Buyer Beware: 4 Problems Home Sellers May Try to Hide

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Don't let your dream house turn into a nightmare. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure your future house doesn't suffer any of these unsavory and expensive issues.

Homeownership can go from exciting to overwhelming in a hurry if you discover your property has problems after you buy it. If you want to be able to sit back and bask in that new homeowner glow, you need to do your homework before you sign on the dotted line.

Here are four home issues sellers often try to hide from buyers:

  1. Carpenter ants, termites and cockroaches: Looks can be deceiving. A perfectly lovely house can be hiding pests that can damage your home and leave a big dent in your billfold. “It’s not unheard of to see a home with termite damage in the tens of thousands of dollars,” Greg Bauman, a former senior scientist with the National Pest Management Association and a current vice president at Pest Control Technology, explained to HouseLogic. “I’ve personally seen a home with $1 million in repair costs. It probably would have been better to bulldoze the house.” Real estate site Trulia says that even if you have even the slightest concern that your dream house is harboring unwanted pests, you should schedule a pest inspection before you close on the house.
  2. Water and structural damage: Leaks, roof and foundation issues can be a huge — and expensive — headache. Before you consider putting in an offer on a home, Zillow recommends that you do your own initial home inspection. Be on the lookout for significant cracks in the foundation, mold or musty odors, or water damage on ceilings or walls. Of course, if you do decide to put in an offer, getting a thorough home inspection by a professionally licensed home inspector is important and highly recommended.
  3. Emotional defects: Depending on where you live, sellers aren’t required to disclose a home’s “emotional defects,” or sordid (or spooky) past, such as a death, murder or haunting, according to Trulia. But if a home’s past is important to you and your state doesn’t require seller disclosure, Trulia recommends using a website like DiedinHouse.com to research your home’s history. Check out “The Murder Factor: What Homicide Does to Home Values.”
  4. Old, energy-guzzling home systems: If the seller doesn’t know (or doesn’t disclose) the age of the home’s water heater or HVAC systems, simply ask your home inspector to help you determine it. RE/MAX agent Maura Neill of Georgia told Trulia that the property disclosure on the home can be an indication of how up front and honest the seller is. “When it states the bare minimum, we know we are either dealing with a disconnected or uninvolved seller who doesn’t really know their home or with a seller who knows there are issues and doesn’t want to disclose them,” Neill explains.

If you want more information on a home, Trulia recommends talking to your potential neighbors.

“Being diligent in getting questions answered is an important piece of the puzzle for buyers, who should take every opportunity to get to know as much about the house they are buying from the person who knows it best: the seller,” said Neill.

For more home buying tips, read “Shopping for a Home? Beware These 17 Flaws.” Also, check out “20 Clues You’re Buying a Home in the Right Neighborhood.”

Have you encountered any of the problems described above? What advice do you have for potential home buyers? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

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