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9 Huge Home Inspection Red Flags That Will Save You Big Time

"danger" warning sign

Buying any new property, let alone your first home, is always an exciting whirlwind of possibilities. However, rushed inspections and emotions can come into play and cloud your judgement. For this reason it’s important to remain impartial and look out for key tell-tale signs that the property you have your eye on isn’t what it seems.

While you won’t uncover every issue with a property on your first inspection, with a little assistance, you’ll be able to spot the signs that indicate bigger issues. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a complete guide for identifying issues on first inspections – because if they go unnoticed, your new dream home could be bigger drain on your wallet and wristwatch than you ever bargained for.

1. Signs of haphazard water pressure

It’s important to check the water pressure in any property that you’re thinking about buying, as both high and low water pressure can be signs of larger issues in your home that will continually get worse.

weak water pressure tap

Why either low or high water pressure can be a problem

Low water pressure can be related to hidden leaks, large mineral deposits in pipes, or old and corroded pipes. High water on the other hand, which might feel fantastic in a shower, can lead to leaking, unseen water damage, and the breakdown of fixtures and appliances.

How to check the property

 First of all, if the water isn’t on, ask for it to be turned on so that you can test it. Properties rarely get water disconnected completely, so shouldn’t be a problem to have it turned on at the property during an inspection.

When checking for low water pressure, look out for:

  • Pencil thin water flow
  • A whistling sound coming from the pipes
  • A basin taking forever to fill up

When checking for high water pressure, look out for:

  • Toilets running without being used
  • Spitting from a tap or showerhead when it is turned on
  • Leaking taps

If the water pressure only seems to be low or high at one fixture or point of the house, then it’s a problem that can usually be fixed easily as it’s likely to be fixture specific and not a plumbing issue.

However, if it’s an issue that persists for several fixtures on the property, then you have a bigger problem. The last thing you’ll want to do when you purchase a property is have to shell out thousands to have a new plumbing system installed.

2. Is that fresh coat of paint hiding something sinister?

Giving a home a fresh coat of paint is a common home improvement tactic when selling a property. Painting a home not only makes it look less ‘lived-in’ and ready to move into, but can also cover-up a multitude of costly sins, so be wary.

fresh paint

Why you should inspect a new paint job

A freshly painted home could be an attempt to cover up cracks, damp, termite damage, mould, and mildew. It’s important to go into your first home inspection with a curious eye as you don’t want to run into extensive and expensive issues down the track.

How to check the property

You’ll want to be on the look-out for a few things, but firstly, you should be worried about any new paint smells. The owner may have put on a fresh coat to enhance the value of the property but there may be something more sinister at play.

If some rooms have been completely overhauled with fresh paint but others have not, ask why.

Look out for bubbling paint or stained areas on walls or on the floor near walls, as these could all be a sign of serious leaks.

3. Look out for these red flags in the bathroom

When you attend a first home inspection, you’ll want to look out for signs that the bathroom will cause you problems.

old bathroom

Why you should look out for bathroom issues

Bathroom issues that are left unchecked can lead to extensive water damage, as well as a hefty blow to your bank balance. What you need to look out for goes beyond leaks and mould, which are signs of problems that have already taken root. You’ll want to be aware of anything that has the potential to cause problems in the future too – take a look at our handy list below.

How to check the property’s bathroom:

Look out for a foul or unpleasant smell – this is can be a sign of a sewage leak or pipes that aren’t draining properly.

  • Be aware of any stains around shower basins, toilets and vanities as this can be a sign of water damage.
  • Look for a solid wall structure and be aware of any weak or buckling tiles.
  • Look for newly grouted sections of tiles as well as tiles that don’t match – you’ll want to find out why these specific sections are different to the rest of the bathroom – perhaps they’ve been repaired to cover up a problem. Don’t be shy to ask questions.
  • Damp smells, mould and mildew are also signs of water build up somewhere below the surface.
  • Blistering paint is a sign of moisture dripping behind a wall.
  • Make sure the exhaust fan doesn’t terminate in the roof/attic as this creates the perfect environment for mould, mildew and damp.

4. Cracks in walls and ceilings, or doors that stick in frames

Cracks in walls and ceilings are some of the most obvious problems to uncover at a home inspection. You’ll want to be smart and keep the following tips in mind.

crack wall

Why you should look for cracks and jammed doors

Cracks in a property’s walls and ceilings can indicate problems with the home’s foundations. This means the home may have warped from its initial construction shape, and while sometimes harmless, other times it has the potential to cause severe costly issues.

How to check the property

You’ll want to look for cracks around windows, along ceilings, walls and where walls join ceilings. You’ll also want to check that doors open and close easily – if a door is jamming or swinging wildly within its frame, you could have a foundation fault on your hands. If it is sticking within the frame, it could also be swollen from damp – in this case you’d likely need a building inspector to investigate further.

If you find a crack in a wall, keep in mind that not all cracks are worthy of worry. Narrow vertical cracks are often caused by minor settlement and normal shrinkage and are not structural defects – especially if the home is old, then this is to be expected. Horizontal cracks on the other hand are much more of a concern than vertical cracks.

However, any large crack wider than 1.27 centimetres should be looked at by a professional as it could be pointing to a serious foundational issue.

Remember to move furniture when you inspect a home just in case it has been strategically placed.

