There are various things to look for on your home tour with a Realtor. You should look at all the usual things like the kitchen, baths, layout, rooms and the backyard… but there are also things that you should look at on your tour that can save you a lot of time and money if you spot these things early. By learning a few things and taking a little extra time on your home tour and listening to your Realtor… you will not end up putting in offers on homes that wont work for you because they need to many repairs or have unpermitted work that you don’t want to deal with. If you see these things early, they can also help you save money on the amount of your offer. Most of time sellers know what’s wrong with their homes but see it differently than the buyer. So if you spot a problem early you can make your offer accordingly rather than trying to lower your offer later after the inspection. You might learn from your inspector something that you think is a hidden problem but the seller thinks is plainly obvious and is insulted that you are lowering your offer for that. They might want to negotiate and they might not , because they may think your offer was a ploy to get the offer in the door. Right now the market is very hot and sellers of (accurately priced) homes usually have multiple offers in on their homes in a week or two and sometimes sooner. They might be angered by your lack of knowledge and feel you didn’t really look at their home and tell you “no” based on emotions rather than good faith negotiation.
Here are a few things that can help you in your home search and give you an idea of what you should be looking for:
- Odors– When looking around a home on a tour with your eyes…you should also take care to use your other senses… like your nose. The nose can tell you a lot about a home as well. It may look beautiful and in perfect shape, but smells can tell a different story. Excessive pet odors, musty damp smells and stale old cigarette smoke odors can mean more than it has just been lived in. They are not just a nuisance that will go away with the present owner, they can be a hassle and expense for you. Smells like these can hang around long after you have bought the home and installed 10 fragrance diffusers around the house and opened all the windows. Pet and cigarette smells can stay in a home long term because they can permeate the carpet, the drapes and even the HVAC. Pet smells can get so bad that the carpet may have to be removed, the drapes thrown out and the A/C serviced and cleaned. Cigarette smoke also stays in furniture, the carpet and can also stain the walls and stick in the ceiling. The move in ready home might not be so move in ready if the smells stay behind for you, the new owner. Getting rid of these smells (while not the end of the world) can be another big expense you weren’t planning on. Maybe they are something you don’t have the money for in the early stages of owning your new home, especially after spending lots on closing costs, down payment and new furniture.
Another smell to “sniff” for is mold. Mold has a musty, old wet socks smell that lingers around and won’t just go away when you move in and air out the house. Depending on the severity of the mold and the location, it can be expensive to remove and cause long term problems for your health and even the home. Mold can weaken walls and structures and can be hard to get rid of, especially if not in readily accessible areas of the home. Like they say “the nose knows” and you should let it help you in your home search.
2. Walls, Ceilings and Floors- Make sure during your visit you also periodically look up during your showing. Look for ceiling stains or places where it looks darker, discolored or a different texture than the rest of the ceiling. It could be old or present leak damage that is active, old and repaired, or active and they are trying to cover it up. The roof may just have had an old leak and it was professionally repaired or replaced. All these clues will give you an idea of what to ask your Realtor and you home inspector. Your Realtor can try to find out about it from the seller and your home inspector can look a little deeper in to it if you ask about it. They can explain if it is old or active damage and what might be done about it.
Just like you should look up during your showing…you should also look down and left to right. If the home is occupied you should look past the drapes, furniture and the pictures of family and look at the walls and floors. Look at the walls and see if you can spot any “patch” work or spots where the wall may have been repaired. Again… just like the ceilings there may be discolored, darker, and different texture than the rest of the wall. Patch areas on walls behind kitchens and baths may mean that there were leaks where there may have been plumbing repair, pipe replacement, and or water damage. Not always a red flag but again it gives you something to discuss with your Realtor and home inspector to check in to before you buy the home. Another thing to look for on walls are cracks either on the outside or inside of the home. If they are no wider than 1/8 of an inch and run vertically they are usually not a problem. These can be settlement cracks that happened when the home was built and settled as it ages. Wider cracks that run horizontally or diagonally can be a major issue that can indicate foundational issues or other damage. Outside “step” cracks on block homes can be an issue if they are in multiple places and or wider than the 1/8th of an inch measurement. As always of course any questions about cracks should be asked of your home inspector or your Realtor…so he can find out from the seller if they know about them or planned to have them repaired if an issue.
Another thing to look or feel for may be flooring issues, but of course you cant always see floors because of carpet, rugs, furniture, extc. When walking on wood floors try to feel if maybe they are warped or “bouncy”. Bouncy and warped floors can mean lots of things… from wood rot, water damage, to bad repair jobs or to even termite damage. So be cautious when walking on any wood floors that have to much bounce for your liking. For all floors when walking be mindful of how it feels when walking…if you get the sensation that you are going either up or down hill, don’t assume it is just you. Make sure to walk the floor again and discuss it with your Realtor and if you move forward with an offer, make sure to mention it to your home inspector. It may be settlement or maybe foundational issues that can cost thousands of dollars to repair. You may need to get a foundational expert out there to asses the issue if your inspector cannot give you a definitive answer about the floors.
3. Additions or closed in garages/carports- If there are additions or enclosures look to see if there are any cracks or separations with the walls or ceilings and definitely make sure to see if they were permitted with the local municipality. If the property appraiser or tax collector site doesnt show the addition or take into account the square footage of an enclosure, then there may have been unpermitted work done to the home.
(See my Blog “What is Unpermitted Work and Why is it a Big Deal”)
This can be an issue for getting a loan on a property or if you decide to look past it and buy it, then decide to sell later on down the road, it can be an issue and make it harder to sell to a new owner that finds it. Also and most importantly it may have been done incorrectly and can be a hazardous and dangerous issue to you and or the home. If you did buy the home and later on the work was discovered by the municipality, you may be liable for fines, fees and not to mention the costs. If the municipality decides it needs to be redone or worse totally removed you are responsible for those costs as well. Just because the previous owner wasn’t caught or fined doesn’t mean you wont be. Make sure to check with your home inspector and Realtor to find out if the additions or enclosures were permitted before you buy the home.
4. Roofs- When walking up to the home make sure to take a step back and look at the roof and try to see as much as you possibly can. (Some roofs like flat roofs with barely any pitch are almost impossible to see any substantial amount of the roof at all with out getting on a ladder.) While you are looking at the roof look and see if it is faded, has dark spots, or looks like it has a dip in it. Look to see if there are missing shingles or ones that are a different color than the rest of the roof. For tile roofs, look to see if there are any missing tiles and or cracked ones. These are all things to look for when looking at the roof from the outside. If the roof looks bad on the outside it may be a clue of what’s to come on the inside. A new roof can be very costly to replace and an old one needing repair should be taken into account when making your offer. New roofs depending on square footage can normally run between 8,000 to 30, 000$ range. (I dont know what you think, but to me that’s a huge chunk of change). Now again most of the time you won’t be able to see a large portion of the roof but just taking a few extra minutes to try to see as much as you can, will help you decide whether or not you even want to go in the house or need to make an offer.
These are all a few important things you should check out when on your showing with your Realtor. If you have any questions about showings, want to see a home or even just general Real Estate questions don’t hesitate to give me call.
Orlando Homes For Sale– Todd Mowry Realtor. Specializing in Real Estate in Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Waterford Lakes and surrounding
communities. I have over 10 years of experience in advising buyers and sellers on how to make the most well informed decisions for themselves. Call or text me at 407-435-5220 even if you just need to ask a question from an experienced and dependable Realtor.