There are few things better in life than buying your own home. There’s a reason why it’s a popular dream to be a home owner. A new house means freedom, space…and liabilities for anything that goes wrong inside your home. Unfortunately, those problems are more common than you think; and with them, all those home-buying joys can quickly turn into a nightmare scenario.

One of the biggest headaches is water damage. Not every sign of water damage is visible and its impact to your wallet can be severe. That’s why it’s important to look for any and all signs of water damage during your inspection of the home before buying. Because if you are unfortunate enough to miss the signs the damage prior to signing your contract, you will be left struggling to take care of an issue that you are now completely liable for.

Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert to spot the potential signs of water damage. By paying close attention and looking out for any of these possible signs, you should be able to avoid the expense and embarrassment that comes with buying a money pit.

Use your sense of smell

A lot of times you don’t even see water damage.
You smell it.

Water damage often leads to the growth of mold and unless the previous owner hired a professional mold restoration company, it is highly likely that this mold will leave behind obvious signs. The most obvious sign is a musty, humid smell. If your prospective home smells like something’s off, it probably is. You’ll definitely want to make sure you have it inspected for mold and water damage prior to signing the contract.

Be on the lookout for cracks

Cracks can form in walls – both inside and outside the home – the foundation, or ceilings. They can all be signs that the building suffered from previous water damage. This could also include traceable lines on these surfaces, peeling or flaky paint. The biggest problem with these sorts of cracks is that they allow even more water into a home going forward; for that reason, be thorough when looking for cracks.

Do you see any grainy substances? They’re mineral deposits

You’ll also want to carefully examine the walls, ceilings and floors for any signs of mineral deposits. These deposits can be nearly transparent and difficult to spot; you might want to run your hand along the walls and feel for any sandiness. Mineral deposits may have a whitish tint and are usually left behind after standing water or water-logged materials dry out.

Does anything feel…soft?

Most houses these days have a wooden foundation – at least on the interior. Wood is susceptible to rotting when exposed to moisture for a prolonged time. Use your hand to feel along walls, door frames and other places where you might suspect damage. Wood shouldn’t yield to you too easily.

As for the floors, a squeaky or moving subfloor could signify water damage from a leak that has bowed the board. Make sure to walk the house thoroughly.

Inspect doors, windows and any other openings

The doors, windows and other openings are an easy way for water to get into your home. For this reason, it is essential that you fully inspect these openings to make sure that they are fully sealed and watertight. In addition, you’ll want to look at the surrounding areas to ensure the materials around the openings don’t look decayed.

Natural openings to a home are usually one of the first signs of water damage. If you catch it up front, you can save yourself a migraine later.

Check around for sump pumps and other water cleanup equipment

A sump pump or other water removal equipment is usually a pretty obvious sign that the owner has experienced water issues in the past. With that said, isn’t it much better to have that sort of equipment on hand? A sump pump can help prevent any future issues; as long as the water damage in a home is not extensive, having that sump pump up front can really help.

Water damage is no joke. If caught early, it’s a minor headache for your family. If you let it linger however, you might be looking at some extremely costly repair bills for such a simple issue. Water has the potential to cause all sorts of serious problems for a home: mold, foundation rot, damage to insulation, dry walling, floors and subfloors – the list goes on. A home with a history of water damage could even dramatically lose its value.

Even if you don’t currently have water problems, it’s never a bad idea to invest in a sump pump. Having a sump pump lying around is a great preventative measure that immediately prepares you for any future water issues. Furthermore, even if your new home doesn’t currently have water damage, you’ll still want to pay close attention to all the factors above to ensure the problem doesn’t rear its ugly head.

Alex Briggs is a contributing writer and media specialist for HomeTeam Inspection Service. He regularly produces content for a variety of home inspection and home décor blogs.