If you're about to look for a house to buy, you're likely concentrating on things like what the schools are like in the area, is the house in a flood plain, and so on. These are all important, but you need to ensure that the house isn't hiding any major problems that could make it not worth purchasing. While there are state disclosure laws that the seller is supposed to follow, there's really nothing stopping a seller from not disclosing something. That means you have to take matters into your own hands and do these four things before you agree to buy.
Get Multiple Home Inspections
Getting a home inspection is a basic part of buying a home, but instead of getting just one general inspection, get inspections specifically for issues like electric wiring, gas supply, plumbing, the foundation, landscaping and grading, the chimney, and so on. Many of these can be done in the same inspection, but you want to be sure that they are specifically looked at. These inspections will uncover work that isn't to code as well as problems that could make the house unsafe.
Talk to Neighbors
If you have time and manage to bump into some of the people living in the neighborhood, you might want to ask them if they've heard of any problems with the house you want to buy. For example, Zillow Porchlight ran an article about real estate disclosures that mentioned a house that had leaky windows and siding problems. The seller had not disclosed these, and it looked like the problems might be new issues. However, the buyer then heard from a neighbor that the seller had had these issues, too -- the seller just didn't say anything to the buyer even though he was supposed to disclose the problems.
Do a Public Records Search and a General News Search
Look up the address online to see if it was mentioned in any news stories, such as those involving crimes. Try to see what public records are available for the address, too. If you're looking at a condo in a complex, look up the complex name as well -- even if your unit wasn't involved in anything, another unit in the complex could have had problems that would have affected anyone living in the unit you want.
Too many homes have been used as meth labs by former occupants, and future occupants pay the price for that. Meth usage can leave heavy residue in a home, enough to sicken anyone living in there even if those people don't use any drugs. Again, this is something that should be disclosed to buyers, but it's said to be hard and can cost $50.
If you have other questions about ensuring a home is safe and in good condition, talk to a real estate agent (such as one from Service First Realty), and definitely work with an agent instead of trying to buy a home on your own. When you work with an agent, he or she can help guide you through any issues you encounter.