You think you’ve found the house of your dreams. But have you?
Chances are, you’ll find flaws when you tour a property, from rot to cracks in the foundation. We’ve taken a look at eight red flags that could (or should) cause prospective house buyers to reconsider making an offer. (For those, see What to Know When Buying a House: 8 Small Signs that Signal Big Problems.) But sometimes, buyers are put off by less significant drawbacks—and they shouldn’t be.
To find out more, we talked again with realtor Kathleen Clifford, who’s been in the house-selling business in Marin County, California, since 2001. This time we asked her which things prospective buyers might think are a big deal but, in reality, are easy fixes.
Here are six drawbacks that, according to Clifford, should be weighed in your decision but aren’t necessarily deal-breakers: They may be easier to fix, or live with, than you’d think.
(N.B.: Clifford emphasizes the importance of hiring an inspector—or several of them—to examine the condition of the property. If the inspector finds things that need attention, there are several options: The buyer can ask the seller to either make the repairs or reduce the price by an agreed-upon amount, or the buyer can choose not to go ahead with the purchase.)
1. Minor flaws in the foundation.
As you take a walk around the exterior of the building, you may be able to check out the condition of the foundation. See some tiny hairline cracks? That’s probably not a big deal. “Hairline cracks in the foundation aren’t unusual,” says Clifford. “You’ll want the inspector to check them out, but generally a crack smaller than an eighth of an inch isn’t an issue.” (An uneven, sloping, or noticeably crumbling foundation is another story.)
2. Signs of dry rot or fungus.
“It’s typical to have weathering on the outside of a house,” says Clifford. “In fact, I’ve never had a house inspection that didn’t reference areas of dry rot and fungus.” Usually, it’s because the homeowner hasn’t kept up with painting the wood shingles or siding, so water intrusion causes them to deteriorate. “If dry rot or fungus is just in isolated areas, that’s super minor,” she says. “Never walk away because of that. It’s only a problem if the entire house is affected.”
3. Sticking windows, or small cracks in the walls and ceilings.
Most often, these are caused by the building slowly settling over decades—not by a weakened foundation. But get an inspector to weigh in (and it might just be a sloppy paint job that’s led to finicky windows).
4. Outdated fuse panels.
In an older house, take a look at the label on the main electrical panel (fuse panel) or subpanel, Clifford suggests. If the manufacturer was either Federal Pacific Electric Co. or Zinsco, the panel is a fire hazard and will need to be replaced. That’s not hugely expensive: depending on the amount of wiring in the house, a new main panel is about $2,400, and a subpanel $1,200–$1,600. The seller might replace it, or you can renegotiate the price to cover the cost.