If you’re in the process of buying a home (whether it’s your starter home or your dream home), you know how frustrating it can be to fall in love with a house, only to find a non-negotiable that forces to you to move on.
The five things listed here are five of the most overlooked parts of a home. Of course you know how to walk through a house with your realtor. But do you know the most important things to look for? I mean besides the paint colors and besides the size of the rooms.
Now I agree that these things are important. Especially if you want to stay in your house long term. But I want to make sure EVERY homeowner is buying a house that isn’t going to cost a fortune in the long run. And it starts with that initial walk-through. Why waste your time when house-hunting by investing your time and falling in love with an unhealthy money pit.
There are many reasons to look at windows and really understand what your potential home is offering you in this area.
Airflow: Many windows in every room of the house allow the house to be properly ventilated. I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but truly and honestly, a properly ventilated home is a healthy home. They allow the stale, toxin-infused air in your home to be diluted with fresh, outdoor air. SO you want to make sure the home you’re searching for has windows that open properly in every room of the house. And go ahead and test EVERY. SINGLE. WINDOW. You’ll want to make sure they do work before you jump in wholeheartedly. Replacing windows is a HUGE expense, and if your dream home needs every window replaced you’re in for a big investment.
Mold: Here is where we get into the knitty-gritty of windows. Depending on the age of your home, you will want to identify if the windows are made of wood. Wood windows can be a great place for mold to grow, especially in the Midwestern states of the country. And here’s why: Poorly insulated windows (and this is actually quite common) allow the warm indoor air to heat the inside of your window while the cold air on the outside of the home creates condensation on the INSIDE of your window. If this happens all winter long you’re creating a wet environment on WOOD (which absorbs the water and stays damp) which will allow mold to grow at an exponential rate. Condensation on windows is a HUGE problem in homes and creates a very unhealthy living environment.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s really something you want to keep an eye on during a walk through with your realtor. Keep your eyes peeled for the tell-tale signs of water damage the MOMENT you enter your potential new home. Here’s why we know moisture and water damage means a probable mold issue.
When a home has a water leak, whether from the outside or from inside plumbing, the home’s sheetrock and wood absorb the water that touches it. When the water is absorbed into any part of the house that area becomes a breeding ground for mold. Mold thrives in a damp, dark environment. So if you imagine that there has been a leak from the bathtub drain upstairs, you can see how the insulation, wood subfloor and ceiling below can have water affecting it. Once the water touches those surfaces, they don’t dry out right away. The water stays on those porous surfaces, gets absorbed and creates that moisture-rich environment that mold loves. Generally if you see signs of water damage, you will find mold behind it.
We have created an extensive guide to detecting water damage here. We’ll teach you where to look and what to look for. If you’re not wanting to download that guide, just know that mold and water damage can show up anywhere. Bathrooms are the biggest offenders and you’ll want to look under sinks and in cabinets as well as around toilets. (Here is EXACTLY what you need to look for on your walk through to detect water damage in our water damage guide).
If you find water damage in a house the FIRST time you walk through, you can move on to another house before you truly fall in love with the building your realtor has shown you.
This is something OFTEN overlooked during a walk-through. Take a look around the outside of the house. Walk the grounds with your realtor and make sure that your potential dream home doesn’t have negative grading. What is negative grading though? Negative grading is almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s when the soil near your home slopes TOWARDS the house. Imagine you want to have your house on a slight hill on every side. You want that hill to slope AWAY from your house. The reason being you want any water coming near your house to run AWAY from the building. Any water that comes near your home can seep in through foundation blocks, windows, doors or concrete to create a wet and damp basement or main level. Anytime your home has high moisture, you’re creating a great little home for mold to thrive.
When walking around the house you’ll want to see how much of the soil slopes into the house. A small slope in a few areas can easily be fixed and regularly maintained. However if you’re seeing most of one side of the house has this negative grading issue, you may want to calculate some landscaping costs into purchasing this home. Another factor to consider is that a home near water or moist soil will have grading that settles MUCH more quickly than a home on drier soil or in a dry area. This means that the grading you’ve fixed may need to be maintained more frequently in a home near water.
The rule of thumb that house inspectors use when it comes to mold is if you SMELL it, it’s most likely present. That’s a pretty critical statement. So trust your nose on your potential house walk through. If a basement has a musty smell, there is probably a problem with higher moisture levels which can cause mold.
Mold can affect MANY areas of your home and life. You can find an entire section of mold and information on how to prevent it and how to deal with it on our Mold Bundle page here. But what you should know about mold in a potential home is this: It can end up costing you THOUSANDS of dollars in removal procedures. You see, mold CANNOT be cleaned. It MUST be removed. Even dead mold spores can wreak havoc on your health. Removing a small area of mold can be done on your own, however anything larger than a 2 foot area should be removed by a professional. High humidity and moisture in a home also creates a great environment for things like dust-mites to reproduce. This is a HUGE allergen to our bodies and should be avoided.
The problem with a home that has high moisture is that mold can begin to grow ANYWHERE. Think inside walls, inside venting and under carpet. A home’s relative moisture should stay between 35%-45%. You can learn more about that here. But remember that if you smell moisture and mold, or musty odors, trust your nose and inspect the home further before falling in love.
This is another one of the MOST missed areas during an initial house walk through. Look around the outside of the house. You’ll want to make sure your potential home is armed with gutters. WHY? Because the house’s roof is a large area that collects water when it rains and snows. The water then runs off the roof slopes to one side of the house or the other. When the water runs OFF the last roof slope it lands RIGHT next to the home. Right next to the foundation of your home. This means that the soil nearest the home is wet and damp. This in turn will affect the foundation in two ways. First, the moisture will most likely seep into the interior walls of the basement or flooring of the main level. Second, the moisture-rich soil can quickly change slope to direct MORE water towards the house. Remember that negative grading we mentioned before? That’s right, too much water will actually cause negative grading near the house.
Gutters are a way to redirect the water from the roof out into the yard. Another thing to inspect during your house walk through with your realtor is the downspouts. The downspouts need to direct the water far enough away from the home (at least two feet) to make sure the soil nearest the house isn’t becoming saturated with water from rain or snow.
I want to invite you to download our quick start guide below to help you during a new home walk through with your realtor. It provides a short list of items to keep an eye out for during your house hunting.
I am a Certified Professional Home Inspector and Certified Building Biologist through the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and International Institute for Building Biology. I have trained with Internachi as well as the Water Quality Standards Academy and the EPA.