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13 Hidden Problems in a Bathroom You Might Not Spot on Video

October 2, 2020

13 Hidden Problems in a Bathroom You Might Not Spot on Video

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It might be easy to gloss over the bathroom when you’re touring a home in person—but it’s even easier to do so when you’re viewing it by video, as many of us are doing in the age of the coronavirus. It’s a smaller space than most in the house, and, at first glance, there’s not much to take in: toilet, shower, vanity—that’s all you need, right?

But the fact that the bathroom’s purpose is purely functional—the place to go when you go—is what makes it such a crucial space. And one you shouldn’t rush through in any tour.

Experts say there’s a whole lot more you should be looking at in the bathroom besides the sleek vanity and sparkling bathtub. Make sure to inspect—or ask your agent to scope out for you—these potential problem areas.

1. Funky odors

As your agent shows you the bathroom, look out for an air freshener. It might be the buyer’s personal preference to have fragrance in the bathroom, but it could also be masking issues with the plumbing or mold.

“Homes on a septic system that have a strong odor could be a sign of an issue that could cost you more later,” says Wendy Gladson, a real estate consultant at Compass in Los Angeles.

2. No bathroom vent fan

You might not think an ordinary bathroom fan is worth a second look, but it is.

“It is not necessary to have a fan if you have a window, but it could be an unpleasant surprise when you look for the switch to get rid of steam, and there is no fan [or window] present,” says Veronica Sniscak, owner and Realtor® at VSells and Associates in Ellicott City, MD.

3. Bad lighting

“Since you will not be there in person, it may be tough to know if the bathroom is well-lit or if the lighting situation might need attention,” says Sniscak.

Ask your agent to turn on all the lights, to see how bright or dim the room is.

4. No privacy

A window provides natural light and helps a small bathroom feel less claustrophobic, but you don’t want your neighbors to watch you brush your teeth every night. Have your agent show you the view out the window, if there is one.

“In urban areas, you want to make sure that, with the proximity to your neighbors, you have privacy,” Gladson says.

5. Squishy floor

If there’s tile in the bathroom, your agent should show you close-ups of it.

“Look to see if there are any areas of cracking in the floor tile, separation, or damaged grouting or any ‘softness’ felt underfoot that could indicate issues with any past or current plumbing, or a pest issue,” Gladson says.

6. Old bathtubs

What looks like a brand-new bathtub might be an old one with a cosmetic upgrade. Reglazing is an inexpensive way to update a tub, but Gladson says the finish doesn’t last long. Look for bubbling or sags in the finish.

“Tubs will scratch and even peel with time and require touch-ups to the finish,” Gladson says.

7. Problems under the sink

“The bathroom is the No. 1 place for water damage, so it’s a good idea to check under the sink for leaking,” says Kari Haas, a real estate agent at Windmere Real Estate in Bellevue, WA.

Ask your agent to zero in on the fixtures. Are they corroded or in good shape? Are any of the fixtures or pipes leaking? Next, ask your agent to turn on the faucets of the sink, tub, and shower. Take note of the water pressure. Is it strong or barely trickling out?

8. No storage

If you don’t see any storage besides under the vanity or in the medicine cabinet, where will you keep your towels and other necessities? And don’t assume a closet in a bathroom is for storage. It might house mechanical components or a water heater.

“It’s important to see inside all cabinets and behind any doors,” notes Sniscak. “It would also be helpful to know if there is a linen closet in the hallway outside of the bathroom.”

9. Mildew or gaps in the shower grout

“What is the condition of the grout? If there are gaps, there could be hidden damage behind the walls, and if there is mildew, it speaks to ventilation and poor maintenance,” says Gladson.

Also, watch your agent open and close the shower doors to ensure they function correctly.

10. A tiny shower

If you’re tall or feel anxious in small places, a small shower can be a deal breaker. And you won’t be able to get a sense of how big or small the shower area is from the live video, Sniscak says.

“It may be helpful to have the agent bring along a measuring tape to see how big the shower area is,” she says. “It’s also a good idea to get a view inside the shower or tub area to see if there is any space to store items like a niche or shelf.”

11. The bathroom is in a weird spot in the home

Multiple bathrooms are a plus, but not if they don’t serve your lifestyle.

“Many find it odd to have a bathroom in the kitchen, for example, and it’s also good to know how far away the bathroom is from the living area,” says Sniscak.

Have your agent walk you through the areas leading to the bathrooms.

“Ask if there is a level that doesn’t have a bathroom at all that may not be easy to tell from the video,” adds Sniscak.

Finally, verify how many bedrooms share a bathroom.

12. Not enough outlets

Outlets are something you probably wouldn’t even think twice about, even when you’re touring a house in person—but you should take notice, Sniscak says.

“Some older homes may be lacking outlets, so it’s always better to check than be surprised later,” says Sniscak.

