A potential house buyer, shocked by the sight of mold on a wall

Buying a home is the single biggest investment most people will ever make. That’s why it’s important to look beyond the aesthetics of a home to make sure the property you’re viewing is a wise investment. In addition to making sure a property has the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and outdoor space you need, it’s important to assess if the home has “good bones.” In a nutshell, a house with good bones is one that has a solid foundation and sound structure. Here are some specific examples on what to look for when viewing an Austin property to determine whether or not it has good bones.

Cracks in the Foundation

Not all foundation cracks are a sign of trouble. Hairline cracks are to be expected and commonly found in poured concrete foundations. Cracks measuring wider than ½ inch, however, may be a sign of trouble. Foundation cracks that run sideways (horizontally) are the most serious type of crack to look out for, as they can signal serious damage to your home’s foundation and structural integrity.

In addition to cracks in the foundation, pay attention to any cracks in the walls in your Austin property. Small drywall cracks are not typically worrisome, but larger cracks or ones with discoloration may indicate structural issues or leaks.


Mold is a type of invasive fungi that may grow on surfaces inside the home. Besides presenting an ugly appearance and, sometimes, an unpleasant odor, mold can cause health problems. Inhaling mold spores can contribute to respiratory symptoms, headaches and other illnesses. Depending on the extent of mold damage present, the process of seeking out and eliminating the mold can cost thousands of dollars.

One telltale sign of mold is a musty odor. Other signs include staining on the walls or ceilings and visible mold growth on walls and other surfaces.

Termite Infestation

Often referred to as “silent destroyers,” termites are tiny pests that consume wood. Subterranean termites build distinctive tunnels, often referred to as “mud tubes,” to reach food sources and protect themselves from open air. Termite damage often goes undetected until substantial damage has been done. Advanced termite damage can greatly affect the structural integrity of an Austin home, and is costly to repair.

Telltale signs of a problem include small piles of tiny brown droppings on a floor near a wall, a hollow sound when you knock on a wood surface or the presence of pencil-sized mud tubes found wherever the ground meets the house.

Water Stains

Stains on walls and ceilings are an indication of water leaks — and a potentially high repair bill. Water from a leaky roof or window can rot away structural wood members. If water stains are yellowish or brownish, they may be evidence of a plumbing problem on an upper floor. Further investigation is warranted to determine not only where a leak is coming from, but how much damage it’s caused.

Sagging Ceilings

A sagging ceiling is a red flag that can be caused by several factors: roof leaks, structural movement, age of the home or an insect infestation that’s eating away at the joists. Whatever the cause, a sagging ceiling is not something to be ignored. A sagging ceiling can be potentially dangerous and costly to repair depending on the cause and extent of damage.

Age and Condition of the Roof

The average cost of a new roof runs $6,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the size of the roof and the type of roofing materials. That’s why you’ll want to know the age and integrity of the roof before placing a bid on a property. Ask when the roof was installed and ask to see the warranty to back it up. Signs that the roof needs to be replaced include: shingles that curl up at the corners, missing shingles, cracked shingles or exposed nail heads.

Beyond the Structural Integrity of the House

In addition to determining whether or not a home you’re interested in is structurally sound, other things to look for when viewing a property include:

Sold As Is

A house that’s for sale “As Is” means that the homeowner is selling the home in its current condition and won’t pay for any repairs or improvements before selling the home. That’s not to say that homes sold “As Is” should be passed over. You can still have the home inspected — and you should — but if the inspector finds termites, foundation cracks, or other problems and you still choose to buy the house, you’ll be responsible for paying for the necessary repairs.

Homes Selling for a Bargain Price

There’s a difference between getting a great deal on a diamond in the rough and inheriting a money pit. When an Austin home is priced far below market value, it’s an indication that the house has problems that’ll require significant repair. An inspection performed by a certified home inspector will reveal exactly what you’re getting and whether or not the low price is too good to be true.

Final Thoughts

Keeping an eye out for these red flags can help you make an informed decision when deciding if a property is worth your time and money. Seeking the advice of a certified Austin, TX home inspector as well as an experienced Austin real estate agent can go a long way in helping alert you to any expensive repairs or pitfalls. Our team not only has an eye for spotting potential problems, we can help negotiate the price of repairs or a price reduction when the time is right.