Several recent home inspections show a trend, where sellers hide defects, but we have to be concerned whether a repair was made.
Typically, I pick an audience for a post, and I write for that audience. On the topic on hiding a defect, I am not sure who should be my audience. Real estate investors and sellers should know ways to make their properties look nicer for the sale. If repairs were made, I often suggest how cosmetic issues that resulted from the defect can be made. Who wants to look at a crack in the wall? Buyers are too emotional when looking at homes, but it is good to inform them, so they can take off their rose colored glasses to have a better perception of the home. My real concern when it comes to hidden defects is that other home inspectors may miss an issue, so they need to be aware to produce the best report for their clients. I guess then that I will speak to the home inspectors out there.
Painting a ceiling with a fresh coat of paint is not covering every problem, so using popcorn texturing is becoming popular. Home buyers have mentioned that they do not like this effect. Popcorn texturing is also difficult to re-paint. If you are not familiar with this texture, this is the one consisting of big globs of spackling. Because this texture goes on quite thick, cracks and water stains are easily covered. Smaller cracks vanish completely. If you examine the ceiling carefully, you will notice areas where a large cracks or sheets misaligning can be seen. I have noticed that I can pick out spots that might have moisture. The texturing material dries differently over these spots, so there is a slightly different color. I leave the room dark, and use my flashlight over the wall. This helps me to notice the differences in coloration in the texture. I then pull out a moisture meter to test that spot. I prefer my non-invasive moisture meter for this task; the pronged moisture meters can leave a mark on the texture.
I have written about buttercoating a home with new drywall over the old drywall; however this practice has not spread as I feared. I did not painters are taking more time filling in cracks and matching texturing. In fact, painting is being used on more surfaces. Roof vents are being painted more often.This is fine as long as rust was removed, and the proper type of paint was used. I have also seen that homes with exterior cracks from previous foundation issues are being painted. For thin cracks, a heavier paint application can fill in those cracks. The paint can also hide signs of spalling. By checking the surface of many of the painted bricks, you can spot a surface that does not fit, so you can check the integrity of the brick in that area. Filled cracks have a different texture from the mortar, so a careful examination will reveal them.
Most buyers are concerned with cosmetic issues. RE investors and sellers are taking the time to put in new flooring and trim. As a side note: many older homes had wall paper in kitchen and bathrooms, and these are being painted over. There is paint manufactured for the purpose of being applied over wall paper, but due to defects in the wall paper, you may see this surface peeling. Not really a problem a home inspector reports, but you may wish to mention this situation to your clients. Fresh coats of paints may cause the wall paper to peel away. More of a concern for home inspectors would be new baseboards or trim. There are occasions where moisture damaged the wall, but the new taller baseboard or broader trim has covered it. I feel for soft areas in the wall near the baseboard or trim. On one occasion, there was some damage to the framing. If the wall is giving way, I pull out the moisture meter.
I still notice the old stand-by on placing boxes or furniture in the way to hide a defect. More often, if the seller is preparing for the move, he is piling up belongings ready for the movers, and not trying to hide anything. However, I am more suspicious when the contractor has piled items in a certain spot. I found extensive wall damage behind several boards and doors piled into a corner. Often, investors appear to be placing homes on the market before they have completed their repairs. Maybe this was only happening recently to take advantage of the tax credit. Sometimes the contractors intend to repair the damage, but they make it less noticeable for when buyers come round.
I am sure that there may be other methods of hiding defects, but these are new ones that I noticed popping up more frequently. I think Realtor’s for sellers may be suggesting some of these methods, but investors are using them too. Once you find the defect, you may discover that a repair was already made to the home, and the owner simply wants to improve the cosmetics. This is great, but as a home inspector you should make sure.