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House Hunting: Red Flags

When viewing a potential new house- Watch Out for these 10 Red Flags!

You've been preapproved, you know your budget, and you are ready to start home shopping. How Exciting! It's not uncommon to be overwhelmed with many different feelings, emotions, and thoughts. This can sometimes lead to missing some very important clues that things aren't as they seem.

Think of an open house, or a showing, as a first date. This is your time to look at the prospect to determine if it's going to be a good fit for you. In competitive markets, you'll often walk into a home that has been deep-cleaned to be more appealing. However, you shouldn't be overly impressed by the fact a house looks and/or smells nice. While those things are important, if you focus too much on the eye appeal you may miss a multitude of problems. "Do not judge the book by its cover" is an adage that is especially true when it comes to real estate.

There are certain things that every buyer should be looking for when viewing potential properties, such as roof age, furnace, and hot water heater, to name a few. Buyers should also be looking for potential red flags when they are viewing them. Doing your own preliminary home inspection will help you decide whether the property is worth seeing again- or if you should move along. No matter how hot the market is, take the time to look out for these 10 red flags that something is amiss:


🚩 Too Much Scent

We all love a fresh, clean smelling home. However, when there's too much going on in the scent department (plug-ins, wax warmers AND candles) there is a greater likelihood the seller is taking precautions to mask a more offensive odor. Take a deep whiff in every room you enter, especially basements. Look closely at walls, ceilings, and flooring for signs of pet accidents, mildew, or smoke, before you decide if this is the home for you.

🚩 Poor Tiling

Pay attention to the tile placement in the kitchens & bathrooms. If the gaps or tiles are slightly uneven, it may indicate a DIY job. Although this isn't a huge problem, lazy tiling could indicate that multiple fixes have been done by someone possibly inexperienced in remodeling. You could be looking at big bucks in potential costs to do it over.

🚩 Foundation Issues

Most houses have hairline cracks, which simply indicate that a house is settling into position, but large gaps/cracks (bigger than 1/3 inch) signal a much bigger issue with the foundation. Pay attention to sticking doors/windows, visible cracks above window frames, and uneven floors. Additionally, check out the yard grading. If the yard slopes toward the house, it could cause water to run down the foundation walls or into the basement.

🚩 Signs of Deferred Property Maintenance

When you walk through a home, look for signs that routine home maintenance may have been neglected, such as burnt-out lightbulbs, long grass, leaky faucets, or faded paint. Are these huge issues? Of course not. However, these small signs could indicate that the seller may have ignored other ongoing maintenance tasks that can cause real problems down the road.

Attentive homeowners are going to flush the water heater annually, change air filters monthly, inspect roof for leaks, and regularly caulk around windows and doors, for example. All of these tasks help to keep systems in good working order. If the seller couldn't afford the time or money to fix maintenance issues you can see at a cursory glance, think about what your home inspection will reveal.

🚩 Nearby Water

Living around water might look picturesque now, but it won't be when it comes cascading through your back door. Weather is unpredictable so it's important to consider the possibility of flooding. Check to see where the flood plains are and ensure you can maintain flood insurance, if needed.

🚩 Wonky Windows

Take a second to pull back the curtains to check for lopsided frames, and then give the windows a tug to make sure they slide easily. Like we previously stated, sticking windows could be a sign of foundation issues, or just poor installation. The only fix for that is new windows, which can be very expensive. Even if the home is advertised as having 'new windows' be sure to take a peek to ensure installation was done correctly.

🚩 Mold

When wandering through the house, discreetly open bathroom and sink cabinets to look around water pipes or drains for any black or gray spots (even if they are small) which can indicate more serious issues that may be lurking around. You can also check the caulking around faucets and tubs and look for patches on the ceiling.

🚩 Water Damage

A musty odor can indicate water damage, even if you don't see standing water on the property. Check walls and ceilings for water lines, which indicates flooding from a leak or burst pipe that may have caused internal damage. Also peek at exposed piping in the basement and/or laundry room, and check for rust, water stains, or leaking.

🚩 Cosmetic Enhancements

New paint can really spruce up a place but it can hide a lot too. That ONE freshly painted wall could be an accent wall, or it could be hiding a deal breaker, like a patch of mold. When you step inside your prospective new home, focus on the structural stuff and tune out any freshly painted walls or upscale decor. Lift up any area rugs that may be hiding potential problems with the flooring. If possible, flip on light switches and ceiling fans to ensure functionality.

🚩 Improper Ventilation

Without adequate interior ventilation, moisture sticks around, which can create mold and decrease the air quality of your home (among a host of other health issues). Look for condensation on windows and/or slightly bubbled & peeling paint around windows, doors, and vents. This can indicate moisture in the walls and ceiling. Ensure exhaust fans and ceiling fans are working, as these help to circulate the air.


If any of these red flags are discovered it's extremely important they they are addressed prior to signing on the dotted line. Even though your home inspector is likely to detect many of these problems down the line, being attentive to these flags during an open house and/or showing ensures that you're not wasting your time on a home that isn't the one for you. Looking for fixer uppers and investment properties?! Be prepared to run across many of these issues & determine if the cost of repairs is within your budget before submitting an offer.

Working with an honest & trustworthy Realtor®, like those we have here at Starr Real Estate, can help alleviate a lot of the headache. A Buyers Agent can help point out many of these red flags while viewing a property and can help you determine if the property will qualify for financing and/or give you an estimate of repair costs if you were to give a cash offer.


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