We always advocate hiring a professional home inspector to thoroughly vet your home before purchasing.

There’s an old adage that rings true when it comes to buying an existing home: Buyer Beware. As a potential buyer, you are at a major disadvantage: You usually only walk through a home a few times before deciding whether to take a major financial leap. What’s more, since you’re not a professional contractor, you might not know which telltale signs to look for that might indicate potential problems. That’s why we always advocate hiring a professional home inspector to thoroughly vet your home and ensure that there are no major issues lurking behind the walls, in the attic, under the crawl space – or anywhere else in your home.

Here are just a few areas that professionals typically examine. While the extent of issues is always best left to their professional opinion, visible signs of trouble in these areas gives you an indication that something might be amiss.

Slanting floors.

If you open a door and it swings to one side on its own, or if you can visibly see that the floor is tilted in one direction (look at window and door frames for a quick and easy indication), it may be a sign that there is an underlying issue. It also may mean that the framer did a poor job of squaring windows and doors, which can cause energy issues.

Damaged shingles.

Your roof is your first line of defense against the elements, but a substandard roof installation can actually cause damage if it allows water to seep into your home’ structure. Consider the age of the roof and if replacement is around the corner.

Stained ceilings.

If you are seeing stains on the ceiling, it could indicate a current or previous water leak from pipes above or a roof issue.

Rotting wood.

Over time, even treated wood will show its age. While cosmetic repairs are normal, and even well-built decks and porches eventually need to be replaced, look for unusual signs of rot or decay that may indicate underlying water issues.

home damage found by a professional home inspector

Sparking sockets.

Flip every light switch when you are walking through a home. Not only do you want to make certain that all the lights function, but you also want to look for potential trouble signs – like a visible spark – that indicates electrical problems behind the walls.

Dripping faucets.

Likewise, turn on every faucet and flush every toilet. You want to make sure that they are functioning, that water pressure appears to be adequate, and that they shut off without dripping. If the home is not on a city water system, check the well and septic for any issues.

Aging systems.

Among the most costly systems in any home are the HVAC systems. Consider the age and efficiency of the home’s heating and air conditioning systems and factor in when they will most likely need to replaced before making an offer on a home.

Wet crawl spaces.

Moisture issues can damage your home’s foundation, while mold can damage your family’s health.

These are just a few of the areas that a professional home inspector will look at when they examine a home. Remember, no home is perfect – expect that there will be areas you’ll need to address and things you’ll want to change when you buy an existing home. What you want to avoid are costly surprises and paying too much for a home that will require extensive repairs.