Five Hidden Things First Time Home buyers Need to Look in a House

Picture this!  You are first time home buyer and you have just gotten your first showing schedule from your real estate agent.   The agent has lined up four houses for you to look at this weekend.  At first, you are excited by the houses she has lined up.  They look great in pictures so you figure they will be fantastic in person.   Then, you talk to you Mom and she points out that there are always hidden defects in a house that you miss when looking over the house the first time.  Your mom mentions that there could be foundation issues.  The plumbing could be leaking.  The electrical in the house could be out of code-compliance and possible burn down the house.  You mom tells it to you straight.   Now, instead of being excited, you are worried and stressed that you might accidentally buy a faulty house.

We, at Integrity 1st Real Estate, want to help you overcome you fears and stress by educating you on ways to find these hidden problems during your first showing.  Sure, mom was right.   Listing agents set up homes to sell and sometimes this means presenting a home that shines cosmetically but has some serious issues on the inside.   We hope the five tips below will help you to feel better about looking for hidden defects of the house.  Of course, you still need to get the house inspected during the option period. Never skip this step.

When you are done reading over the five things, please contact us.  We would love to discuss how we can help you find that perfect house.  We especially enjoy working with first time home buyers.


1.  Cracks in the wall – Foundation issues scare more of my buyers than any other item.  I hear from buyers all the time that they don’t want a house with foundations issues.  I can’t say that I blame them for this fear.  Foundation issues can mean issues with drywall cracks, plumbing and roofs.   On the other hand, foundation issues are a common repair item with the soil in Texas.  Our clay soil tends to shift and move over the years so it is just a matter of “when versus if” when it comes to foundations issues.   There are several things you can examine  for foundation issues when viewing a house.   If you see any cracks in the drywall, these are most likely settlement cracks when the foundation shifted.  If doors seem to close on their own, or you have difficult closing or opening a door, the foundation might have been damaged.  You need to make sure to go outside and look for cracks in the exterior of the house and check the roof for any signs of “rolling hills.”   If you see any of these signs, please be sure to ask the listing agent about it and have your inspector give you his opinion on the health of the foundation.

2.  New paint spots on the ceiling – Roof issues was the bane of my existence two years ago.  It seems I had more deals fall apart because the two parties could not come to terms on how to fix or replace the roof.    With roofs, the buyer is held bound by the insurance company, because if the insurance company refuses to give you a house insurance policy because of a bad roof, than you can’t get the mortgage, which requires an insurance policy.   Buyers are forced to ask the seller to replace the roof, and you often find sellers whose own roof company says there is nothing wrong with the roof.   It is a tough situation for both the buyers and seller to rectify.   One thing to check for roof issues is to see if there has been any repairs made to the ceiling.  If there is new paint there, it could mean the roof has a leak somewhere and needs to be repaired or replaced.   You can also look at the roof itself.  If the shingles are loose or look worn down, you need to be sure to get a roofer out to the house during your option period.  You want to have it in writing that the roof needs repairs or replacement before sending in the repair amendment.

3.  The slope of the lot – We need water to live so I always find it ironic how destructive water can be when it comes to a house.  Water can cause damage to out the exterior of your house with poor drainage.   Foundations can also be affected by excess water.  It is always best to have proper drainage that directs water away from the house.   If you see a backyard that slops towards the house, most likely the house will be hit with water during heavy rainstorms.   You need to be sure to walk around the house and examine the lower portions of it.  If you see any off color, then it could be an indication that water is collecting there.   Mud spots in the back or front yards can also be signs the drainage is not working properly.   First time home buyers should be very cautious of this aspect of the property and work with the seller to fix the drainage issues.  It won’t be cheap, however.

4.  Water Pressure – Plumbing is another cause of concern for many first time home buyers.   I had one poor buyer whose plumbing went bad between the time of the final walk-through and the closing of the property.  It was not pleasant to discover that your sewer lines were clogged the day after you move into the property.  When it comes to things you need to do to check plumbing of a house, one of the easiest things to do is just turn on all the faucets in the house to see if they have good strong water flow.  Be sure to flush all the toilets to be sure that they work correctly.  If any of them show signs of anything put perfection, you need to be sure to get a plumber out to the house to check the plumbing system.  The plumber will most likely charge you for the visit, but it will save you thousands down the road if you can get evidence the plumbing needs repair and have the sellers repair it for you.

5.  Black marks on the electrical plugs – Electrical issues are also something that can cost thousands of dollars to fix.  You want to be sure the electricity is set up correctly at the right power level of 220 volts to run modern day electronics.  Newer homes will have this level, but look at the electrical panel.  Does it look old?   If it does, you might need to have it replaced.  Are the outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms GFCI compliant, which means the outlets will break the circuit during a electrical spike.  These outlets have small buttons on them.  If you don’t see buttons on the outlets in the kitchen and bathroom, there is a chance it is not GFCI.   Finally, you need to be sure the house electrical is set up correctly to prevent fires.  If you see black marks on any of the outlets, you need to be sure to ask the inspector about it and get an electrician out to look over the house before you buy it.   Realtor magazine wrote this great article to tell you more about what you need to check when it comes to electricity.

House hunting can be stressful, but if you know where to look when viewing a house, you can take out much of the uncertainty about whether you are buying a lemon.  Major structural issues should be the most concern for you during a showing.  Be sure also to have the seller buy you a residential service contract to cover any of these systems in case they should fail during the first year of owning the house.  You will be glad you did if anything breaks on you.