Buying a home is a large investment and it’s important to know all you can about the property before signing the final documents. While not every seller is trying to do something underhanded, it is important to understand what homeowners can do to deceive buyers and thinking the house is perfectly fine. I don’t want to alarm any of my buyers but I do want them to be aware of what we seen out there. There are 10 ways homeowners can tend to trick homebuyers during the home inspection.
#1. Painting over problem issues.
Most homeowners will go through the house and touch up Nick’s, scuffs, and scratches on the wall but they may also paint over mold, mildew, and water stains. Ask your home inspector about recently painted areas and if the seller has taken before and after photos that you can compare.
#2. Playing ignorant.
Homeowners are supposed to fill out the seller’s disclosure form stating everything they know about the house, any problem areas, remodels, permits, and whether or not the home has lead-based paint or asbestos. But, some homeowners will choose to purposely omit certain items. If the home has been rented, the homeowner or the renters could avoid sharing certain information that can make a big difference to the next homeowner. Talk to the neighbors about the home’s former life and if you can get any clear information that way.
#3. Gaslighting your own concerns.
If a homeowner downplays any concerns, it could be a red flag. If the seller brushes aside your questions, a listing agent avoids being serious about your concerns, or if the homeowner simply refuses to answer, this could be a big red flag.
#4. Strategic staging.
Placing picture frames or furniture over problem areas can be a sticky way that sellers can avoid showing a buyer problem areas. Take note of any furniture that seems out of place and don’t be afraid to ask the seller or inspector to move something if you see a concern.
#5. Covering over issues with new carpet or flooring.
Carpet can reveal a lot such as if the sewage had a backup, pets had some messes or problems, or if the house had mold. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a seller is trying to hide something but it’s important to read over the seller disclosure form to learn about any known issues with the house.
#6. Avoiding issues from former occupants.
Rental properties tend to take more of a beating than an owner-occupied properties and if it’s a flipped home, it could’ve been in rough shape before the renovations so it’s important to talk with the inspector about any concerns or red flags that they may see after a home has been flipped and resold.
#7. Too many signs of a recent renovation.
If the homeowner is promoting the renovation in that they have put in a lot of money and work on the home making it amazing, that’s one thing, but if they’re using new construction as a decoy for deeper issues or to camouflage deeper problems, that could be a concern. A good home inspector will spot these issues, especially one that has lots of experience. Ask a lot of questions and talk to the inspector about any issues that might be covered up.
#8. Removing signs of damage.
Damp boxes, containers that have been chewed up by termites or pests, or damaged baseboards can all be quickly removed to give the appearance that there is nothing wrong with the house but an infrared camera can usually detect mold, overheating wires, water and termite damage.
#9. Homeowners not completing their own inspections.
Homeowners or sellers are not required to have a pre-inspection but if they are playing dumb at the things that they simply don’t want to know about, that could be a detriment to potential buyers.
#10. Restricting access to the house.
If there are parts of the property that the homeowner is restricting access to, this could be a real big red flag. Inspector should be able to access attics, crawl spaces, sump pumps, basements, circuit breakers, and the roof. If they won’t give you an unfettered look at the house you’re considering, this could mean something bigger is going on.
These are probably the 10 biggest issues you’ll find out there but it’s not always the case. Most sellers are honest homeowners trying to move on with their lives and many will do as much as possible to make sure that the transaction runs as smoothly as possible. However, knowledge is power and being aware of these things will help you make a better investment choice in the future.