the property, generally it will be taken care of better than if it’s being used as a rental property.
The Web site for the Dallas Central Appraisal District, Dallascad.org, is a great place to do a little research.
“See if the seller lives at the property or if it’s an investment property,” Rozell says.
Finally, make sure to use your brain and not your heart when making the tough decisions.
“If you walk into a house and, as much as you may be attracted to it, it just doesn’t feel sound, then it probably isn’t,” Rozell says. “Most people tend to be more emotional when they make an offer on a house, and they tend to become more critical after it’s been inspected.”
And buyer’s remorse on a house is not an experience something you want to have.