A typical home inspection involves an objective assessment of a home’s many systems, including the roof, plumbing, electrical, foundation and basement, and HVAC. While home sellers in Washington state are required to disclose maintenance issues, home inspectors cannot assess every single nook and cranny of a home. And unfortunately, some unscrupulous home sellers can attempt to cover up issues to mislead buyers. Here’s an explanation of how home sellers may try to hide issues and a list of the most common problems they try to hide.
How Do Home Sellers Hide Repair Problems from Potential Buyers?
Home inspectors cannot enter rooms or areas of a home that are obstructed or locked. Home sellers can take advantage of this by blocking off or locking rooms that have repair or maintenance issues. Inspectors also cannot move heavy furniture, so if a couch or bookshelf is standing on a section of flooring in poor condition, it may be missed during inspection. While inspectors use tools and technology like thermal imaging cameras, most home inspections are based on visual observations.
The American Society of Home Inspectors does not specify how roof inspections should be performed, so home inspectors are tasked with “observing” the roof, which they may do with the help of a drone camera rather than climbing up a ladder. This can make it easy for home sellers to hide roof issues. If a home seller used roofing sealant as a cheap fix rather than making quality repairs to roof flashings, vents, and chimneys, a home inspector may not spot these cover-ups.
Mold is usually easy to identify simply based on smell, but some home sellers try to cover this up. If you enter a home and notice lit scented candles, open windows, and the smell of air freshener, it’s possible that the home seller may be trying to cover up mold. An inspector may be able to identify mold based on moisture readings with a thermal imaging camera, but the candles and air fresheners are one way home sellers attempt to cover up mold issues.
Windows can be a very expensive item to repair or replace, so home sellers may use shortcuts to cover up window problems. If you notice windows with heavy sealant, caulking, or paint, you should be wary of repair issues. In certain cases, if windows are obstructed or painted over, a home inspector won’t be able to identify problems that need repair.
Flooring Issues Under Carpeting or Rugs
Issues like excess moisture, cupping, stains, or fractures in floor boards can be covered up by heavy furniture, or home sellers may simply use a large area rug that’s difficult to move to hide floor problems. If you suspect flooring issues, you may be able to request an inspection of the subfloor to identify possible water damage or rot.
Repairs, Remodeling, and Landscape Regrading After Major Incidents
While it may be nice to see new paint, cabinetry, or renovations during a home inspection, keep in mind that home sellers may use these to hide major issues. Keep an eye out for basement renovations or major exterior upheavals, like the resurfacing of exterior or interior foundation areas, as those may be attempts to cover up water damage or foundation issues. You can ask the home seller to provide proof of permitted work done when you see evidence of newly rehabbed areas.
The home inspection process can be complicated, so contact a professional from South Sound Inspections to help guide your journey.