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5 Warning Signs to Look for Before Making an Offer on a Property

Home buyers can gain a wealth of information about a property by attending an open house. Spotting problems that hide in plain sight can save trouble—and needless expense—down the road.


THE OPEN HOUSE


Every Sunday in communities across the country, you’ll find real estate agents hosting open houses for homes they’re listing. While some people attend these 2-hour events to get decorating ideas, and agents use them to network and make contact with potential buyers, open houses are also an excellent way for house hunters to get a low-pressure look at a property, ask questions, and suss out its suitability.


Sellers typically go to great lengths to spruce up the place before an open house and, in some cases, they’ll endeavor to hide issues a home—particularly an older home—may have that can prevent its sale. The next time you’re at an open house, keep your eyes open for these seemingly minor house characteristics that might indicate the sellers are hiding something, or there’s trouble down the road for the new owner.


If the yard meets (or is near) the siding, the house is at risk for termites.


When first approaching a home, take a look at the distance between the bottom lap of a house’s wood siding and the soil. Anything less than 6 inches puts the home at risk of a termite infestation. These subterranean wood-munchers look for the shortest routes to enter the house and start dining on its structural members. In all cases, the soil should never be piled up against the siding.


If the interior walls are plaster, the home could be chilly in winter.


The wall builders of yesteryear who applied plaster to wood lath and created near-perfect flat walls were craftsmen, indeed, but older homes that still have plaster and lath walls are typically under-insulated. When older homes are updated, the plaster is usually torn off, new batt insulation is installed, and then the wall studs are covered with drywall panels.


Before passing judgment, however, go outside and examine the exterior siding—if you find small round plugs near the top of the wall every 16 inches or so, it’s an indication that blown-in insulation was added to the stud spaces later.


Shared driveways can lead to neighborly disputes.


The old saying is “Good fences make good neighbors,” so it’s no surprise that shared driveways can lead to hard feelings. No matter how quaint or postcard-perfect the neighborhood, if the home you’re looking at shares a driveway with the house next door, it can lead to problems in the future when either you or your neighbor inadvertently parks over the centerline. Consider whether it’s worth the hassle.


Missing doors may be no mystery.


Poor room configurations are nothing new. However, when opening an interior door results in being unable to enter the room comfortably or interfering with the room’s function, sellers (and their agents) may take the door off its hinges during an open house. Poor door/room configurations are often found in bathrooms and laundry rooms, but they can occur in any room. If you come across a room with a missing door, there’s also a slim chance they removed it because something was wrong with the door. To be on the safe side, imagine it on the hinges to see if it would interfere with use of the room when in place.

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