Most Common Problems Home Sellers Try To Hide
Do you ever wonder what possible problems home sellers try to hide from you as a home buyer?
After searching for many months, you’ve finally found your dream home!
The big question now is: can you judge a house by its facade?
What if there are damp problems in some of the rooms, nicely hidden behind the new wallpaper?
Or the freshly-painted wooden deck actually needed A LOT MORE than just a few coats of paint as the wood is completely rotten!
Check it out for yourself, here are the 10 most common problems home sellers try to hide:
Problem #1 – Leak problems
If the home seller knows there are certain parts of the roof which have been causing leak troubles every rain season for the past 10 years, should he disclose that information?
Unfortunately, more often than one would like to admit, leak issues are some of the biggest problems home sellers try to hide!
Honesty is the best policy to avoid any trouble down the line, but a lot of short-term thinking real estate agents think they’re being cute by ‘forgetting’ to mention certain leak problems in the house!
If anything, potential home buyers might actually appreciate the fact that the home seller didn’t go out of his way to purposely hide certain defaults in the house!
My most recent deal had exactly that: many imperfections (to put it mildly) of this 75-year old house could have been hidden away with some basic handyman attention, but the home seller was very transparent in wanting to make sure that the interested home buyers knew of all its faults!
And the buyer really appreciated that he wasn’t going to be in for nasty surprises!
Problem #2 – Damp issues
Very closely related to the leak problems is the matter of damp!
Unlike leaks, which can be somewhat hidden from sight, any experienced builder or home buyer can detect the presence of damp by a mildew-like, musty smell in the room.
This can be caused by rising damp, longer term exposure to condensation, and of course water leaks (mostly via the ceiling)!
Ever tried selling a home with mold? Wouldn’t it be a shame if the home buyers bailed out of the contract because of that?!
We all know that the use of scented candles does add a welcoming touch to the overall home buying experience, but keep in mind that these might be strategically placed to avoid you smelling something completely different, as those damp issues are persistent problems home sellers try to hide!
I’m not saying to question the home seller’s true intention of lighting a scented candle every time you view a property going forward, just that you need to be aware of its over-use of nice smellies!
Related article: 7 Reasons Why Your Offer To Purchase A House Was Rejected
Problem #3 – Pest threats
Paint is indeed a great way to refresh a room, or make a house look completely different from the outside by giving it a complete new color!
However, it’s also a great (and cheap!) tool for camouflaging potential issues, as discussed earlier.
In this case, termites might be having a ball inside the property’s walls!
Which disclosures and mandatory pest inspection certificates to use, will vary from one country or province to the next.
Make sure to double-check whether the location you’re buying a property has any particular disclosure laws related to pests!
Problem #4 – Structural complications
These structural complications may come in different forms: perhaps it’s the roof that’s partially sagging, or the house foundation that’s showing a number of potentially worrying cracks!
As a home buyer, you might be very interested in a property, but if a number of the room corners in the house are showing cracks, where you’d easily stick a pen in, you may want to seriously reconsider your next move (pardon the pun).
A home inspector or structural engineer might assess the situation, and place a monetary value on the repairs, which the home buyer could then use it as part of the sale price negotiation.
Structural issues might be serious problems home sellers try to hide, and it’ll be up to the buyer not to overlook any small under-house or under-floor areas!
Ideally, the home buyer would have a home inspector check out every nook and cranny of the house, including those tough-to-reach places!
Problem #5 – Pool concerns
If you’re lucky enough to live in a geographic location with all year round sunshine, buying a home with a pool is likely to be a no-brainer decision.
Even though the real estate agent may have asked the home seller if he has recently experienced any issues with the pool, how is the real estate agent to know whether the home seller was untruthful?
Could that pool really be one of the problems home sellers try to hide?
Most home inspectors aren’t even qualified enough to detect potential cracks/leaks in the pool, or able to spot malfunctioning pool equipment.
It wouldn’t be the first time that home inspectors insert a pool disclaimer in their reports!
As any pool owner will attest, it requires quite the expertise to detect particular pool issues!
Something small, which may be barely noticeable to the untrained eye, can cause a lot of damage if left untreated.
And once such problems would raise their ugly heads, solving it normally isn’t the cheapest either!
