6 Things that Shouldn’t Be Deal-Breakers When Buying a House

You think you’ve found your dream home. But do you have?

There’s a good chance you’ll find flaws when you visit a property, from rotting to cracks in the foundation. Last week, we looked at eight red flags that could (or should) encourage potential buyers to reconsider their proposition. (For those, see What to Know When Buying a Home: 8 Little Signs That Point to Big Problems.) But sometimes buyers are put off by lesser inconveniences – and they shouldn’t. not be.

To find out more, we spoke again with real estate agent Kathleen Clifford, who has worked in the home sales business in Marin County, Calif., Since 2001. This time we asked her what things potential buyers might think this is a big deal but, in reality, there are easy solutions.

Here are six drawbacks that Clifford said should be factored into your decision, but aren’t necessarily deciding factors: They may be easier to fix or experience than you might think.

(NB: Clifford stresses the importance of hiring an inspector – or more of them – to examine the condition of the property. If the inspector finds things that need attention, there are several options available to you: the buyer can ask the seller to make the repairs or reduce the price by an agreed amount, or the buyer can choose not to proceed with the purchase.)

1. Small defects in the foundation.

Photograph from Old Soul: A Revolution-Era Hudson Valley Home gets an update from Jersey Ice Cream Co.
Above: Photograph from Old Soul: A Revolution-Era Hudson Valley Home gets an update from Jersey Ice Cream Co.

As you walk around the exterior of the building, you may be able to check the condition of the foundation. Do you see tiny hairline cracks? It’s probably not a big deal. “Hair cracks in the foundation are not unusual,” says Clifford. “You’ll want the inspector to check them out, but in general, a crack smaller than an eighth of an inch isn’t a problem.” (An uneven, sloping, or visibly crumbling foundation is another story.)

2. Signs of dry rot or fungus.

Photograph by Curb Appeal: A classic New England color scheme on Spruce Head in Maine.
Above: Curb Appeal Photograph: A classic New England color scheme on Spruce Head in Maine.

“It’s typical to have inclement weather outside of a house,” Clifford says. “In fact, I’ve never had a home inspection that didn’t refer to areas of dry rot and fungus.” Usually, this is because the homeowner has not continued to paint the shingles or wood siding, so water intrusion deteriorates them. “If the dry rot or fungus is only found in isolated areas, it’s very minor,” she says. “Never go away because of it. This is only a problem if the whole house is affected.

3. Glued windows or small cracks in walls and ceilings.

Photograph from Sauvé from Abandonment: A historic farm in the Hudson Valley receives the final helping hand.
Above: Still from Sauvé from Abandonment: Historic Hudson Valley farmhouse gets the ultimate make-up.

Most often these are caused by a slow installation of the building over decades, and not by a weak foundation. But have an inspector weigh in (and it could just be a sloppy paint job that led to finicky windows).

4. Obsolete fuse panels.

Photograph of Passer Domesticus: src=
Above: Photograph from Passer Domesticus: 12 ideas to steal on an idiosyncratic urban getaway in Greece.

In an older home, look at the label on the main electrical panel (fuse panel) or subpanel, suggests Clifford. If the manufacturer was either Federal Pacific Electric Co. or Zinsco, the panel presents a fire hazard and will need to be replaced. It’s not very expensive: depending on the amount of wiring in the house, a new main panel costs about $ 2,400 and a sub-panel costs $ 1,200 to $ 1,600. The seller can replace it or you can renegotiate the price to cover the cost.

5. Pests.

Photograph of 5 Favorites: Design-worthy tools to keep pests at bay.
Above: Photograph of 5 Favorites: Worthy Design Tools to Keep Pests at Bay.

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