No one wants to buy a mold-infested home. Countless hours and thousands of dollars spent in pursuit of the perfect house could be ruined by the discovery of mold creeping under the bathroom cabinet or behind the wallpaper in the dining room. Suddenly, your new home is a costly health hazard.

Mold is a type of fungus that thrives in damp areas and helps natural elements break down and biodegrade. While this is helpful outside in nature, it is less useful inside a home where it can damage the structure and harm those living inside.

Exposure to mold can lead to allergic reactions such as sneezing, sore eyes, runny nose, or congestion. More severe reactions can include headaches, mental fog, fatigue, breathing issues, digestive upset, muscle pain, and rashes. Children, those who are pregnant or those who have mold allergies, are especially at risk for illness after prolonged exposure to mold.

Many people know to check the shower or the damp corners of a basement for mold, but these sneaky spores can grow almost anywhere. If you’re in the market to buy a home, here are some things to look for on your next walkthrough.

What to look for before buying a home

Mold or mildew smell

Your nose can be a powerful indicator that something is not right. If you smell mold or mildew in any part of a home, don’t ignore it. Even if visible signs of mold are not present, there could still be a problem lingering behind walls or under the carpet.  

Not sure what mold smells like? If you’ve ever smelled rotting wood, a dirty shower, or wet socks, then you’ve got a pretty good idea. As mold grows, it releases microbial volatile organic compounds. The most common smells released by these compounds are sharp and musty.

With so many different scents, it can sometimes be hard to tell if what you smell is actually mold, but aromatic mold will be a persistent smell. No amount of airing out a home will rid the space of the scent. 

If the air in the home consistently smells musty, you should have the home tested by a certified mold remediation company. 

Visible mold growth

Mold comes in varying colors and textures. It can be black, gray-brown, gray-green, or white. If it is growing behind vinyl wallpaper, it can even be purple, orange, or pink. Mold can have textures like thread, velvet, cotton, or suede. Sometimes smaller amounts of mold are ignored or mistaken for dirt. But small patches of mold will spread, and may already be doing so on the other side of the wall or ceiling where it is found. If there’s visible mold in a home, it means conditions may be right for it to grow elsewhere, and chances are it already is.

While floors, walls, and ceilings are obvious places to spot mold growth, it’s a good idea to check other common areas where mold can grow undetected like behind refrigerators, inside ventilation ducts, under sinks, and beneath the stool and aprons of windows. 

If you see mold, try to disturb it as little as possible. Many people try to clean moldy areas with soap and water or bleach, but that will not get rid of the mold permanently. What you see on the surface is likely just the tip of a mold iceberg. A mold remediation specialist can help you assess the full scope of the problem, get leaks under control, and safely remove all of the spores.

Water damage

Mold thrives in damp conditions. Ask the seller if there’s been any recent water damage to the home and if it was properly repaired. Without proper repair by a certified company, there may be mold growing somewhere in the house.

Signs of a prior water problem include discoloration, warping, or bowing of the walls, ceiling, or floors. Bubbling, peeling, or cracking paint can also mean water problems. Check the walls, carpet, windows, cabinets, and under sinks for dampness. If anything feels damp, the home should be checked for mold.


High humidity can create condensation inside a home. Look for condensation on windows, mirrors, and pipes. Mold can grow anywhere the condensation collects. If the humidity is high enough, the condensation can begin to affect nearby surfaces.

If there are large areas of condensation inside the home, take that as a sign that mold may already be present.

If you find or suspect mold

It may be tempting to try and clean mold yourself after you’ve purchased it, but your best bet is to hire a professional to do a thorough check of the house before you buy it. The average person does not have the knowledge or training to assess the scope of the problem entirely, and cleaning mold from a home is definitely not a one-person job. What may appear like a few small dots of mold in a corner could turn out to be a spore-covered mess on the other side of the drywall.

A professional mold inspector has the training and experience to find all the places mold may be hiding. An inspector will perform a moisture reading, visual inspection, and other tests to determine the extent of the mold. Professionals can also determine the type of mold present in the home and the best and safest way to remove it, all while causing minimal disturbance to the home.