First you want to walk through the property and look at as much as you can yourself. Once you get it under contract, then you can look to uncover some "hidden problems" I would advise hiring an inspector, just like you would on a personal residence.
If the seller is intentionally hiding an issue, there is not a lot you can do before hand, as even a good inspector can only do so much. You can sue the seller for any problems they did not disclose to you when you purchased. It also depends on how you are buying. Most distressed properties come "as is" with no seller disclosures. You must do your best to figure some of those problems into your budget. No matter how good you are, there will always be unexpected expenses in this business.
Hope that helps
Inspections, inspections, inspections. There are a few tricks to learn that you can use to quickly weed out properties that have obvious problems, and to some extent less obvious problems, but you'll really rely on having a good inspector go to the property after you're under contract. That's the most important piece.
Besides that a few tricks I use during my first walkthrough of a property are to follow my nose -- if something smells funky, earthy, moldy, then there could be numerous expensive problems. You'll want to check for tuckpointing, other obvious structural issues like whether the floor is level or there are obvious cracks in the foundation, and I also check for water/plumbing issues by turning on the sinks when I'm going through a property. I'll let them run and then go into the basement to check for leaks. Another thing I'll do is flush every toilet twice; I had one home where the water was off because of a plumbing issue but someone had put water in the bowl and tank so it'd flush if you tested it once.
Ultimately those are all pretty surface-level tests, though. You'll really need to get a good inspector in there before you'll know the real deal with any property.
Thank you!! You guys are great.
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