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Where dangers lurk: 5 hidden home problems

iStock/Rosemarie Gearhart

While it’s common practice for purchasers to get a home inspection, if you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, you might also want to take a closer look at your home, sparing you any surprises when it comes time to sell. By giving your home a checkup, you can address the issues before they become major repairs that could drive buyers away.

Here are some common home problems that could be eating away at your house’s value.

Mold

Destructive and disgusting, mold is a dreaded problem faced by homeowners.  A thriving colony of black or green spores can take homeowners by surprise, but if you do detect a few spores floating around, don’t panic. Mold spores are in the air around us, and most houses will have a little bit of mold, particularly in damper climates, like the South. If you spot a colony, a professional mold inspector can give you a better idea of the extent of the problem.

In small doses, mold is mostly harmless, but if the problem is left unchecked and continues to grow it can start to cause health problems. Hay fever-like symptoms -- sneezing, irritated eyes and runny noses -- have been linked to mold. And, more seriously, a bad mold problem can set off attacks in those with asthma. In addition to health problems, these spores can damage fabric, drywall and other materials, leaving you with an unsightly mess on your hands.

Since a mold problem is mostly just a moisture problem, you’ll want to focus on keeping things dry. After scrubbing the area clean, invest in a dehumidifier and run the heat more frequently to dry out the air. In the summer months, an air conditioner is the best way to keep the humidity level down. Finally, you’ll want to fix any plumbing leaks or exterior leaks that are letting water in, which can allow colonies to thrive.

Bad Foundation

Cracks in basement walls are often the first sign that something’s amiss with the foundation. Over time your home will shift and settle, creating a problem that can put your plans to sell on hold. In addition to a sagging foundation, poor drainage can also cause problems. Sagging eaves or an uneven yard can cause water to drain toward your home, softening the earth and making foundation problems worse.

If a home inspector does detect foundation issues, it’s better to fix them before putting the house on the market. While some buyers might be willing to take on a few repairs, particularly if the price is right, foundation problems are often too large and expensive, and most potential buyers will just walk away.

Termite Damage

Look for wood that is buckling, swelling or rotting -- all indications that you might have a pest problem.

- Adam Verwymeren

Laying low behind your walls and drywall, termites can spend months or years hollowing your house out from the inside before you ever detect them. These nefarious pests do give you some signs, however. Look for wood that is buckling, swelling or rotting -- all indications that you might have a pest problem. An inspection for insects usually isn’t part of a typical home inspection, so you might need to hire an expert to check for this problem. If termites are confirmed, a pest control specialist can identify the type or termite and the best course of action to kill off the colony.

Roof Damage

Roofing problems often don’t present themselves until it’s too late. While you might not notice water dripping down the from the ceiling, damaged shingles or tiles could be letting in small amounts of water, which could cause your roof to warp and rot, forcing you to make much larger and more expensive repairs down the road.

A home inspector should look for wind-damage, improperly installed shingles, buckling and other damage to the roofing material. Since water can also get in around vents, you’ll want to make sure that the flashing around these openings is properly sealed.

Wiring

A common problem in older homes, bad wiring can be deadly dangerous, causing the potential for fires or electrocution. Suspect wiring can lurk in newer homes too. Overzealous DIYers or unscrupulous electricians can leave a home dotted with poor connections and faulty outlets. Before you sell, you’ll definitely want to make sure that all the wiring is up to code.