There are a lot of things to love about wintertime: hot cocoa, ice skating, sitting next to a roaring fire, and fresh snowfall. However, that soft, white, powdery snow could be hiding some major defects in the home you want to buy.
While winter lays bare many things (mostly trees), it can obscure a number of home features which would otherwise be visible if the weather were clear. Keep a sharp eye out for these four items that are easily disguised by snow.
Probably the most obvious aspect hiding beneath the frost, it’s the only item on this list that wouldn’t be discovered during a home inspection. Landscaping design is truly a personal preference, and while it may not be a defect worthy of serious anxiety, it could be expensive to fix or change. In order to prevent a garden surprise at the first thaw, request warm-weather photos of the home from the seller’s agent. These should give you a better idea of what you’ll be dealing with come spring.
Not only can snow shield existing foundation problems from eager eyes, it can also create new ones. Cracks in the exterior foundation are difficult to discern when concealed by drifts, and it’s unlikely that your home inspector will head outside with a snowblower to check all the nooks and crannies during the inspection. Additionally, melting snow can seep into the foundation cracks as the weather gets warmer, causing even more damage. A good inspector may be able to identify foundation problems through means other than the visible cracks. Other telltale signs include sticking or swinging doors, uneven floors, warped ceilings, or cracked moldings.
When everything is frozen, including the ground, it’s hard to find a leak or detect basement flooding. However, you could be in for a major surprise when the first warm day in March unleashes a deluge of snow melt into your unprotected basement. When ordering the inspection on a home, make sure to request they take particular interest in the basement or any other areas you suspect may have water damage. Better safe than soggy, right?
Nothing encompasses the coziness of winter like a cottage with a rooftop covered in snow! Unfortunately, a blanket of snow can hide obvious roofing problems, such as missing or curling shingles, ice dams, water pooling, or gutter damage. One visual indicator that something is amiss with the roof are icicles. A few spindly ones are nothing to worry about, but a large section of sizeable icicles indicates there may be something wrong with the roof or gutters.
A completely thorough roof inspection is almost impossible in the winter time, so take extra precautions when making an offer. Talk to your home inspector and your real estate attorney about the best ways to protect yourself against unseen damage, and make sure they administer a seller questionnaire that asks about the age of the roof, any recent repairs, or any existing damage.