13. A bad toilet

For something that gets used several times daily, the toilet rarely gets a second glance in house tours. Yet, trouble could be lurking, so (and we’re serious here) get your agent to stand over the toilet and jump up and down to see if the toilet is loose and needs a new wax ring.

“Ask if the flooring is solid—also a sign that there might be rot,” Haas says.

And while you’re at it, ask what sort of toilet it is. Is it water-efficient? Does it have a bidet attachment? These things could significantly improve or detract from your bathroom experience.

The post 13 Hidden Problems in a Bathroom You Might Not Spot on Video appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

The Nose Knows: 4 Things You Can’t Smell in a Virtual Tour That Could Cost You Later

May 21, 2020

Bad home odors

Enes Evren/Getty Images

Odors—pleasant or unpleasant—are strongly tied to our emotions and can leave a lasting impression when it comes to buying a house. Especially bad ones. Because some odious smells can be indicative of larger (and costlier!) problems.

“When we come across even moderately strong odors, the showing is basically over,” says John Gluch, a Realtor® and founder of the Gluch Group in Scottsdale, AZ. “Reasoning with someone that the odors can be remediated is rarely fruitful. People just move on in search of a better-smelling home.”

But what’s a potential buyer to do when you can’t actually be there to smell all the smells? As the COVID-19 pandemic increasingly turns open houses and home tours into virtual events, it’s more important than ever to ask your real estate agent to be your (very sensitive) nose.

These are the odors your agent should sniff out for you to save you money—and big-time disappointment when you move in.

1. Pet odors

“While doing in-person tours, the most common odor complaint we get is pet odors—by a wide margin,” Gluch says. Lingering odors from pet “accidents”—especially dry cat pee (because ammonium salts form in residue)—are particularly pungent. And nasty!

Unfortunately, a typical bottle of carpet cleaner isn’t likely to remove the odor. You’ll have to call in the pros.

Jack White, vice president of technical services at Rainbow International Restoration, says urine removal costs depend on several factors, including the type of flooring, the degree of saturation, and the materials used in installing the floor. Even so, new carpet and flooring might be the only route for a fresh start and peace of mind.

2. Cigarette odors

Coming in a close second is cigarette odor, Gluch says. Tobacco odors seep into porous surfaces like carpeting, drapes, rugs, walls, and especially ceilings.

“Ceilings can be the biggest culprit in a persisting smoke smell in a home, as cigarette smoke tends to travel upward and latch onto the first surface it comes in contact with,” White explains.

Professional cleaning is prudent, White says, since carpets have different fibers that can be damaged with a DIY approach. And tobacco-stained walls (including wallpaper and paneling) not properly cleaned and treated with a nicotine stain–blocking primer will come back to haunt you and bleed rusty stains through any newly painted walls.

A smoker’s house doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but there will be added costs and elbow grease to remove the odors.

3. Mold, mildew, and musty odors

These three odors not only smell bad, they also leave a seriously negative impression, regardless of how attractive the house is. The odors suggest uncleanliness and a damp, cold feeling—plus the scary possibility of mold growing beneath the surface.

“When we have mold, there is always a moisture concern somewhere. This needs to be addressed first, so the challenge does not reappear in the future,” White says.

An indoor environmental professional should be called in to capture air and surface samples to see what types of molds are present and determine the type of mold remediation necessary. At the very least, call a pro to check for leaks and professional cleaning of porous services, and then run a dehumidifier.

4. Rotten eggs or a sulfur smell

First things first. If your agent is overwhelmed by a rotten egg smell, he/she should hightail it out of the house for safety, since the odor might be a sign of a gas leak.

However, if your agent smells a milder version of rotten eggs or sulfur, it could point to plumbing issues. If the house has been vacant for a while, the drainpipe water trap might be dried up, leaving the pipe without a water barrier to stop offensive odors from farther down the pipe wafting up.

The real budget buster? If your agent notices the stench coming from multiple drains.

“This could be a problem with the plumbing equipment or with the local sewer authority,” says Mark Dawson, COO at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.

If the problem lies with the sewer, a sewer inspection—possibly digging in the yard or basement—might be needed to resolve the issue.

Ask about visual evidence of possible odors

You put a lot of trust in your agent during your home-buying journey, but even more so when it comes to video tours. Expect full transparency, but also keep your eyes open for visual indicators of lingering odors.

While your agent is showing you video of the house, don’t hesitate to ask about odors—say, if you see a litter box in the laundry room, a dog bed in the living room, or an ashtray on the coffee table. When your agent shows you the basement, ask if there is an overwhelming musty odor.

You can handle the truth!

“I encourage clients to ask their agents to give them the pure, unvarnished truth when doing a video tour,” Gluch advises. “That way, everyone can avoid wasting lots of time and energy on a house that the client will end up hating when they finally visit in person.”

