It's Costly to Ignore Any of These Signs That Your House is Deteriorating

Looking out for these possible issues can save you cash if you catch them early.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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The housing market can be a daunting and expensive place. After all, the median home price in the U.S. was $391,200 in April, up 14.8% compared to April 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors.

But once you buy a house, you’re faced with even more costs. If you miss signs that your home’s systems — from plumbing to roofing and the HVAC system — aren’t working properly, it could mean costly repairs.

How can you protect your investment and keep more money in your bank account? Keep an eye out for these potential signs that your home is deteriorating and fix them quickly, or you could end up sinking more cash into the house.

Burning smell

Elnur/Adobe Worker repairing ceiling air conditioning unit

You may have a burning smell when you first start up your furnace for the winter as it burns off some dust. Usually, this is nothing to worry about.

But in some cases, it could be a sign that something is wrong. There could be issues with the motor or other parts of your HVAC system that may need to be checked.

An HVAC system can be costly to replace, so have someone check it before the issue gets worse. Doing so could help you save money.

Pro tip: If you want to avoid emergency home repairs, it’s a good idea to have your HVAC system checked and cleaned once a year.

Warping walls

Ilga/Adobe water damaged ceiling next to window

If the drywall in a home seems wobbly or wavy, look into the cause. You might have water damage behind the wall that you weren’t aware of, or other underlying issues that are causing damage to the drywall.

Pro tip: If you need better cash flow to finance necessary repairs, then check out this list of the best credit cards for home renovations.

Gutter glitches

JJ Gouin/Adobe clogged gutter

Gutters are great at getting water away from your home, so any small problems you see could become potentially big hazards.

Pay close attention to your gutters on rainy days to make sure they’re draining properly and look for any water coming over your gutters instead of down the spout. It may be a sign that your gutters are clogged with debris.

Basement smells

shawn/Adobe Old dingy residential unfinished basement

Yes, your basement can get a little musty or dusty, but new smells may need further investigation. It might be a sign of drain issues, mold or mildew, or cracks allowing water to seep into your basement space.

Peeling paint

Thomas/Adobe blue peeling paint texture

Paint can age and potentially flake off over time, which is why you should consider repainting on occasion to check off an overdue repair from your list. A fresh coat of paint can also help raise the value of your home, particularly if it’s a neutral color that may be more appealing to homebuyers.

Peeling paint could also be a sign that there is water damage or other issues behind it that may need to be reviewed before you simply write it off as aging.

Staining on the ceiling

aleksandar29/Adobe painter looking big stain on the ceiling

Stains that appear on your ceiling can mask bigger issues that must be investigated and repaired promptly.

You may have damage to pipes that run along your ceiling, or external issues such as a clogged gutter or roof problems that are affecting the outside and inside of your home.

Jammed doors and windows

Svitlana/Adobe working with house door lock using screwdriver

If you’re having problems opening and closing windows or doors, it may be a sign that you have foundation issues with your home.

Foundation problems can cause changes to the home’s structure that make it difficult for windows to stay in the track when you open them, or that may cause doors to stick.

Rodents under your roof

The Toidi/Adobe Baited exterminator snap mouse trap in residential attic.

Animals scurrying around above you at night are not a good sign. If you can hear squirrels in your attic or mice scurrying around, it may be a sign that you have issues with your roof.

Consider having a roofer come out to review how animals are getting in, and call an exterminator or animal control to take care of the animals in the space.

Sparking switches

stokkete/Adobe Female electrician fixing a socket at home

Any kind of spark or smell might be a sign of trouble when it comes to electrical issues. If you suspect an electrical issue, immediately check with an electrician for your next steps.

Pro tip: Your home warranty may cover electrical issues, so double check your policy before deciding how to proceed with any repairs.

Wall cracks

Piman Khrutmuang/Adobe cracked on wall background

Cracks appearing in your walls are a sign you may have an issue with your foundation.

Look around to see where the cracks are appearing and invite a licensed professional in to review the issue. It could just need a cosmetic fix, or it might require a more substantial overhaul.

Caulk checks

New Africa/Adobe Construction worker sealing window with caulk

Builders may use caulking around the exterior of your home to fill cracks or create a barrier to protect what’s underneath. But if the caulk begins to crack around your home, it may be a sign that something sinister is going on under there.

Hot air conditioning

StockPhotoPro/Adobe Woman cooling herself in front of the open fridge

When you crank up the A/C, is it just blowing hot air? That may be a sign of bigger issues with your air conditioning unit.

Have a professional come out to check for any problems with the duct work for your air conditioning and check your freon levels. The freon in your A/C is what makes the unit cold, and you’ll just be blowing hot air without it.

Low-pressure faucets


As you spend time in your home, you will become familiar with the water pressure in your shower or your kitchen sink. If that pressure starts to change, it can be a sign that something is wrong with your system.

Call a plumber to troubleshoot your pipes and find the problem.

Deck damage

lzf/Adobe grunge wood deck

Decks may be a good place to hang out with friends or spend some time in the summer. But any kind of damage to your deck, particularly if you have a wood deck, might be cause for concern.

Look over the deck, including underneath the planks, to see if there’s any kind of damage. Keep an eye on splintering wood, which may be a sign of rot, or small holes that could be a sign of termite damage.

Bottom line

Pormezz/Adobe Asian couple showing house key after purchase

If you’re going through one of the best mortgage lenders to buy a home, they may require a home inspection, which could reveal some issues. Or, you may simply notice some changes in your home over time.

But any type of issue found by you or an inspector should be a red flag that something may be wrong. Investigating these signs that your home is deteriorating is a good way to catch them early before you get stuck with more costly repairs later.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and