You’ve found what seems like the perfect home – either for investment purposes or to move into – and you really, really want it. This is one time, though, when your head should definitely rule your heart, when intellect should over-ride emotion. You need to take the time to make sure you aren’t buying a “lemon” home in California.
For one thing, sellers usually don’t disclose everything about a property they’re selling, only what they have to. So it’s up to you, the buyer, to find out everything you can, inspecting outside and inside and underneath and, well, everywhere. Below are a few warning signs you should be on the lookout for.
1. Plumbing Problems
This is an important one because plumbing problems can go on for years undetected. Because these issues aren’t always immediately evident, they can cause some pretty severe and expensive-to-repair damage.
A tiny leak in a water-supply line inside a wall, for instance, can continue for a long time before the damage is visible. And that damage after months or years can include rotten, spongy flooring and subflooring, mold and mildew, damaged drywall, and termites (which like moist and damp areas). So watch for water stains, spongy or sagging spots in floors, and mildew – all signs of plumbing problems
Even worse, if you wind up buying a “lemon” home in California, are problems with sewer lines. All sinks and lavatories should drain well, and toilets should have a strong flush. If you find any problems here, that should be a strong warning sign (especially since, in some areas, sewer lines haven’t been updated for many decades). With septic tanks and sewer lines, major repairs can run as high as $25,000 to $50,000.
2. Faulty Roof (And Roof Clues)
Issues with the roof are often a sure sign of problems in other areas. If, for example, you see three layers of shingles and vegetation sprouting in the gutters, that’s a pretty good indication that the owners haven’t taken care of the home in other respects.
Also, look for broken or missing shingles or tiles, which could mean roof leaks. And the thing to keep mind about a roof leak is that the water doesn’t just fall straight down into the house from its first point of access. Often, the water travels down the roof and sometimes to the side before finding a way into the house. It may even run down inside a wall and so remain undetected and cause unseen damage for a time.
And do beware of sagging spots in a roof. For these signal damaged decking at best and damaged rafters or trusses at worst – and that’s about as “lemony” as you can get. A new roof, including tear-off and installation of new decking where needed, can run from nearly $10,000 up to $30,000.
3. Shoddy Renovations and Improvements
Another warning sign to buying a “lemon” home in California that you really need to heed is shoddy or slapdash renovations and improvements. If you see that just one wall has been painted (obviously hastily and not very tidily), that is likely an indication that the seller is covering up something she didn’t want you to see, water stains or mildew maybe. In a case like this, you need to give it the smell test and look around for saggy ceilings and odd-looking areas in the drywall.
Poorly laid tiles in the bathroom might not be a huge deal – it would cost you only a few hundred to re-do. But a bad job of laying parquet flooring in a large area will cost you more. And if a large deck or driveway has been done improperly, well, then you’re talking about thousands.
Buying a home always has an element of risk in it, but you can keep that risk to a minimum if you pay attention to these 3 warning signs to buying a “lemon” home in California.