What to watch out for when you’re house hunting


Buying a home can be a very exciting and emotional time. It’s easy to get carried away and fall in love when you see what looks like the ideal house—a perfectly landscaped backyard, freshly painted walls and open concept rooms. But beware of what may lurk under the surface!

A freshly painted wall and ceiling could be covering up active or old leaks, renovations could have been done with amateur plumbing and electrical work… the list can go on.

Jeffrey Brookfield, Business Development Consultant with AmeriSpec of Canada, our partner in Certified Resale Home, has been in the home inspection industry for over 12 years. He says, “We want to get people to look past the aesthetics of a house, away from carpet or wall colours and kitchen cabinets, and when they walk up to a house think about – what does the roof look like? Are there odd smells in the basement? Active water leaks?”

Not that homebuyers should be doing a home inspection themselves, but looking at these important elements can help you shortlist homes. In fact, AmeriSpec of Canada has an app called HomeScore to help you do just that. Jeffrey explains that the app allows homebuyers to compare, score and organize all the homes they’ve seen to make it easier to choose one for the home inspection.

There are many warning signs that homebuyers could look out for on their first home visit:
Recent renovations

A lot of houses these days get complete makeovers or have new additions or decks built. Always make sure you ask if the homeowners have appropriate permits, so you know that the work is done properly.
Staining on walls or ceilings, puckered paint near windows and doors, and patches of fresh paint

All these things could be a sign of active or old water leaks. Boxes or items that are on skids or pallets in the basement to keep them off the ground could indicate that there was a water leak in the past. Check underneath counters with sinks as well to see if there are any stains or wet patches. If you see any of these signs, ask the homeowners or realtor about it.
Odd smells in the house

If there are strong odours in the house—good or bad—or if all the windows are left open, it could be a potential red flag. A damp smell could mean either active water leaks or that there is mold or mildew in the house, while a strong pleasant fragrance could be used to mask a bad smell.
Sloped floors

If you notice that the floors are slightly sloping or that the doors and windows are sticking, it could mean there’s an issue with the foundation. Also look out for cracks outside the house and in the basement, and whether there are trees too close to the foundation.
Flickering or dimming lights

This could mean there are wiring issues. Wires hanging out of an electrical box are a sign that there could have been amateur electrical work done in the house. This could potentially be dangerous and cause shocks, short-circuits or worse. Be sure to have a qualified home inspector or electrician take a closer look at this.

Any home may have one or more of these warning signs, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal-breaker. Once you find a home that meets all your criteria, call a home inspector to dig deeper.

Home inspectors typically have infrared cameras and moisture meters which help them detect any issues within the walls of the house. However, there are limitations to what their devices can do, Jeffrey warns. If there is no active leak and it’s dry on the day of the inspection; the devices will not register any issues. With or without the help of devices, home inspectors could still find red flags that point to potential issues and ask you to go back to the homeowners with more questions or get a more thorough inspection done.

It’s rare to find a home in perfect condition, but it’s worth noting that everything can be repaired. It’s up to you to decide whether the house is worth the repairs or not.

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