Buying a home is always a gamble, but being observant can help you avoid a home that will cause you to regret ever buying it. Here are a few hidden problems you should always check for before you buy a home in Salt Lake City, especially if the home you’re buying isn’t brand-new.
Radon is natural, odorless, radioactive gas that’s prevalent here in Utah. It’s also toxic, and it causes lung cancer with long-term exposure. It comes from the ground, so if it’s present, it’s likely on the lower levels of your home.
Many home inspectors will add a radon test on to your inspection for a fee. It’s always a smart idea to get the home tested because there’s no other way to know whether or not the home has a radon problem. If it is an issue, a radon mitigation system can be installed for around a thousand dollars.
Broken Sewer Lines
Older homes are highly likely to have broken sewer lines. Pipes don’t last forever, after all. Modern PVC pipes are supposed to last for about a hundred years. But older homes usually have clay or steel sewer pipes that don’t last nearly as long (50 to 60 years). If your home was built before 1980, there’s a pretty good chance that the pipes are clay.
Trees love moisture, so it’s common for their roots to make their way into pipes, and they can eventually clog the pipe completely. Pipes can also fill up with sludge and muck.
If you smell sewage or have a sinkhole in the yard, that’s a pretty good indicator that the you have a sewer pipe problem. The best way to get an accurate picture of the condition of the pipe is to have a scope done with a camera, which is $200 to $300.
Utah’s older homes often have brick chimneys. Wind, rain, and sun are all hard on chimneys, but they’re especially hard on the mortar that holds bricks together. Falling bricks are a hazard so you should pay special attention to loose bricks high on the chimney.
Brick chimneys can sometimes be repaired by replacing some of the mortar (around $200). A replacement is a lot more expensive (usually thousands of dollars).
If you smell that tell-tale mold smell, you need to get it checked out. Older homes weren’t built with the same perimeter and underfloor drainage that’s standard today. In fact, drainage often wasn’t even a consideration when older homes were built.
You may see obvious signs of mold on the walls, but it’s more likely that you’ll smell it somewhere—in the attic, in the basement, or in a bathroom. If you smell or see anything that makes you suspicious, it’s worth having an extra inspection done. Mold can be extremely difficult to get rid of, so you need to know what you’re getting into before the house is yours.
Was the home you’re interested in ever used as a meth lab? This problem can pop up where you’d never suspect it. A home that was used to make meth can be a health hazard, especially for young children.
If you smell fertilizer, ammonia, or rotten eggs when you first enter a house, that’s a sign that the house may have been a meth lab. Other things to beware of are vents that look like they’ve been tampered with, boarded up windows, or patches of grass that seem to have been burned. Basically, you’re looking for clues that people were venting their home in an unusual way, disposing of chemicals, or hiding what they were doing.
Your grandparents didn’t use all that much electricity in their homes. They may have had on a radio, a of couple lamps, and a small refrigerator, but that could have been it. Think about your home now. It probably has a TV in every bedroom, a few computers, and a kitchen filled with large appliances. The electrical system that worked for your grandparents doesn’t work very well for today’s family.
Each appliance or fixture in your home draws power in the form of amps. The more electrical fixtures or appliances you have, the more amps needed. If they need more amps than your electrical system is rated for, it can spark, overheat, or even fail entirely—and that’s a fire hazard.
Any home built before 1980 probably has an outdated electrical system (you can check the electrical panel for the amperage rating). Old homes are usually rated for 60 amps or less, but modern homes need at least 100, and some may need a lot more.
So, what to look for? If the home has aluminum wiring, that’s a fire hazard. You should also look for lots of extension cords and adapters, burn marks around switches and outlets, and rooms with no outlets at all. Replacing an entire system to bring it up to current codes and so it’s not a fire hazard can be pretty expensive.
Termites can spend years eating your home from the inside out before anybody ever detects them. They love soft wood! But there are some signs you can look for—buckling, swelling, or rotting wood indicate a pest problem. If you see such signs, hire an expert. This isn’t part of a typical home inspection.
Ready to Buy a Salt Lake Home?
If you’re ready to buy a home here in beautiful Salt Lake, I hope this list helps you know what hidden problems to look for. I’ve also been helping happy clients buy and sell in this area for a long time, so please reach out to me if you have any questions about buying a home of your own.