I’ve done a lot of real estate deals in the past 15 years and I’ve seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to the condition of a property. There’s not a lot of things that can’t be fixed or remedied in some way, however, for the average homeowner, there are definitely some real estate deal breakers to be on the lookout for when shopping for properties.
“Good bones” – that’s what you always want to hear about a house. What does that mean? Essentially that your house is structurally sound. Small, hairline foundation cracks aren’t necessarily cause for concern, but when the cracks are bigger (if you can stick your finger in it), that spells trouble. Cracks can be caused by water, frost, or even from the house settling. Telltale signs of significant “settling” are present not just in the basement, but also upstairs, cracks in walls – particularly over windows and doors – and some windows and doors that may not close properly due to the setting/shifting.
Major Plumbing/Septic Issues
Serious plumbing issues are right up there with structural problems on the top of the list of extremely costly home repairs. When touring a home, flush all the toilets and run all the taps – low water pressure or drainage issues can point to interior plumbing issues. However, it’s once you get outside that the problems can become serious enough to be deal breakers. Old sewer lines and outdated septic systems that are no longer code compliant can cost up to $50,000 to repair (or replace), so it’s extremely important to know what you’re getting into and making sure you have the budget to cover the costs.
Signs of Past Damage
Unless you’re buying a new build, chances are the house you buy will have endured a little wear and tear. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is extensive former damage that was never properly repaired, or covered up. Houses that were previously damaged in a fire and houses that were formally grow ops can have this time of damage – specifically from water – so make sure you inspector pays extra attention to possible signs of water damage or mould growth.
Termites (and other wood-eating insects)
Did you know that an average termite colony can have 100,000 to 500,000 workers who want to spend all day and night gnawing on your the structure of your home? It only takes approximately 4 months for termites to eat their way through a 12-inch length of 2×4, so you do the math. Before long, the structural integrity of your home can be severely compromised. Depending on how extensive the damage is when you find it, the cost to repair a termite ravaged home might be more than it’s worth.
Location in a Flood Zone
Even if the house has never flooded, a house in a flood zone can be a massive red flag. You can’t control the weather, so you never know when a flood may happen, which is a lot to have hanging over your head. Buying a house in a flood zone will also significantly impact your insurance premiums, so get quotes ahead of time and make sure you’re 100% clear what will be covered in the instance of a flood.
Sometimes the deal breaker on a property has nothing to do with the property itself, but with the circumstances surrounding the purchase. Sticking to your budget should always be a deal breaker that you impose on yourself. Don’t get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of a bidding war, because no matter who gets the house, no one “wins” a bidding war besides the sellers. Also make sure your lawyer does a proper title search, and if there are any liens on the property, it may be far more trouble than it’s worth to move forward with the purchase.