“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
– Benjamin Franklin
As a prospective home buyer, the process of exploring different homes for sale presents numerous questions: which neighborhood is best for your family? How many upgrades will a home require in order to suit your needs? Will your furniture fit in the rooms? But some of the most important considerations may not be immediately clear—specifically, whether a home that you are interested in has any serious flaws that could pose threats to your health and safety or cause you to incur unforeseen costs in the future. While some hazards, such as water stains on the ceiling, are easier to spot, others only reveal themselves upon further examination.
Planning to purchase a home? Watch out for the following “hidden” hazards in each property you are considering:
Mold problems. Overgrowth of mold is a serious health hazard (and nuisance) that can occur in any climate, but is more prevalent in warm and humid areas. To determine whether a mold problem is lurking within a home, open the cabinets under sinks to see if there are any black, pink, or gray spots around the pipes. In addition, check for these alarming spots on ceilings, around drains, and on caulking. If you notice condensation on windows or bubbling paint, these may also be signs that the home is not properly ventilated—which could raise the risk of mold and allergy problems.
Small openings in the home’s exterior. Even minor cracks in the exterior of a home can provide entryways for pests like mice, rats, and squirrels. Once inside, these critters may chew through wiring, heightening the risk of an electrical fire. Furthermore, cracks may be signs of deeper problems with a home’s foundation. Carefully checking to see if there are any cracks in the home’s exterior or gaps near the windows may save you significant headaches down the road.
Vulnerability to flooding. Even if there is no body of water in sight, homes situated at the bottom of a slope may be at a greater risk of flooding due to storms or even melting snow. If you’re concerned about the sloping around a home, have your inspector check the grade near the foundation. Re-grading the surrounding earth may be a viable option for preventing devastating floods in the first floor. In addition, consult city or county flood zone maps to see if the home sits in a flood zone. This will help you assess risk and determine whether you may need flood insurance.
Code violations. Checking out a home with a renovation or addition that looks…not quite right? While it can be difficult to tell at first glance whether a renovation was done without a permit, home buyers could potentially be responsible for fixing building code violations—which may present significant costs in the future. In addition, renovations that have not passed inspection could contain expensive structural issues or even health and safety risks.
Aluminum wiring. The U.S. faced copper shortages during the Vietnam War, so home builders during this era commonly used aluminum wiring instead of copper. Unfortunately, aluminum wiring carries a much greater risk of fire—and tends to be expensive to replace. If you are considering buying a home constructed during the Vietnam War era, be sure to ask your inspector to check for aluminum wiring.