How to spot damage cover-ups in property purchases

UK Home Improvement

How to Spot Damage Cover-Ups In Property Purchases

Are you getting ready to purchase a home? This stressful and exciting prospect is usually the largest purchase any person makes in their life. It is understandable to be nervous and wonder what you should be looking for. When purchasing a home, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential signs that the owners are covering up damage or problems.

This is especially true when you are purchasing expensive or executive properties whether you’re looking at homes for sale in Marin County in the USA or Penthouse apartments in London, UK. While you will be hiring an surveyor or inspector to perform a professional evaluation, it is a good idea to pay attention to your own walk-through as well. Here are ten simple things to look at that may indicate such issues.

Fresh Paint or Wallpaper

When you are walking through a home for sale, one of the things you should watch for is fresh paint and wallpaper which may have been used to cover up something or make the house look like it is in better repair than it actually is. You should especially watch for newly applied paint or wallpaper in specific areas, such as a single wall or a ceiling, as this could be an attempt to conceal water damage, stains, or cracks.

Pay attention to any inconsistencies in colour or texture and ask about any places that appear to have been patched or recently repaired. While not all patches or repairs are areas of concern, as accidents do happen, the owners should be able to easily explain why the area needed to be fixed and why it wasn’t done professionally. Holes are not something to be concerned about, but leaks and cracks could be.

Patched or Mismatched Walls

Recently patched and unusually painted walls can be a warning sign. Uneven walls, patched areas, or walls that appear different in colour or texture might indicate hidden structural issues, water damage, or past repairs that were not properly addressed.

Strange lumps or uneven areas in walls can also be signs of structural issues or faulty construction. Make sure to address these concerns with your inspector and agent so that they will be able to pay special attention to these areas.

Strong Air Fresheners or Candles

While it is normal for home sellers to want their homes to look and smell clean and pleasant, you should be suspicious of strong scents. Intense or excessive use of air fresheners or scented candles can be an attempt to mask unpleasant odours, such as mustiness, mould, pet smells, or smoke.

If you suspect that the scents in the home are being used to cover up problems or odours, address your concern with your agent. If you are comfortable doing it, consider getting your nose close to potential problem areas such as carpets and showers to see if you can smell anything unusual. You could also try to smell areas that haven’t been permeated with air fresheners, such as closets, attics, cupboards, and crawl spaces.

Freshly Laid Carpet or Rugs

Strange installations of carpets and rugs can also be suspicious. While many homeowners install new carpeting or flooring to help their house sell, watch for new carpets or rugs in specific areas, like a small section of the floor or in only one room.

These carpets may be covering up stains, damaged flooring, or underlying issues, such as water damage or pests. Walk carefully over these areas to feel for soft spots, lumps, unevenness, and other problem signs. Make sure to have your agent and inspector ask about the areas of new flooring.

Suspiciously Clean or Clutter-Free Spaces

Unless the house you are looking at has already been vacated, watch for suspiciously clean areas. Overly clean or clutter-free areas, especially in basements, attics, closets, or other areas where people don’t usually clean often could be a sign of recent hiding or removal of potential problems like leaks, pests, or structural issues.

Keep in mind that most people clean their houses very well before listing them for sale, but you should expect at least a few signs of these areas being lived in and used, especially storage areas.

Newly Replaced Fixtures or Hardware

If certain fixtures, such as faucets, doorknobs, or cabinet handles, appear new or different from the rest of the property, it may indicate recent repairs or attempts to mask existing issues. Look under the sinks and in other hidden areas carefully to see if there are signs of further problems.

This may be a simple case of the owners trying to make the home look better before selling it, but if the new fixtures seem suspicious, proceed with caution.

Freshly Caulked or Sealed Areas

Areas that are prone to water damage should be sealed properly. Excessive caulking or sealing in specific spots, such as around windows, bathtubs, or sinks, might be an attempt to hide leaks, water damage, or improper installations.

If you see any strange areas of sealant or caulking that seem thick, new, or unevenly applied, especially if nearby areas have also been recently painted or refinished, you have good reason to suspect water intrusion problems. Address this with your inspector.

Stained or Uneven Ceilings

Make sure that you don’t forget to look up while you are walking through homes for sale. Discolouration, water stains, or uneven surfaces on ceilings might suggest previous or ongoing roof leaks, plumbing issues, or structural problems. If you see any areas of concern, make sure to bring them up with the owners, agent, and inspector to find out what happened.

In many cases, there was a simple leak or hole that has been repaired. However, it’s important to check up on the situation to make sure that any problems were adequately repaired and remediated. Your inspector will check the attic and roof for signs of current leaks and damaged areas.

Unusual or Hasty Renovations

Any time you see a home for sale with poorly executed or hastily completed renovations, such as poorly installed tiles, uneven countertops, or shoddy craftsmanship, you should be suspicious. These unprofessional renovations may indicate attempts to quickly cover up existing problems, whether they are structural or simply cosmetic.

While many people perform simple renovations and fixes on their properties before listing them for sale, poor workmanship and cheap materials can be a warning sign. Not only may the owners be trying to cover something up, but it’s also likely that any areas that they worked on or repaired shoddily will need to be redone eventually.


Buying a house can be a stressful and intimidating process. Having a list of things to watch for can help you feel more confident while you are walking through the house. While these signs alone may not definitively indicate problems, they should raise caution and prompt you to investigate further or seek professional advice. Finally, don’t ever skip hiring a professional inspector to assess the property more comprehensively.


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