7 Hazards in a Home For Buyers to Look Out For

Buying a home always comes with inherent risks. You really never know what you’re truly inheriting without a thorough inspection. That’s exactly why buyers are encouraged to hire a home inspector to scope out the property that they have put an offer on. This will allow you to make sure there’s nothing seriously wrong with it that could pose a danger or force you to incur extra expenses.

When you’re on the prowl for a new home, be sure to pay attention to specific hazards that could compromise the health and safety of you and your family.

1. Asbestos

Not necessarily a material that you should be concerned about when buying a newer home, asbestos is still a hazard that continues to exist in older homes.

Asbestos was widely used in home construction decades ago because it is a very effective and affordable fire-retardant material. It’s also known to be a thermal and acoustic insulator. But as convenient as asbestos may have been years ago, it has been found to be linked to a number of health conditions, including mesothelioma.

Many household components may contain asbestos, including siding, roofing, insulation, floor tiles, wall plaster, textured paint, popcorn ceilings, and patching compounds. Although the use of asbestos was banned in 1977, it might still be present in older homes.

Sellers are required to disclose the known presence of asbestos in a home they’re selling, but it’s still possible that they may not be aware of its presence. It’s helpful to have a trained professional scope out the home in great detail and even have certain components tested for the presence of asbestos.

2. Lead

Another environmental hazard that can be found in homes is lead. Most often, this poisonous metal is present in paint, but it can also be found in soil or dust as well. While newer homes will not likely have any lead in it, older homes are more cause for concern.

Long-term exposure to lead paint can lead to nervous system conditions. Young children and pets – who are more likely to put things in their mouths that they shouldn’t – may be in particular danger from lead paint. That said, lead can also be ingested through inhalation, though fumes are more likely during construction.

3. Radon

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas, making it impossible to detect without being tested. This gas has been shown to potentially cause cancer, which is why it’s important to rule out the presence of radon in any home.

This naturally-occurring gas is usually found in soil and can make its way into a home without homeowners even knowing that they’re exposed. It can enter a home through cracks and crevices very easily and seep into the interior air for all to breathe in. Areas that are near water sources and wells are often more susceptible to being exposed to radon, so these areas should also be checked out.

4. Unfenced Pools

Swimming pools are common amenities in residential homes across California. But pools that are not equipped with the proper safety protocols – including a safety fence – can prove to be a safety hazard.

Small children and pets are particularly at risk for accidental falls into swimming pools, which is why fences are typically required to protect them.

Not only are fences around swimming pools a great idea, but they’re also required by law. There are rules governing how close the fence must be to the pool, as well as how high it should be to prevent unwarranted access to the pool.

There are also regulations that dictate the gate of entry, including which direction it should open and how far from the ground the locking or latching device should be. It’s important that you check with your specific jurisdiction to see what the laws are to make sure you’re in compliance should you buy a home with a pool. 

5. Faulty Stairs

Older homes may have stairs that not as safe as they should be and may not adhere to current building codes and standards. For starters, stairways should be properly lit to provide enough light for people to see where they’re going.

Further, the spacing between the railings should not have gaps that are too wide that a small child could fit through. In addition, the handrails should be sturdy and durable enough to withstand the weight of a person who is holding onto to them.

Slips and falls on staircases are a common occurrence that often warrants trips to the ER, so it’s important that the stairs in the home you’re checking out are in sturdy shape. If not, repairs will be required.

6. Old Electrical Wiring

Old homes that have never had their electrical wiring and panels updated could be a hazard. In fact, you might find that your insurance company may not provide you with homeowner’s insurance – which is needed to get a mortgage – if the electrical wiring is out of date.

Outdated wiring can pose a fire hazard, which is why any old wiring should be dealt with. Signs of a faulty electrical system include frequent power outages, sparks at outlets, sizzling sounds, burning smells, flickering lights, damaged insulation, and warm switches.

Further, if the electrical panel has fuses or circuit breakers that are rated higher than the currents allow, this could also pose a danger. In this case, the panel will need to be upgraded.

7. Pests

Termites are a huge problem in a home, as they can compromise the integrity of the home’s structure. Not only do termites cause structural damage to a home, but they also pose a potential danger to the home’s occupants. Other pests, such as rodents, can create an unsanitary environment.

Look out for obvious signs of pest infestation, such as chew marks in wood, droppings, and damaged wiring. If there is a potential pest infestation, an exterminator should be called in to scope out the home in great detail and deal with the issue accordingly.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home is a huge financial commitment, so you want to make sure that what you’re buying is a sound investment. Not only do you want to avoid spending more money fixing issues in the home, but you’ll also want to keep your family safe from any potential hazards. Be on the lookout for issues like these and have a home inspector and other professionals check out the home in greater detail before signing on the dotted line.