When you think about the most damaging thing that can happen to your property, you might consider earthquakes, fallen tree limbs or vandalism. But, even worse than those, is water damage, not least because the odds of it happening are higher than you think.

Water damage can occur as a result of a plumbing emergency, flooding or heavy precipitation. When it does, it’ll wreak havoc on your property. Water damage is incredibly challenging, time-consuming and costly to repair, so it’s important to know whether water has damaged a property before you make an investment.

Thankfully, there are some key signs that you can look for to help you identify water damage before you commit to a prospect property.

Identifying water damage at a property

Touring a property in-person will reveal issues and considerations that might not be immediately apparent in an online or print listing, including water damage. While property sellers should always be transparent about water damage, not all of them are. Sellers are eager to show you new counter tops or refinished flooring, but they’ll just as quickly hurry you away from plumbing closets and water spots!

It’s up to you to ensure you’re not going to make an investment in a property that’s been seriously damaged by water. With that in mind, there are several things you can look for to help you determine whether a property has or has had water damage.

Strange smells

Strong mildew, moldy or musty odors in a property are strong indicators there’s a problem with water damage. Mold and mildew thrive in high humidity and damp materials and often grow inside homes after flooding or water damage. If you smell any of these odors when you’re touring a property, it’s a major red flag that there’s a problem with water damage.

In some cases, mold can be remediated relatively easily. But, there are some situations that warrant major restorative work before the property is considered safe. You should always weigh the benefits with potential costs before you set your sights on rehabbing a property with a mold or mildew issue.

Dark spots on ceilings

Always check walls and ceilings when you’re touring a prospect property to check for signs of water damage. Dark spots or areas with patches of discoloration are major red flags of previous water damage. Also, check for signs of cracking or flaking of drywall to indicate previous water saturation. Make sure to pay attention to these details when you tour a prospect property and try to inspect the walls and ceilings in each room for signs of water damage.

Signs of leaky plumbing

Any puddles or drips around faucets and plumbing fixtures indicate a recurring problem that could be causing water damage. Some property owners ignore small plumbing issues because they seem insignificant, but even a small amount of water leaking can do serious damage to materials and surfaces over time.

When you’re touring a property, take plenty of time to check out plumbing fixtures and water features to ensure there aren’t any clear signs of leaks. Missing even a small junction leak could mean missing a key contributor to unseen water damage.


If you sense increased moisture or mugginess in the air when you enter a property, it’s a sign there’s water collecting somewhere. Unwanted water contributes to increased moisture in the air in a very noticeable way. You should be wary of any properties that feel more humid than normal, since they likely have some issues with water.

Water sounds

If you can hear water dripping or running even when all of the plumbing fixtures are turned off, it’s a sign that there’s a leak in the plumbing system. This leak might not be immediately visible, but chances are it will do major damage to your property by the time you find it. Oftentimes, these leaks are located deep within the plumbing system, which makes them very hard to find and address without calling in a pro.

Water is a value killer

Taking a closer look at a property before you buy is a smart move for any investor. Sniffing out water damage might take you a bit more time and effort, it’s well worth it in the long run to make investments you feel confident in. Plus, you’ll avoid the hassle and the headache of remediating or renovating to make that water issue disappear once and for all.