Get a local pool expert to do an evaluation of the current pool setup to avoid a costly surprise later on!
Problem #6 – Aging mechanical home systems
One of the most popular excuses home sellers have in avoiding to answer the question regarding the age of some of their mechanical home systems is:
“I’m not sure”.
Whereas they’re more than likely very well aware of the ages of their water heaters, boilers or air-conditioning units, divulging that information might not get a very warm reception from the interested home buyers, as it might lead to a reaction like:
“Yet another replacement cost we’ll be facing in the next few months IF we buy this property.”
Now how can the home buyer possibly find out how long some of those major home systems have been around for?
Have they been properly maintained all these years?
When will be their likely replacement date?
These questions, and many more, can be answered by a home inspection report!
Most of the installations or systems used in residential houses can be diagnosed by an experienced home inspector, who will quickly be able to tell its current state.
Furthermore, as a home buyer, getting these detailed assessments done beforehand will make life much simpler by budgeting any future maintenance costs as total cost of homeownership as well!
Are too many of these major installations coming to the end of its shelf-life at the same time?
Does the purchase price suddenly not look as attractive any more?
Failing to disclose exact numbers/dates or any questions related to the clearly aged mechanical home systems are definitely some of the problems home sellers try to hide from interested buyers, in an effort not to scare them away!
Most of the time, this actually has the reverse effect!
Problem #7 – Traffic congestions
Thus far, I have only mentioned actual physical problems home sellers try to hide from interested home buyers.
What about ongoing details of the immediate surroundings?
Who will disclose those?
Will the real estate agent be the one informing the home buyer about those particulars?
Or does the specific question need to be asked before some of that important information is released?
These final four problems home sellers try to hide I’m referring to are external factors, such as traffic congestion, changes in school district zoning, nightmare neighbors, and upcoming neighbourhood construction.
If the home buyer is shopping in certain areas which are clearly prone to traffic congestion, there’s no doubt about it that the home buyer can’t deny it afterwards that he wasn’t aware of the noise pollution.
However, an uneducated home buyer, who might be new to the area, might not pick up right away that there’s a major thoroughfare a stone’s throw from that particular property the real estate agent suddenly highly recommended as being “most bang for your buck”!
Even though any home buyer doing his homework will research the surrounding neighbourhood and eventually discover the highway’s presence, there are easy home buyer targets who might be charmed by the unscrupulous real estate agents (yes, despite the recent housing crisis, we unfortunately still have those around!) and blindly believe whatever he tells them!
This reminds me of an ex-colleague of mine (you know the quick-easy-buck-to-be-made-in-real-estate type) who was trying to sell this one property listing, which located right next to a major highway.
The home seller gave the real estate agent strict instruction to only bring through his clients during off-peak traffic hours!
Have you ever!
The agent jokingly said that he now drove an extra couple of blocks in order to meander enough times for the interested home buyer to have lose sense of direction where the highway may be located.
Not only did he now have the challenge of trying to find an interested buyer for this overpriced home (hang on, it gets better!), its backyard fence happened to be bordering right against the highway toll gate!
Although this was an automated toll gate (taking pictures of cars’ license plates), once the sun set and it got darker, the ultra-violet/blue colour that this toll gate emitted gave the impression that there was a space ship hovering above the property’s backyard, and even shining into the house itself!
I kid you not!
Besides the basic due diligence homework and neighbourhood research every home buyer should be doing, numbers and maps can only portray a limited amount of information.
If you have the luxury of time (i.e. no mad rush to put an offer to purchase forward to beat the competition), how about passing by the property at different times of the day and week?
Just park the car at different spots in the neighbourhood or street and be observative!
You’ll quickly find out if there’s something awry!
Problem #8 – Changes in school district zoning
This is a great ‘chicken and egg’ question!
Do good schools lead to higher property prices, or do higher-priced neighbourhoods attract quality schools?
Where this topic calls for an entire new blog article in the near future, I can comfortable state that families with children look for good quality schools!
Depending on each family’s budget, certain school districts might be more suitable than others.
After all, the choice of school will determine the immediate location of the property search!
Or, given the price levels of the neighbourhoods, parents might decide to opt for certain schools based on their financial affordability to purchase property nearby.
The school district zoning (also known in certain areas as ‘school feeder zones’) is based on the permanent residence of the student’s parents, and a spot is reserved for each of these children within the respective school zones.
