For most of us our home may be the single largest investment we will ever make. So it makes sense to hire the very best home inspector you can find to make sure that you are do everything possible to ensure you’ll have all of the unbiased factual information you need to make an informed investment decision.
While for the most part, one would like to think that all home sellers are completely forthcoming and completely honest about their home – unfortunately, the truth is, some dishonest or unscrupulous sellers use tricks in an intentional attempt to hide issues before and during the home inspection process. At Sentry Home Inspection Services we are well versed in identifying these tricks to determine if these were attempts to properly maintain and enhance a home or if these attempts are in fact trying to hide something.
Here are 20 Common Tricks Home Seller’s Use and What You Can Do To Disclose Them:
- Re-Roofing a Home: There are many reasons why a home may have a new roof and the presence of a new roof doesn’t necessarily mean that a seller is trying to hide anything. Especially in the case of homeowners insurance claims and proactive upkeep. However, sometimes a seller will re-roof a home in an attempt to hide long term neglect, which can mean sustained water intrusion, mold and air quality issues. Make sure your seller is able to produce all necessary roof information and history, and ask your home inspector to closely scrutinize this area.
- Use of Roof Sealant On Flashing, Vents and Chimneys: In many instances, properly used roofing sealant is a viable means of producing a water tight envelope that prevents rain water from entering a home. However, in more cases than not – roof sealant is often used as a quick, easy and cheap stop gap attempt to hide leaks and avoid performing proper repairs. In this situation also make sure your seller is able to produce all necessary roof repair information and history, and ask your home inspector to closely scrutinize these items.
- Painting Problem Areas: em areas. Fresh paint itself is not necessarily a tall tell sign of dishonesty, as it can simply indicate routine annual maintenance and pride in ownership. However, new paint can also be an intentional attempt to cover water stains, mold, deteriorating wood, insect problems and much, much more. An experienced home inspector knows what to look for to identify signs of “hiding problems.”
- Recently Completed Remodeling & Construction: Signs of recent remodeling or renovations may simply be a capital improvement effort on the part of the seller to increase the home’s value. However, this can also be an attempt to hide issues with the home. You will want to ask the seller why the work was done, who completed the work and ask for copies of receipts and building permits for the project(s) – especially with basement and exterior renovation projects. Also make sure you give your home inspector a head’s up.
- Resurfacing of Exterior or Interior Foundation Areas: Recent resurfacing or refacing of a homes exterior foundation areas may very well simply be an aesthetic appearance effort on behalf of a seller. But it can also be an attempt to hide severe or long term water intrusion problems, settlement problems or structural support issues. Make sure your inspector is diligent in inspecting those areas.
- Windows That Have Been Heavily Sealed, Caulked and Repainted: While it is important to maintain the exterior areas of the homes windows, excessive or heavy sealant, caulking and paint could indicate an attempt to hide severely weathered, damaged or rotten areas of windows. Make sure you ask the seller about any exterior window work and ask your home inspector to carefully scrutinize each window.
- Newly Stained or Resealed Deck: While regular deck maintenance is a routine part of home ownership and protecting an investment, occasionally seller’s will attempt to hide deck issues with a fresh resurfacing. An experienced professional home inspector will know what to look for and how to find those hidden issues that can be both structural as well as safety issues with a deck. Make sure your home inspector is certified in the Residential Code for Prescriptive Wooden Deck Construction.
- Re-landscaped Grounds Around The Foundation: Re-landscaping a yard can not only improve the exterior aesthetic appearance of a home but it also add property value as well – so long as it is done for those reasons. Unfortunately, many times, seller’s will have landscaping done around a home’s foundation areas to disguise rainwater run off issues as well as significant water intrusion. Make sure you ask about any newly completed landscaping projects and get the contact information on who competed the work. Make sure you mention any concerns to your home inspector because they know what to look for to identify water intrusion issues inside foundation areas.
- Removing Evidence of Damage. Occasionally, it becomes necessary to sometimes replace exterior components f a home such as siding, wooden overhang, soffits, window encasement’s, etc.. Sometimes, sellers have this work completed just prior to listing the home on the market as a maintenance effort. Unfortunately, sellers sometimes try to hide damage from water, insects and more by removing any sign of trouble. If you notice recent random replacement of exterior elements, it could mean a deliberate attempt to hide long term issues. Make sure your home inspector is “certified” in Thermal Imaging and Infrared detection.
- Non Disclosure of The Home’s Major Systems Age(s): A responsible home owner is going to be able to disclose the age of the home’s HVAC system(s) and water heater. If a seller doesn’t know or doesn’t disclose this information, this could be an indicator that the systems are at or near the end of their average life span. One sign that the seller is trying to hide something is when they’ve disclosed only the bare minimum of information. As a buyer you should always ask to see manuals, warranties and receipts for annual servicing – repairs and replacements. Always make sure you ask your home inspector to conduct a thorough analysis of each to ensure they’re all in good working order. Your home inspector should be able to disclose the age of the units regardless of whether or not the seller does.