The post The Nose Knows: 4 Things You Can’t Smell in a Virtual Tour That Could Cost You Later appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging the Sale of Your Home

December 27, 2018

upset real estate agent


So you’ve finally decided to put your home on the market. You’ve planned your first open house, begun searching for new digs, and even made a mental packing list. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, right?

Well, sellers, we don’t mean to freak you out, but we’ve got bad news: You just might be sabotaging your home sale. Obviously, it’s the last thing you’d want to do, but one wrong turn—or wrong decision—could hurt your chances of landing a buyer. And the most unsettling part? You probably have no idea you’re doing anything wrong.

Below are some of the ways you may be turning off buyers without even knowing it.

1. Bad color schemes

Photo by DEANE Inc | Rooms Everlasting

When your house is on the market, you want to make it appeal to as many people as possible. And while your kitchen done in your favorite shade of neon green might be attractive to you, it could repel buyers.

“When a buyer comes into your home, you want them to imagine it as their future home. The more difficult it is, the less likely they are to buy,” says James McGrath, licensed real estate salesperson for Yoreevo in New York. “The more muted the decorations and color schemes, the broader the reach and the better off you are.”

2. Too much personal taste

It’s not just bold colors you should avoid; beware of showing off too much of your style—at least while your home is on the market. (Yes, we’re even talking about your beloved lion statues on the front porch.)

“Odd decorations divert buyers’ attention away from the home itself,” McGrath says. “I once saw a home with a stuffed peacock in the bedroom, and every buyer would go in and note the peacock, but not the bedroom itself.”

When in doubt, think neutral: Replace loud patterns with muted ones, and put eccentric decorations and personal knickknacks in storage before your next open house.

3. Bad odors

Photo by

You might have become nose-blind to cigarette or pet odor, but savvy buyers will instantly pick up on funky smells—and that’s a sure way to drive them away.

If you smoke—or used to smoke—inside your home, know this: Residual nicotine can still be present in the drapes, furniture, carpets, and on walls and other objects long after you’ve put out the last cigarette, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this isn’t a problem that can be solved with air freshener. You’ll need to either wash or dry-clean your fabrics, shampoo your carpets, and wash your walls. If washing the walls doesn’t work, you’ll need to repaint.

Pet urine on baseboards and in carpets and rugs is also problematic. Bleach, vinegar and water, or specially formulated cleaners can combat these smells. No matter what, expect to do a deep, deep clean before you list your home.

4. Not being flexible for showings

The real estate market moves quickly, so if you want to sell your home you need to cater to the potential buyers’ schedules.

“I get it, getting kicked out of your house for showings isn’t fun, but to maximize the activity on your home, you have to be accommodating to potential buyers,” says Jim Stevenson, a real estate agent at Realty ONE Group in Doylestown, PA.

If possible, require only a few hours’ notice before showings, he recommends.

“It’s so much easier for me and my buyers if we’re able to schedule a showing when it’s most convenient for us,” Stevenson says. “The sooner a buyer can see your house, the sooner they can make an offer, which lessens the chance of finding something else.”

And remember: One thing buyers definitely shouldn’t see during a showing is you.

“When owners are home during a showing it adds a layer of uneasiness since buyers don’t really feel free in the space,” says Louisa Gillen, co-founder and principal broker at the Simple Real Estate Co. in New York. “They feel like a guest in someone’s home, and … you want them to feel like it’s their home.”

5. Disguising problem areas

In your quest to have a show-ready home, don’t cut corners. A fresh coat of paint might temporarily hide the appearance of mold, but it’ll likely crop up in the home inspection.

“Savvy buyers know to look for mold, which is a fungus that could be toxic,” says Tina Tyus, real estate broker at Town Square Realty in Birmingham, AL. “If they don’t find it, a home inspector will.”

Structural issues are another concern for buyers.

“Hairline cracks over doorways could be a sign of settling, but they could also be a sign of structural issues,” Tyus explains.

Instead of trying to hide these problem areas, be sure to address them before you put your house on the market—and be upfront with buyers if you decide to sell the home as is.

Bottom line: Don’t try to use paint, rugs, or fancy lighting to mask problems that a buyer will probably uncover.

The post 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging the Sale of Your Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Should You Buy a Smoker’s House? How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smells

August 3, 2018

Ashtray in Smokers House

artisteer/ istock

Should you buy a smoker’s house? This question may confront you once you feel you’ve found the perfect place … except for that ashtray smell permeating every single room. Is this a deal breaker?

If the smell of cigarette smoke makes you recoil, you’re not alone: One study found that smoking in a home can reduce its resale value by up to 29%.

Still, once a smoker moves out, will the pall of cigarette odor lift, or will it linger? Is there a way to get rid of that stench for good? Answers ahead.

