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7 Worst Things to Hear in a Home Inspection

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Getting a thorough professional inspection before buying a house is a must. While you may be all set to sign on the dotted line and move your stuff in, sometimes inspections can uncover serious issues. Our experts weigh in on seven problems that may mean a house isn't as homey as you thought:

1. Foundation issues

Foundation issues can be a big deal and are typically very expensive, says Mike Lyon, Quicken Loans vice president of operations.

"You do not want to see the words 'foundation problems' anywhere in the home inspection or appraisal," he says. "If the home inspector puts a golf ball down on one side of the house and it rolls to the other side, then you need to walk away."

Almost every house has "settling" of some kind, Lyon says. The weight of the home causes it to settle into the ground over time, and most structures have hairline cracks somewhere in the basement. Many cracks are no big deal, but others can indicate a more serious problem.

"Depending on topography, the home may settle more than it should and that can cause structural weakness," he says. "If an inspector has any doubt about the kind of cracks they see, they may refer you to a foundation engineer who can tell you whether or not they are dangerous."

2. Mold

While surface mold in poorly ventilated bathrooms is normal, black mold that can show up in a home's basement or crawl space is a different story entirely, Lyon explains. It can cause asthma and many other serious health problems, even death.

"Black mold can take a lot of very expensive remediation efforts. There's the cost of getting the mold out, but then there's also the cost of all the effort to make sure it doesn't come back," he says. "If I were a buyer, I would tell the seller, 'I am not buying this house.'"

When black mold is present in a home, it's almost always indicative of a larger, more serious issue. It could be present due to cracks in the foundation where water has seeped through, or due to costly issues with the home's plumbing.

"If the current owners had a flood in their basement, they may very well have fixed the flood -- but not the mold," Lyon explains.

3. Water damage

If there is standing water in the basement or evidence of water leaks in a home, warning sirens should go off, Lyon says.

Also see: 6 Things to Ask Before Diving Into Pool Ownership

"It could be roof or skylight damage, drain tile damage, or the entire plumbing system may need to be replaced," he says. "The point is, water infiltrated the house at some point in time, and you're going to want to investigate."

A small water stain on the ceiling may not look like much, but it can be indicative of a much larger problem, says Scott Spencer, worldwide appraisal and loss prevention manager and senior vice president at Chubb Personal Insurance.

"Water works its way down. A stain in the basement could actually be coming from a leak in the roof," Spencer says.

4. Roof problems

If you see curling shingles on the roof or water damage on the ceiling of a home, you may have roof issues that will be costly to repair, Lyon says.

"Depending on how big the home is, roof issues can definitely stop a closing. Your appraiser should be able to tell you how many years of life are left in your roof. If it's less than three years, that's a point that can be negotiated with the seller."

A new roof can range in price from $15,000 to $150,000 depending on the size of the house and the type of roof you want, says Sabine H. Schoenberg, founder of real estate development firm Prime Site and home improvement company SabinesHome.com.

"A roof is such an expensive thing," she says. "And it's not something you can tell from the outside, which is why it's so important to get an inspection. A roof that's falling apart can look just fine from the front yard. The inspector will need to get up there and crawl around."

5. Furnace issues

If the heater goes in a home's furnace, the only way to fix it is to get a new furnace, which will cost a minimum of $6,000, Schoenberg cautions.

It may be that your inspector brings in a separate furnace expert from the gas company if they have any doubts about the life left in the current system, she says.

"It's good to have an expert open up the box and look in the chamber. Replacing a furnace is a huge chunk of money, and you don't want to have to do that after you've just purchased a home."

Also see: 10 Tips to Make Sure Your Yard Sale's Worth It


6. Vermin

There's a big difference between having mice and having termites, Schoenberg explains. Most homes will see a mouse or two from time to time, but termites can literally eat the house down.

"If you have mice, you can set out traps or hire a company to do a regular monthly extermination. But termites come when moisture gets in the wood of your home, and getting them out for good can be extremely difficult," she says.

To get rid of termites, you must kill them, replace the wood they destroyed, and then monitor the area to make sure they don't come back.

"What's the point of replacing the wood if they are just going to come back six months later?" she asks.

Thankfully, an inspector is trained to look for signs that unwanted visitors may be living in your dream home, Spencer says.

"Mice, bats, raccoons, termites, and other little animals can do a lot of damage if they go undetected for a long time. It's only when an inspector peels things open that you see the electrical wiring has been devastated by squirrels."

7. Age of the electrical system

If you're looking at a home that has an old pre-1960 "knob and tube" style electrical system, look elsewhere, Lyon warns. Those systems don't meet code, and the home's entire electrical system will need to be replaced. In many cases, walls may need to be knocked down to bring the home up to code.

"Old wiring like that is a huge fire hazard, so it has to be taken care of. Unfortunately, it's extremely costly to do so -- in the several thousands of dollars," he says.

Be especially cautious of this if you're buying a historic home, Spencer cautions.

"Be aware of building codes in your area," he says. "If you're buying a historic home, there may be regulations on the structural changes you're allowed to make to the building."

6. Vermin

There's a big difference between having mice and having termites, Schoenberg explains. Most homes will see a mouse or two from time to time, but termites can literally eat the house down.

"If you have mice, you can set out traps or hire a company to do a regular monthly extermination. But termites come when moisture gets in the wood of your home, and getting them out for good can be extremely difficult," she says.

To get rid of termites, you must kill them, replace the wood they destroyed, and then monitor the area to make sure they don't come back.

"What's the point of replacing the wood if they are just going to come back six months later?" she asks.

Thankfully, an inspector is trained to look for signs that unwanted visitors may be living in your dream home, Spencer says.

"Mice, bats, raccoons, termites, and other little animals can do a lot of damage if they go undetected for a long time. It's only when an inspector peels things open that you see the electrical wiring has been devastated by squirrels."

7. Age of the electrical system

If you're looking at a home that has an old pre-1960 "knob and tube" style electrical system, look elsewhere, Lyon warns. Those systems don't meet code, and the home's entire electrical system will need to be replaced. In many cases, walls may need to be knocked down to bring the home up to code.

"Old wiring like that is a huge fire hazard, so it has to be taken care of. Unfortunately, it's extremely costly to do so -- in the several thousands of dollars," he says.

Be especially cautious of this if you're buying a historic home, Spencer cautions.

"Be aware of building codes in your area," he says. "If you're buying a historic home, there may be regulations on the structural changes you're allowed to make to the building."

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