January 2014

Before you invest the most significant portion of your income in a roof over your head, you need to make sure it doesn't leak. Fortunately, the home buying process requires a qualified professional to complete the inspection before you sign the dotted line; however, it never hurts to look out for problems as you walk through prospective homes and those the inspector might not catch. The following list includes common home inspection red flags that can significantly impact a home's value.

  • Unsound roofing is caused by age or faulty installation. Most homeowners will know when a roof was installed, and may incorporate the replacement cost into the sale price. For a standard roof, it is common to install a replacement after 15 to 20 years, and costs approximately $2,000.
  • Pests can include rodents or insects, such as termites. Damage or traces are usually visible during an inspection, and an exterminator will be used if necessary.
  • Plumbing problems range from leaking pipes to an older system that is due for replacement. A solution may require a repair or in extreme cases, a complete system replacement.
  • Mold could cause serious health problems for residents in a home located in a humid climate or has experienced water damage. Look for signs of mold that include growth on the walls in the home or basement, ranging in color from white to black.
  • Lead paint is a potential health hazard common in homes built in the mid- to late-1970s. An inspector is required to inform you about the risks. You may need to have it removed prior to the sale, particularly if small children will be living in the home that could consume it accidentally.
  • Sloping flooring is common in older homes, but can be repaired. It can also indicate a deeper problem, such as a previous flood or a cracked foundation, which is usually expensive to fix.
  • Outdated or worn electrical wiring systems are common, especially in homes that are older, or if the system was not replaced as new technology was developed.
  • Poor insulation and ventilation is a problem that mainly inflates heating and cooling costs. If the material buffering the outdoor temperatures is inadequate, the updated costs will need to be factored into the home price.
  • Water drainage away from the home in strategically placed roof gutters and downspouts are essential. If water has drained close to the home, irreversible water damage could result, which is difficult to assess.
  • Poorly insulated windows that allow air to enter the home through cracks or unsealed frames are relatively common in older homes, which could impact energy costs.
  • Heating and cooling issues may involve an outdated system that needs to be replaced, such as a furnace, an older or poorly maintained system that does not function well, and faulty installation. Ask the owner about any heating and cooling issues, such as uneven performance or unusual sounds.
  • Poor interior and exterior maintenance can seem like a minor problem, but the labor costs for painting, wood and plaster repair and grounds work can quickly add up. Ensure that each imperfection is accounted for in the inspection.
  • Exterior wood or siding problems may indicate poor maintenance, water damage or age. An extensive repair could be necessary if the damage is structural.