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Tips for buying a home

The rule of thumb for anyone shopping for a home is buyer beware.

Even when the home is new or newly renovated, there are clues to possible cover-ups, and things even a home inspection may not reveal.

No home inspection will yield perfect results. Here are some issues that should make you think twice. Overloaded electrical systems can create a fire hazard. Consider the number of gadgets versus sockets and check the electrical panel for too many wired circuits. In older homes, an upgrade is in order if aluminum wiring is found.

Foundation damage and settling are not always detected by home inspection. A crack in the slab may be covered by carpet instead of tile or wood flooring to keep unusual settling from being detected.

If the home comes with a septic tank, make sure there are no roots or sinking ground that may cost $5,000 to $20,000 in repairs. Foul odors, slow or gurgling drains, and standing water are common symptoms of a septic tank issue.

Water stains on ceilings and walls may indicate a leaking roof that may have to be repaired or replaced. Check for the presence of mold in bathrooms and under sinks. It can affect your health and extensive areas may require costly abatement.

A technique of spraying walls with compound and “knocking it down” by pulling a trowel across it can be hiding cracks, waves and bowing.

Peeling paint may indicate a cosmetic fix covering mold, mildew or wet surfaces.

Vinyl siding may be a fix for termite damage. Evidence of termite or carpenter ant infestation and damage is hard to hide. Wood filler and Spackle can fill in termite damage, and both can be painted over.

Fireplaces that do not draw properly billow clouds of smoke and permanently stain the mantel. Smoked surfaces are notoriously hard to clean. Sellers wishing to cover up the evidence will paint over mantels, whether made of brick, stone, wood or other materials.

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