A home inspector will always find some issues with a house for sale, and many you can live with — literally. But there are some big deal-breakers to watch out for, some of which may require renegotiating the asking price, requesting the repairs be made before you buy, or even just walking away from the sale entirely. Here is our list of too-big-to-ignore deal-breakers that you have to be aware of before you even consider calling that house your home.
1. A bad foundation
Small cracks in the walls of older homes are common, but big, gaping fractures in the concrete or basement are red flags. It means the house is shifting from its foundation or sinking into the ground due to poor soil conditions or because water isn’t draining properly. Some things to look out for are cracks in upstairs walls, cracks above windows or doors, and doors and windows that don’t shut properly.
2. Poor electrical wiring
There are all sorts of wiring and electrical issues that should give you pause before signing on the dotted line. Exposed wiring is definitely a no-no, but finding a fire hazard as serious as this is pretty rare nowadays. What you should really be concerned about is aluminum wiring, which was widely used in houses during the 1960s. Aluminum expands and contracts with heat, causing connections to loosen and pose a fire risk. Another issue to watch for is knob-and-tube wiring, which is common in homes built before 1930. Both of these findings require a complete replacement of the entire wiring system.
Termites are responsible for billions of dollars worth of property damage every year, and homeowners insurance rarely covers the cost of repairs. Plus, you’ll need to hire an exterminator to eliminate the infestation, which usually costs several thousand dollars. This issue may not be a total deal-breaker, but it should prompt you to renegotiate the asking price.
4. Roof damage
A good roof can last three decades or longer, but a bad roof might need to be replaced within 10 years. And if you’re house-hunting in spring or summer, you’ll never know until the rainy season starts. Keep an eye out for shingles that are curling, cracked, or missing entirely. Also, be wary of a roof that sags or is covered in moss or algae.
We all know asbestos is bad, but it’s not terribly dangerous and easy to fix when it’s contained in the roofing felt or sealant. What you need to worry about is whether the home inspector finds crumbling asbestos insulation around pipes. This poses a serious health risk and will need to be replaced immediately.
6. Upgrades without permits
Older homes will almost always have a few renovations or upgrades, which is a good thing. Just make sure the homeowner got his or her permits first. Aesthetic remodels shouldn’t be a big concern, but things like do-it-yourself wiring and cousin-who’s-a-contractor plumbing jobs could cause future fires or flooding — and most insurance companies won’t cover damages from non-permitted work.
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