It can be stressful trying to find a dream home. Knowing the right things to pay extra attention to can prevent the purchase from becoming a nightmare.

 Rob Reiling, general manager of real estate company Opendoor Phoenix, offered a checklist of five items to make a priority when viewing a house:

Condition of walls and floors: Cracks in walls wider than ⅛ an inch could hint at foundation issues, and watermarks or “bubbling” on walls may pinpoint underlying water damage. A warped floor can be caused by anything from rotting wood and water damage to termites or low-quality construction.  

Issues with the electrical, cooling and heating elements: Warm, vibrating wall outlets and/or flickering lights can be indications of issues with electrical wiring. Turn on a faucet; if the water is tinted orange or brown, the water pipes may be rusty and in need of replacement. A squealing or grinding sound coming from an air conditioning unit is a cry for service or replacement, and a faint gas smell in any room other than the kitchen may point toward a compromised gas valve on a water heater. 

Permitted additions: If you purchase a home with unpermitted work, you could be saddled with fines, as well as the costs associated with getting the work permitted or taken down. A permit is required if the remodel includes adding or removing walls, making changes to plumbing and/or electrical or adding a window. So ask questions if you see things such as converted garages, rooms that have lower roof lines from the outside or guest houses. 

 Odors: The smell of wet socks can be indicative of mold, and a less intense but still musty odor could be from mildew. Both could be hazardous to your health and expensive to get rid of.  Also be aware of cigarette and pet smells that can cling to walls and require considerable time and effort (or even professional assistance) to remove. 

Discolored lawns: The warm climate, deferred maintenance or animals can be the cause of brown spots on a home’s lawn. But these spots also can be caused by fungal diseases, which could lead to pest infestations if left untreated. And wet or soggy spots in a yard accompanied by a foul odor could indicate a damaged or broken sewer line. Both situations can be costly.

To ensure you have as much information as possible about a future home and make the buying process smoother, Reiling suggested also asking the following questions:

When are offers due?

How many offers have been made?

Why are the sellers moving?

Are there any issues with the property? 

Being prepared with a checklist of important issues and questions ahead of time can help decrease the likelihood of problems in the future.