Health impacts of thirdhand smoke in a home

That smell of cigarettes long past isn’t, in fact, just a smell—it’s a residue called thirdhand smoke (THS).

“The lingering odor isn’t just unpleasant; studies have also linked it to cancer,” says Joshua Miller, director of technical training at Rainbow International, a home restoration company.

Tobacco-specific nitrosamines and nitrous acid are two of the biggest threats that cling to walls, dust, and other surfaces within a house. THS residue exposure can be especially dangerous for pets and small children, who often pick up dust and particulate matter on their hands or paws, and then put them in their mouth.

Worst of all, the effects just don’t pass.

“You could breathe in several hundred nanograms of these carcinogens long after the last cigarette burned out,” says Miller.

Just how long afterward? In one study, researchers at San Diego State University measured thirdhand smoke pollutant levels in smokers’ homes after they’d moved out. These pollutants remained even after the homes had been cleaned and vacant for two months. True, THS levels had diminished in that time, but they were still present at higher levels than in nonsmokers’ homes.

Signs of a smoker’s house

Sellers are not required to disclose that a home has housed a smoker, so if you’re worried about it, be sure to keep an eye—and nose—out for it. A smoky smell is an obvious sign, of course, but a strong smell of Febreze, air fresheners, or other fragrances could mean that the seller is trying to mask an odor. A fresh coat of paint can also mask cigarette odors, but they will eventually return.

Ask your home inspector to give you his opinion about whether someone has smoked in a house you are interested in. You are totally within your rights to ask the seller’s listing agent directly; a reputable professional should not lie about the condition of the home.

Should you buy a smoker’s house?

When you’re deciding whether to buy a smoker’s home, you should weigh not only the health risks, but what’s involved in getting rid of cigarette smells. Even if you’re getting a good deal on the price of the home, it’ll take some concerted work to eliminate the odor.

How to get rid of cigarette smell in a house

Getting rid of cigarette odor isn’t easy, since it seeps into everything. Cleaning can help, but replacing entire systems may be in order. Here’s what you can do to eliminate thirdhand smoke.

HVAC system

In a smoker’s house, every part of the central air system has come into contact with smoke over the years, explains Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. Here are some steps you can take to rectify this:

  • “Clean the air ducts,” says Ciresi. “Professional air duct cleaning is an effective way to eliminate odors that manifest when you turn on the furnace or AC.”
  • Change the filter on your HVAC unit. Normally, you would do this every few months. If you’re trying to fight the smell of thirdhand smoke, step that up to every 30 to 45 days.
  • Clean the evaporator coil. “Fumes can be pulled into the evaporator coil of an HVAC unit. The odor permeates the coil, and blasts the smell of cigarettes every time you run the air conditioner,” says Ciresi.
  • If nothing else fixes the problem, you may need to replace the system entirely. Of course, replacing your HVAC isn’t cheap. Expect to spend anywhere from $6,000 to $18,000, depending on your home’s size and the climate where you live.

Wash walls and ceilings

Miller recommends cleaning the walls and ceiling with a 3:1 vinegar-water mixture.

“Ceilings can be the biggest culprit in a persisting smoke smell in a home, since cigarette smoke tends to travel upwards and latch onto the first surface it comes in contact with,” he explains.

Trisodium phosphate (TSP), a strong, general-purpose cleaning product, is also great for removing smoke smell and stains.

Change lightbulbs

Smelly dust can fuse onto lightbulbs as they get hot, so change them out. Windows can also retain a smoky film that emits odor when they’re warmed by sun, so be sure to give them a thorough washing. Blinds can also be washed with vinegar or TSP—or, better yet, throw them out.


If washing doesn’t eliminate the smell from walls and ceilings, then your next best bet is to repaint them all, first sealing in the smell with an odor-neutralizing primer like Kilz. Without the layer of primer, the smell will eventually seep back through the paint.

Clean floors and carpets

“You can sprinkle a deodorizing powder like baking soda on carpets,” says Miller. If that doesn’t work, try a professional steam clean. In the worst-case scenario, the carpets will have to be replaced.

For wood or tile, a normal cleaning with the recommended cleaner should do the trick. Be sure to vacuum up all the dust from every nook and cranny, as the dust contains the harmful (and stinky) chemicals.

Wash curtains and drapes

Fabric tends to hold onto the smoke smell, so you’ll probably need to clean all the window treatments. Depending on the fabric, some can be washed in the washing machine, while others have to be steam cleaned. You can rent a steamer, or hire a professional to take care of this for you. If cleaning doesn’t completely get the smell out, they’ll have to be replaced.

Get an air filter

Ciresi also recommends getting an indoor air filter, preferably with a HEPA filter and charcoal odor prefilter. A dehumidifier can reduce smoke smell in humid weather.

The post Should You Buy a Smoker’s House? How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smells appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.