The Ask This Old House team discusses a few items house hunters might discover in a home that could cost them thousands of dollars to repair. Do your research when selecting a licensed and highly recommended home inspector.
Top 10 Red Flags for Homebuyers
Today’s real estate market is a tough one. Inventory is low and moving quickly, so many buyers have resorted to full (or above) asking price offers while foregoing inspections. That’s not an ideal scenario, so host Kevin O’Connor asked the team at Ask This Old House what they would consider deal breakers if they were shopping for homes today.
1. Straight Lines
One of the first signs a home buyer should look for in a potential home is straight lines. General contractor Tom Silva says he looks for a straight roof line and straight walls that aren’t leaning, twisting, or warping.
2. Grade and Foundation Cracks
Tom also looks at the grade around the home because if the grade is pitched back toward the home, water will run into the foundation rather than away from it. He’ll inspect for foundation cracks, as well. Hairline and vertical cracks aren’t really a concern. However, horizontal cracks can be an indication of grade problems that are going to be expensive to fix, both inside the home and out.
3. Big Ticket Renovations
In the hot market, big-ticket renovations can be red flags. If the home requires renovating a bathroom, kitchen, or wiring to live in the home, and there isn’t wiggle room in the price, it might be a good idea to steer clear.
4. The Home’s Age and Lead Paint
Homes built before 1978 will almost certainly contain lead paint. Paint expert Mauro Henrique says the cost for a paint job in a home containing lead paint is much larger than one without, as the crew has to take precautions to protect the home, the residents, the neighbors, and themselves from the dangers of lead poisoning. Older homes that need paint jobs, for this reason, might send up some red flags for Mauro.
5. Aged Plumbing Systems
Plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey’s concern revolves around aged plumbing systems. He points out that threaded brass and galvanized fittings can become extremely brittle due to electrolysis, causing leaks or emergencies. Also, homes containing polybutylene piping are red flags, as these pipes and joints often fail.
One other point to consider is the thickness of any existing copper piping. Copper pipes with red markings are thinner than those with blue markings, and if electrolysis occurs, it can cause the pipe to corrode and split faster than the blue piping. While this is not necessarily a deal breaker, it’s literally a red flag.
6. Mechanical Equipment Age and Condition
The plumbing and mechanical equipment in the home are a concern of home technology expert Ross Trethewey. He says that, while not a deal breaker, he does look for the age of the equipment on all of the rating plates for the date of manufacture. He wants to know what the age of the equipment is compared to the expected life of the appliance so he knows whether to expect to have to replace it sooner rather than later.
7. Solar Situations
Solar in itself is not an issue, but how the previous owner paid for that solar might be. Ross tells us that many solar installations are paid for by leasing or power purchase agreements. When that’s the case, the home buyer needs to realize that they might be entering into a contract with another party when they buy their home. Ross suggests reading the fine print on these contracts first.
8. Knob and Tube Wiring and Screw-In Fuses
Master electrician Heath Eastman wants people to know that just because their electrical system is outdated by today’s standards doesn’t mean it’s bad or unsafe. However, if there are knob-and-tube wiring and screw-in fuses, he considers them red flags that need to be replaced and budgeted for. In some cases, home buyers can’t even get insurance with knob-and-tube.
9. Chimney Condition
Mason Mark McCullough says chimneys are the areas he likes to focus. When there isn’t an inspection, Mark notices there are often issues with leaning chimneys and the expensive process to repair them. He says a chimney that leans needs to be taken down to below where it starts to lean, which means staging and lots of manpower and materials.
Are These Really Dealbreakers?
Your dream home might have some or all of these red flags, and it might not stop you from buying. But the team says if you’re going to put in an offer on a home that shows some concerning signs, make sure to have a budget set aside for any necessary repairs. And, it doesn’t always have to be done at once.