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Moving part 3: Problems to look for when buying a house checklist

Problems to look for when buying a house checklist

When looking for a new house, we’re all nervous we’ll choose a money pit. And while it’s always a good idea to hire a professional home inspector before you buy, there are some major problems you might be able to spot yourself. Doing a little inspecting during your initial showing can save house hunting time and inspection costs.

Most of us recognize that seeing cracks or water stains could mean trouble, but it helps to have a cheat sheet so you don’t get home and realize you forgot to look at the outside walls or roof condition. Here is a checklist of red flags I’ve compiled that you can print off and take house notes on.

This is list is only to be used as a rough guide. I am not a licensed home inspector, just a nervous-Nellie homebuyer.

Foundation movement

  • Visible cracks in exterior foundation
  • Cracks and uneven pavement in driveway or sidewalks
  • Downspout drainage not pointed away from house
  • Unlevel facia boards
  • Yard slopes toward house
  • Large trees with roots close to foundation
  • Cracks in walls (check interior and exterior)
  • Floors visibly not level
  • Window not square
  • Walls not square at corners
  • Gaps atop interior doors when closed
  • Doors jam or won’t latch

Water/mold damage

  • Bowed roof
  • Water stains on walls
  • Cracks around windows
  • Visible mold
  • Musty smell
  • Missing caulking or tile in shower/bath
  • No bathroom ventilation
  • Wood rot around exterior doors and trim
  • Peeling paint
  • Leaking faucets, bath, or toilets


  • Cupped, curled, or warped shingles
  • Loss of granulation (you can check gutters)
  • Cracked or broken tiles (terra cotta)
  • Missing sections
  • Mismatched roof sections/repairs
  • Ceiling stains
  • Ceiling replacement seams


  • Exposed wires
  • Wires with electrical tape
  • Warm outlets
  • Flickering lights
  • Main panel is rusty/damaged


  • Water damage under sinks
  • Stains around base of toilet
  • Poor water pressure
  • Screeching or rattling when turned on and off
  • Drains empty slowly
  • Foul odor from sink

If you see a possible problem with with a house, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should kick it to the curb, it just means it’s time to call in the professional for a more thorough investigation. It also means you could use it to your advantage to negotiate a lower price.

Moving Guide - Lists, tips and ideas from selling your old house to buying a new one

Also see

Moving part 1: Sell your house faster with these home staging ideas
Moving part 2: Change of address, services to stop, organizing checklist
Moving part 3: Problems to look for when buying a house checklist
Moving part 4: Interior decor process for a new house
Moving part 5: Family’s first night in new house checklist

See more checklists and printables

2 thoughts on “Moving part 3: Problems to look for when buying a house checklist

  1. I did not know that finding out problems in a house such as water damage under sinks and expose electric wiring can help a homeowner negotiate for a lower price for a house. If I were to find my first home, I would ask a real estate agent to help out. They can help process the buying documents and recommend a professional house inspection service to determine which problems should the current homeowner fix before selling it to me. Thanks!

  2. Great post. Buying the right house in good condition is very important for your budget. 1.5 years into our first single family home and I’m just getting used to the maintenance costs.

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