“We have probably looked at seven houses with people and they’ve said, ‘We love it!’ Then Bobby [Hicks, Class A contractor with Bobby + April’s sister company] walks through and says the cost of repairs isn’t worth it,” Straus said. “Of course, you can fix any house if you have enough money, but you want to determine if the house can be fixed, then renovated, while staying within the market price range.”
When Straus walks through a house, there are five signs that should alert you to serious issues that may not be fixable.
1. Parts of the gutter or roofline are not straight, or there are gaps between parts of the house
“Some houses have sleeper porches that have been turned into square footage, but they weren’t designed to support actual house space,” Straus said. “If the foundation wasn’t updated to support the house structure, it might start to gap or pull away from the rest of the house – and that master closet or whatever has been added on might not be a good decision. If you see this type of problem, reach out to a contractor for an opinion.”
2. Unnatural settling
“Almost all houses tilt one way,” Straus said. “And I’ve see them tilt up to 7 inches in one direction and still be structurally sound.” You should start to worry if the house tilts in different directions. Straus mentioned a Church Hill house she recently looked at, in which everything seemed to sink toward one point. “Bobby looked at it and it turned out a beam right at that point had been totally destroyed by termites, and the house was structurally unsound,” Straus said.
3. Water stains
Look for water stains on the walls, areas of new paint on the ceilings and anywhere that looks like pieces of the ceiling have been cut out and replaced. Make sure you also check the basement for water damage, if there is one. This could indicate larger roof or plumbing leak issues that could be costly to repair.
4. Cracks in the wall
Look inside and outside for cracks in the walls. Depending on the type of crack, this could be an indication of a shifting foundation or water damage.
5. Uneven trim or floors
In older houses that may have shifted, sometimes there is a visible tilt and gap between the trim and ceiling that’s an easy indication of structural damage – as are visible gaps between wood trim joints at the corners. In addition, uneven, sloping or sagging floors, as well as cracked ceramic, tile or vinyl floors, can indicate foundation damage.
Of course, choosing a Realtor with expertise in renovations can take the pressure off you and help you spot any major issues before you get your heart set on a new home. “We give our clients real advice,” Straus said. “On the spot, we can have our system company come out and give you an idea of what repairs or renovations might cost so you can make a confident decision.”