Although one can always try to apply for enrolment at another school district, acceptance isn’t guaranteed as the number of enrolments might exceed the actual space available!
Which then takes us back to parents trying to move in the ‘correct’ school district by purchasing property nearby, leading to higher prices.
In other words, a change in the school’s district zoning is one of the major problems home sellers try to hide as it can and will chase away interested buyers!
Perhaps some recent municipal adjustments have been made in the town’s boundaries affecting the school district zoning?
If only the new home buyers knew about this beforehand!
Yet another great reason to make sure to ask a lot of questions to different people in the neighbourhood as part of the home buyer’s due diligence if one’s buying specifically into the area for the presence of those schools!
News of such drastic changes are definitely something neighbors will be more than happy to share with the potential newcomers to the area!
Problem #9 – Nightmare neighbors
Going through the emotional roller coaster of selling a home is a very stressful one!
It takes sooo much preparation to get the house ready, all the paperwork involved, follow-up meetings and before you realize it, time flies so fast when you’re in the middle of a sales process.
Sometimes home sellers ‘forget’ about their immediate neighbors!
No biggie, you think…
You’ll react differently if you know that these friendly neighbors have been throwing loud parties every other weekend ever since the current homeowner moved into his home almost four years ago!
Nightmare neighbors are definitely one of the more common problems home sellers try to hide!
Even though the home seller and his family have gotten used to these bi-weekly splurges, will the new home buyer be as nonchalant as they are?
Problem #10 – Neighbourhood constructions
Last but not least, the issue of upcoming street construction work.
And no, I’m not referring to replacing a few electricity poles here or there!
The previous owner of my own current home was faced with quite the situation: he had bought the home because of its most amazing 180 degree views (it still has great views, but not as wide as that anymore).
Obviously, he had paid top bucks for it as well!
Had he overlooked the fact that there was an open plot of land in front of him at the time of signing?
Did the current home seller ‘forget’ to inform him as well?
You can already guess what happened next!
Besides having to deal with six months’ worth of building constructors, trucks, noise, dust, traffic blocking the street, etc, his worst fear came true (I assume by then, he started to realize what was about to happen?!):
they were building a multi-level mansion right in front of his house, eventually cutting his gorgeous view in half by the time they were done building!
Would he have bought the property had he known the future building plans of the property owner in front?
I seriously doubt it!
As this example clearly demonstrated, not knowing what’s happening in the neighbourhood can cost you dearly as a new home buyer, as those type of upcoming constructions are definitely problems home sellers try to hide in order to get as much money out of it as possible!
If one thinks about it, there are so many potential problems home sellers try to hide!
Should they get away with it?
It all comes down to being prepared as a home buyer.
Do the necessary neighbourhood research (yes, it’s time-consuming!) to find out any and all information that you can get your hands on!
Besides making sure to ask plenty of questions to your real estate agent, why not consider doing the following:
- Visit the neighbourhood at different time/day intervals to get a better feel;
- Knock on a number of neighbors’ doors surrounding the property, and ask them a few key questions (i.e. “Are there any upcoming constructions happening in the neighbourhood?” or “Do you happen to know why these home sellers are moving out?”);
- Stop by the closest convenience store and enquire about the neighbourhood;
Waiting for the home seller to fully disclose every single malfunction in his house might be a bit much to ask for as a home buyer, so make sure to be diligent in getting all your questions answered from as many different sources as possible!
— Xavier De Buck (@XavierDeBuck) July 14, 2016
Other Related Articles On Problems Home Sellers Try To Hide:
- What Should You Disclose When Selling Your Home via Debbie Drummond
- What To Know About The Real Estate Residential Property Disclosure Form via Paul Sian
- What Are The 20 Cold, Hard, Facts In Real Estate Home Selling? via Lynn Pineda
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About the author: The above article “Top 10 Problems Home Sellers Try To Hide” was written by Xavier De Buck, your top-producing Johannesburg real estate agent. Xavier has been nationally recognized and awarded for providing service excellence, exceptional property sales, whilst exhibiting the highest level of professionalism. With over 15 years combined experience as a real estate agent and real estate investor, if you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Johannesburg, Xavier would love to share his property knowledge and expertise.
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