The last thing you want when viewing a home is for your agent to be the house cheerleader. You want your agent to be like that somewhat critical parent who points out the things you may be missing. 

So while you’re admiring the kitchen cabinets and the endless granite counters, I’m looking for potential issues you may not be seeing. While you’re helping your kids pick out their new bedrooms, I’m checking for the hidden costs you may be overlooking.

Pro Tip: Many homes have two prices: (1) The list price (2) The list price plus deferred maintenance.

10 Hidden Costs You May Be Overlooking

Disclaimer: I’m not a home inspector nor do I pretend to be. These are some of the red flags I notice having gone through countless inspections.

  1. The Furnace – (Lifespan 20 years) I look to see if it’s original and if it looks like it’s been serviced. How can I tell if it’s been serviced? The service company usually puts their sticker right on the front of it. Most sellers don’t regularly service the furnace which can reduce its life. If the furnace happens to be in the attic, you’ll have to wait for the inspection. Replacement cost – $8k-$10k
  2. The A/C – (Lifespan 20-25 years). I’ll sometimes come across an A/C that looks like it’s 100 years old but it actually works fine and a seller is unlikely to buy you a new one anyway. Instead they provide you with a 1 year home warranty policy. You may get lucky and the A/C may die during the policy period, or you may have to replace it on your own. A/Cs love to die during the hottest week of the year when you’ve been running it all day. Try getting an A/C company out quickly when everyone’s A/C is dying. You may go a week or more without air. Replacement cost – $2k-$7k
  3. The Roof – (Lifespan 25-30 years) – Many of our homes in the Conejo Valley are getting to the age of needing their first, second, or third roof replacement. I take a look at the general condition of the roof then guestimate the age based on the year built. That will give me a ballpark as to how much time is left. Rarely will a seller pay to replace an entire roof, so if it’s getting towards the end of its life, make sure you factor that into your budget. Replacement cost – $15k-25k
  4. The Ceiling – I look for cracks, water stains, and mismatched paint. Mismatched paint tells me they may have had a leak. This can indicate the roof is failing. (See #3)
  5. The Windows – We basically have 3 types of windows in the Conejo Valley – old single pane aluminum, old dual pane aluminum, and newer dual pane vinyl. Yes some are wood too, but that’s less common. Many homes are transitioning to the nice new dual pane vinyl windows and after you see a few homes with them, you’ll quickly notice how tired the old aluminum style makes a house look. Plus many of the old windows fail and the new ones are much more energy efficient. It’s a big cost though. Replacement cost – $20k-30k
  6. The Water Heater – (Lifespan 8-12 years) – Water heaters usually fail without warning. And their preferred time of death is in the middle of the night or when you are on vacation. I can get a general sense of its age based on the overall condition and whether or not it’s up to the latest code requirements. Replacement cost – $800-$1500
  7. Pool Equipment – This is a tougher one because a lot of pool equipment looks older than it is especially if it gets a lot of direct sunlight. And if something breaks, it’s usually just one of many parts, not the whole thing. However, I can get a general idea of the condition and if it looks trashed or not.
  8. Floor Displacement – Displacement upstairs is fairly common. It’s the downstairs displacement that can be a red flag. Most of our homes are built on a slab. If I feel elevation changes or a crack under the carpet, that can be a serious problem. Couple that with other cracks and it’s a good idea to run out the front door.
  9. Miscellaneous Cracks – Generally speaking, some cracking in a house is normal like around door jams or window frames as long as it’s a hairline crack. That’s usually just minor settling or poor drywall installation. It’s when you can fit a quarter in the crack that you may have a more serious problem. Jagged cracks are usually more serious than cracks along a seam too. Cracks in patios, driveways, and garage floors are much more common and often nothing to worry about.
  10. Deferred Maintenance – Combine all these visual clues together and you can get a pretty good sense as to how the home has been maintained. If I notice that all the systems of the house are run down and not maintained, that’s a pretty good indicator that there will be lots of other issues that come up in the inspection.

Bonus: Did the sellers get the house ready to sell? – I’m always shocked when I walk up to a front door and there are dead flowers in the planter, weeds in the lawn,and cobwebs around the front door. This is your first impression of the house. It sets the tone. I’m either going to be thinking, wow this seller has a lot of pride in their house, or too bad, this seller doesn’t care. You’ll decide whether or not you would consider living in the house within the first 15 seconds of walking in. That first impression is critical.

Making The Smart Decision

It’s not uncommon that I end up talking a buyer out of buying a house. Is that just because I’m a great guy? That’s part of it 🙂 , but it’s also because I don’t want to waste your time.

If you’re looking at a home that’s at the top of your budget and you’re not factoring in the $50k worth of deferred maintenance the house needs, you’ll end up coming to that conclusion in a week or two after spending $1500 on inspections and missing out on other good homes. My job is to help you avoid that.

Now read: 10 Things You May Not Know About Buying A House

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