It’s Not Just You: 95% of People Uncover Issues with Their Home After Buying It (& These Are the Top Problems)
It usually happens a few weeks after closing: You step into a wet spot in the basement. Or you hear a strange pinging every time you turn on the faucet. Or, as was my case, you realize one bedroom is noticeably warmer than the others—because its air conditioning duct is ripped, spewing cool air into the attic, while you drip in sweat as you sleep.
Ah, the joys of homeownership—where, as Debbie Downer as this may sound, you’re all but guaranteed to find something wrong with your pad shortly after moving in. At least that’s what a 970-person survey by warranty company Cinch Home Services found, with 95 percent of respondents saying they uncovered at least one issue with their house after being handed the keys.
More troubling, though, was that 60 percent of sellers admitted they sold a house with an issue the buyer wasn’t aware of. Depending on what the problem is—and what state you live in—that omission can be illegal, but at the very least, it’s annoying. So, we dug into the research to uncover which issues were the most common—and what you can do to protect yourself.
This was by far the most common problem—one shared by 88 percent of the homebuyers surveyed. Though a home inspector can often catch things like double-tapped circuit breakers (which can cause arcing currents and, potentially, fires), they’re in the house for just a few hours, if that, and it’s hard to uncover everything that’s going on behind the walls.
If the house is pretty old—or you have concerns about the wiring—it may be worth hiring an electrician to inspect the place first. And if you do uncover an issue after moving in and have a home warranty, report it ASAP. “It’s important for homeowners to file a claim as soon as possible, since many warranties only cover mechanical failures within the issued coverage term,” a representative for Cinch Home Services told us.
2. Light Fixtures
Roughly 58 percent of those surveyed had an issue with a light fixture. This is typically a low-cost fix—unless it’s revealed to be part of a larger electrical issue. If it’s something you feel the inspector should have caught but didn’t, it can be worth contacting them; often, there’s a clause where you can receive part—or, in some cases up to 1.5 times the cost—of the inspection back, depending on the terms of the contract.
Again, this is an instance where you might want to have a plumber inspect the house before buying. This service delves deeper than the traditional home inspection, including things like snaking a camera into underground sanitary drains and sewer pipes to look for cracks and other issues, according to Bradbury Brothers Cooling, Plumbing and Electrical. It can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on how in-depth the service is and where you live.
4. Driveway & Sidewalk Damage
Maybe you were so starry-eyed by the home’s curb appeal that you overlooked those cracks in the sidewalk or deck, and now you’re worried they’re a tripping hazard. Or suddenly, you notice the dirt is pulling away from the side of the house. About 54 percent of those surveyed said they encountered some kind of problem with the property surrounding the house.
It’s not surprising that leaks follow closely behind plumbing issues, considering the two often go hand-in-hand (58 percent of people reported plumbing issues, vs. 54 percent reporting unexpected drips in their houses).
The Bottom Line:
Before buying a home, make sure you conduct an inspection and request a certificate of disclosure from the seller. (Some states allow sellers to skip the disclosure and offer a credit instead—in New York, it’s $500 off the sales price—so you’ll have to consider whether it’s worth it.) If you feel the seller deliberately withheld information about a serious issue with your home, contact a real estate attorney to find out your options.