- Pests: Never assume that just because a a home looks beautiful that there are not pests that have taken up residence in the home. Responsible sellers should be able to disclose any pests issues, produce receipts for exterminations services and provide a copy of the home’s Termite Bond. If you have a sneaking suspicion there are pests taking up residence in your new home, don’t risk it — tell your home inspector so they can be aware of your concerns and always have a comprehensive wood destroying pests inspection completed by a licensed exterminator prior to closing.
- Contaminated Grounds: One major potential issue that many people do not think about is possible grounds contamination, especially for homes built before 1970. Homes from this time frame used to be heated by fuel oil. It was not unusual at all for homeowners to have large oil tanks installed in the basement or underground in an effort to conserve space and hide the unsightliness of a huge metal tank. Of course, fuel oil can contaminate the soil around it and having a fuel oil tank removed is very expensive. Because of this, many homeowners try to hide the fact that such a tank exist. If you see metal pipes sticking up out of the ground or observe areas that appear to be sunk in for no obvious reason – you want to make sure that you ask the seller about the possibility of a buried fuel oil tank.
- Disguising Problems With New Carpet: New carpet can really enhance the interior appearance of a home, make the home seem more inviting and doesn’t mean that a seller is trying to hide anything. But there is always the chance that they could be. Make sure you carefully review all seller disclosure information. Your professional home inspector should know how to check the “unseen” potential issues hiding under the carpet.
- Placing Decor Items In-front Of Problem Areas: Sneaky sellers will block problem areas with artwork, shelves, entertainment centers and other furniture or personal items. Stacked up moving boxes against walls are another sneaky attempt by unscrupulous sellers to hide indications of damage. Make sure you make note of any thing that seems unusual or is blocking visual observation of areas inside the home, Don’t be shy ask the seller to move any such obstacles.
- Trying to Hide Appliances That Are Damaged Or Do Not Work Properly: Many home owners will try to disguise the fact that an appliance has issues or needs repairing by doing things such as placing many pots and pans on a range or cook-top prior to the home inspection, filling the dishwasher with dishes or filling the refrigerator ice maker bucket with store brought ice. If something doesn’t look quiet right with an appliance to you – make sure your home inspector knows before hand.
- Seller’s Restricting Access: Uncooperative sellers who make the home inspection process difficult or attempt to restrict a full comprehensive inspection in any way should raise am immediate Red Flag. If you are experiencing this as the home buyer, you may want to consider moving on to find another home.
- Seller’s Who Choose To Not Know About Potential Issues: Under the law, a seller cannot be held liable for problems he or she didn’t know about. Thus, many sellers, actually most sellers, won’t have mold, radon water quality, or indoor air quality test or inspections completed prior to listing the home on the market – why because they don’t have too and they don’t want to know. This makes it even more important to have these inspections performed as a buyer. That way, you know for sure – that your investment is secure and that your family’s health is safe.
- Seller’s Who Choose Not To Disclose Previous Property Usage: Sometimes seller’s refrain from mentioning potentially damaging property usage information. For example – a seller may not disclose that the home was a rental home for a period of time, acquired through repossession/foreclosure or was the site of criminal activity. Many times – past usage disclosure can provide many clues about things that need to be closely scrutinized during the inspection process. Don’t hesitate to talk to neighbors or local police about any known home history.
- Showing You A Home Inspection They Just Had Performed: While home sellers can certainly have a pre-listing home inspection performed in order to help them prepare the home for sale – be very leery of a seller who tries to convince you don’t need to waste your money on another home inspection – you can simply use theirs. Whether they already have a home inspection or not – hire a professional home inspector to inspect the home for you!
- Downplaying Concerns That You Raise. If a home seller tries to brush off your inquiries and questions you need to consider that a red flag. Sellers will often do this to avoid admitting that they have not kept the home in good maintenance or repair condition. If this happens to you, look for signs of questionable maintenance such as dirty air filters, dirty HVAC equipment, broken appliances, rusted over water heaters or degraded masonry work. also, make sure you ask for documentation when and if repairs were performed.
So Don’t Be Fooled!
If you have any reason to suspect that a home seller is being less than completely open and forthcoming with you about the home you are looking at – make sure you share that information with your home inspector.
When it comes to buying a new home, don’t limit your conversations or questions to just agents involved or the sellers. Talk to the neighbors in the neighborhood and ask questions like: Have you seen any repair trucks here lately? Why are the sellers moving? Are you aware of any problems in the neighborhood? What is the crime rate in this community? Etc…