Investing in Real Estate? Check the Property for Water Damage


Water damage is one of the biggest potential problems when it comes to an investment property. Unless you are investing in a property next door, there’s a good chance it is affected by elements with which you may not be familiar. Such factors as drainage, property grade, roofing materials, storms, and maintenance can all influence the potential for water damage in the building. Here are some things to look for to determine whether a building may have water damage.


Look down – Take a walk around the outside of the building to get an idea of the grade and drainage. Does the ground slope toward or away from the building? Water flows downhill, so if the ground slopes toward the building, rainwater will collect against it and seep into any cracks. Also look for signs of water around the foundation. Things like dampness and discoloration are red flags. Also look for cracks and other signs of settling or shifting, as these are potential paths for water to get into the foundation and affect the structure of the building. If the property is built on a concrete pad, look for dampness where the siding touches the ground. Framing materials that are not set properly can wick water into the walls. If it’s possible to look under the building check for dry rot by taking hold of a beam to see if it crumbles. Another red flag is a musty smell, especially in the basement.

Look up – Check for proper installation of gutters and downspouts. Improper installation can allow water to get under the roofline and inside the walls. Some of the most expensive water damage issues to fix come from the roof. Look for signs of sagging or separation in the roof. Roofing materials, age of the roof, and how well the roof is installed can all affect how effective the roof is at keeping water out, as can architecture, pitch, and angles.


Look for cracks, especially around door frames or windows, and discoloration around floorboards. However, don’t just rely on what you can see, as signs of water damage can remain invisible for a while. Open and close all doors, don’t forget closets and cabinets. Any difficulty opening or closing a door or gaps around the doors could indicate a problem. Do the same thing with the windows. If water damage has caused a floor to sag, the signs will be evident in sticking doors and windows or gaps in door frames. Also look for discoloration or unevenness in floorboards.

Don’t get in a hurry when looking for signs of water damage. By the time water damage is as obvious as a big brown spot or visibly sagging floor, it’s already significant. Even if you don’t find any apparent signs of water damage, you might want to hire a qualified home inspector. Be sure to do your homework before investing.