Can you tell whether a house is in good shape?

Most home buyers hire a professional home inspector or structural engineer to give their home the once-over before they actually trade cash for keys. But by that time, you’ve already done the deal, and if there is a problem, you may have to start your house hunt all over again.

Peter Hollander, of Criterium Engineers, says there are common problems that home buyers should have no trouble picking up. They can look for stains on the ceilings and carpets, warped floorboards, a wet moldy basement, and if the roof shingles are curling, things like that, he said.

Piles of dust in the basement might indicate a pest infestation, and foundation cracks wider than one-eighth of an inch could be signs of trouble. But if you keep your eyes open, you’ll be able to make a smart decision about whether or not you want to proceed before you spend the money on a house inspector.