5. Damage around electrical points

Damage to electrical wiring and points can not only be costly to repair, but also incredibly dangerous. You’ll want to make sure the property you’re buying is in good condition.

damaged electrics

Why you need to be aware of electrical problems

From warm-to-touch electrical outlets to flickering and dimming lights, electrical problems vary, but the one thing they have in common is that they shouldn’t be ignored or messed with, as they are often signs of potentially dangerous conditions.

How to check property electrics

Most electrical outlets and problems should be inspected by a licensed professional, but there are a few things you can look out for when inspecting a property:

  • If there are a few appliances in the property you’re inspecting, ask if they can be turned on while lights are on within the house – if the circuit breaker trips, go out to the fuse box, turn it on and off again, and then resume. If it trips again, there may be a problem.
  • Similarly if ceiling or wall lights dim when you turn on an appliance, it means you could be overloading the circuit.
  • Look out for buzzing or crackling sounds when turning on switches – these are signs of electrical issues. Turn the switch off right away as an experienced electrician should be called.
  • Look out for frayed or chewed electrical wiring – this could be a sign of pest problems or shoddy and unprofessional work. Do not touch it.
  • If switches and sockets are warm to touch or have brown areas, they could be signs of poor wiring.

6. Unusually placed or recently moved furniture and wall hangings

While some sellers innocently like to move furniture around and decorate with wall art to show their home in its best light, you also need to understand that this is also a tactic used to cover up unsightly issues or problems with a property.

furniture in the way of damage

Why you should be aware

If you turn up to a property to inspect it and the furniture looks like it has been recently moved, you need to be asking why. At the end of the day, you don’t want to have to foot the bill for repairs when it could’ve been avoided if you were initially aware of problems and defects.

How to check the property

You need to be on the lookout for a few things:

  • As mentioned earlier, furniture that has been moved could be a sign of a homeseller covering up issues. If any furniture placement seems odd, look at where the furniture is connected to the ground. If something has been sitting in the same place for a long time there is usually tell-tale signs of accumulation or depression. Ask if you can move some of the furniture around to check the area.
  • Ask the agent or homeseller at the inspection if you can lift up wall hangings to check for cracks or stains in the walls.
  • Look out for strategically placed rugs – they could be masking damaged flooring.

Don’t be embarrassed to do your due-diligence, because when it comes down to the crunch, it’s your money that you will be parting with.

7. Hidden signs of dampness

To the untrained eye, the initial stages of rising damp can be hard to identify, so follow the below to pinpoint more established damp issues.

floor damage

Why you need to look for signs of dampness

Issues with dampness might initially seem innocent and nothing to worry about, but with time they can exacerbate and cause costly problems – not just to your property, but also to your health.

How to check the property:

  • Check that gutters are clear – gutters that are blocked and full of debris can cause leaks and dampness issues in a home.
  • Look for discoloured ceilings or walls.
  • Keep an eye out for mould, mildew and a feeling of excess humidity – this can point to subpar ventilation.
  • Lifting or buckling floor tiles and rotten carpets – these can indicate dampness in flooring.
  • Be sure to check inside cupboards, under sinks and near drains – if there is a damp smell, or mould and mildew, this can indicate a ventilation issue or a leak that can lead to more serious consequences.

8. All the windows are open or uneven home temperature

While having the windows open might be an innocent tactic to make a home feel breezy and inviting during a home inspection, it could also be an attempt to cover up smells arising from bigger issues or to regulate a home’s overall temperature.

open windows

Why you need to be aware of this

You need to be curious about open windows and uneven temperatures in a home because both of these can be a sign of poor ventilation or insulation.

You have to wonder what the home would smell and feel like if all the windows were closed – would there be an unpleasant smell? Would it be musty? Would the home be very hot or very cold?

How to check the property

When you walk into the property, tap into your senses and see if you notice any strange temperature changes while moving from room to room. A weirdly cold bedroom, overly damp bathroom or musty downstairs rumpus room can all point to issues of poor or deteriorated insulation that will need to be dealt with to avoid bigger problems.

9. An agent or homeseller insisting on meeting at a particular time of day

While this may just come down to simple availability, it’s worth looking into.

home night

Why this could mean alarm bells

If you’re not seeing the property at various times of day, then you’re definitely not getting the full picture. In real estate circles, this is a tried and tested technique for increasing the selling price of a home, or covering up other issues. It could be to reduce the need for electric lighting or heating/cooling, or to make a poorly facing and dark house less obvious. It could even be an issue not directly related to the home, such as overly loud or busy traffic outside or difficult neighbours. It’s certainly worth knowing about!

How to check the property:

  • Set up your initial inspection, and then ask to see the property again during a different time of the day where you think it might be different. For example, during peak hour where there could be unbearable traffic congestion and noise.
  • Try and look at the property both in the morning and late afternoon – if the agent insists on meeting in the morning, then perhaps the property is unbearably hot in the afternoon.
  • Keep in mind that if you’re seeing the property in the middle of the day it could be an attempt to hide things like loud neighbours who at this time would be at work or school.
  • Speak to other residents in the complex or street to find out what your potential future neighbours are like – even the nicest properties can be exceptionally unpleasant if your neighbours throw loud parties every weekend.

There you have it, a guide to uncovering some of the most difficult to identify potential problems when inspecting a property that can really stack up. Remember to ask questions and have your wits about you – don’t be afraid to trust your intuition.

If you feel positive about a property and can’t see any obvious issues or damage, then you can enlist the expertise of an experienced building inspector who can give you a detailed report on every aspect of your home. Good luck!

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