Tips for Spotting Home Defects Before Buying

Annually, Americans buy roughly five to six million homes. Most of these homes take the form of existing structures. Whether you want to become a home inspector or not, knowing how to detect home defects is essential for any prospective homebuyer in California. Being able to spot these common defects will help you save money by not buying a problematic house in disguise.

Look for cracks here, there and everywhere

Although not as stringent as commercial codes, residential building codes require homes to meet dozens of qualifications. Foundations have some of the tightest building codes of any residential substructure.

The Earth’s crust naturally shifts over time. While it often takes millions of years to result in any substantial shifting, the ground underneath homes can shift far enough in a few years to render those homes unsafe.

Cracked foundations almost always indicate structural issues. Cracks in walls, floors and ceilings can also indicate these same problems. Look out for long, smooth areas in foundations and walls as signs that previous owners have attempted to patch up major structural issues.

Look at house sale records

California, like most states, requires all involved parties to publicly disclose deed transfers. Traditionally, local government agencies provide lists of these disclosures to local newspapers, which then publish them in daily or weekly issues.

You can find deed transfer records online or by asking your local court clerk. Although you might have to pay for complete records, it’s well worth the price.

On its own, there’s nothing wrong with deed transfers. However, you should think twice about homes with multiple recent transfers. Since people usually own homes for many years after buying them, busy deed transfer histories usually indicate that homes have serious defects. If you get stuck with a home that has a troubled past, you may need to bring real estate litigation into the picture.

The best way to avoid buying a lemon is to thoroughly search for signs of home defects. When this doesn’t work, real estate litigation is a solid backup plan.