Home issues that cause buyers to hit the pause button

As important as knowing what you want in your next house (see last month’s blog musings) is learning about what should be cause for concern. Every house has limitations - shag carpeting, dated paint colors, older roof, overgrown landscaping are just a few examples; and many of these negatives can be relatively easily remedied. Some may even be desirable to a buyer looking to give an older house some TLC or hoping to score a deal on a fixer upper. If you are up for it, buying a solid house that needs updating is a great opportunity. What we want to discuss are issues that don’t always have easy fixes. We strive to ensure that the buyers we work with are aware of the following before they decide whether to proceed with a purchase:

Functional Obsolescence As anyone who has tried to get rid of an old TV can attest, trends can change quickly and what was desirable 5 or 10 years ago (let alone 50-60 years when many homes in the region’s suburbs were built) is not what people want today. A common term in real estate, functional obsolescence refers to homes that, while in perfectly good shape, are not as valuable as nearby homes given their lack of expected features. A few examples include - the main bathroom not being on the same floor as the bedrooms, very small bedrooms, walking from the garage right into the dining or living room, not having an entrance to the attached garage from inside the home or not having access to the yard from inside the house. It’s possible to overcome functional obsolescence but a buyer will want to ensure they adjust the offer price accordingly.

Foundation cracks We aren’t talking about hairline cracks; most houses have settlement cracks. What is worrisome is when you see significant bowing in a foundation or large steps cracks traversing a basement wall. Sometimes you can spot foundation issues before you even enter the basement - windows that don’t sit correctly in their openings, cracks in walls, uneven floors, cabinets that aren’t flush to the wall. We have shown houses where we have a feeling of vertigo due to wonkiness of the floors. Sometimes a previous owner has addressed the issue and made repairs to shore up the foundation but the initial damage is not easily repairable. If that’s the case you have to ask yourself, how much will the unevenness bother you and will it potentially affect resale?

Mold and moisture We could (and will, soon!) do an entire blog post on this issue but for now what’s important to know is that mold is everywhere and it can often be remedied. Mold in attics is a relatively common issue, as it’s a by-product of newer homes that have more insulation, but not always enough ventilation (something owners of drafty old Victorians never have to worry about). Addressing attic mold can be as simple as hiring a mold remediator to clean the space and install additional ventilation. This is very different than when you come across a home that smells dank, is surrounded by large trees and overgrowth and has a moldy and water clogged basement perimeter drain. Mold in the basement can be a sign of a high water table, poor drainage, or incorrect grading, and can be costly to address.

Deferred maintenance There are times when we show a house and it just looks sad and unloved. Walking through it, there are projects of varying size in every room - carpets are torn and dirty, windows sills are peeling, counters are warped. Outside, pieces of siding have come down, the shed doors are off their hinges, the fencing is not securing the yard anymore. No one project looks that expensive but start adding them up and you quickly get overwhelmed. These are warning signs that the current owner has not kept up with regular maintenance projects and this means that you will be on the hook for all of them.

Poorly done renovations Sometimes, a new listing will come on the market and it will look so great in the photos; you simply can’t wait to get inside. However, on closer inspection you notice the new tile backsplash is crooked, the taping job on the drywall is amateurish and the refinished floors are pock marked with bubbles in the urethane. These results might be due to a homeowner’s inflated sense of their DIY skills or a flipper trying to cut corners. Either way, it can seem overwhelming to consider purchasing a house that’s advertised as fully updated when you know you want to rip out the changes and start over.

While we are not licensed home inspectors, we try to point out these issues when we see signs of their existence. It’s always better to have the information so you can do the necessary research and decide if a house that looked great online is actually the right choice for you. It’s always ok to return for a second look and perhaps bring a contractor to get estimates for repair work before you decide if you want to make an offer.