Buying a house is fun and exciting, but it requires you to look beyond just the open house and keep an eye out for any warning signs that may strike you. These things could be physical issues with the home, concerns with the neighborhood, and more. Some of these red flags are easy to spot, however (which is something sellers should keep in mind, too).
So take a look at our home buying “red flags” before you consider making an offer. They might just save you time, money, and hassle down the road!
1. Too many houses for sale in the neighborhood.
Going online can be a great way to start your home search. And it can wave our first red flag – which is lots of houses for sale in the same neighborhood. When everyone decides to sell, it’s probably not a coincidence. Check the local news for things like a new road or shopping center getting built right next door.
2. The price just got lowered. By a lot.
Sellers lower the price of houses all the time. But they tend to do it slowly – reducing the price a little bit each month, for example. When the price of a house takes a big drop, it could be the sign that the seller just discovered a big problem. If the price of a house you like has gone down significantly, ask the real estate agent why.
3. Large cracks in the foundation.
There is no substitute for a good home inspection done by an experienced professional. But there are some structural red flags you don’t need to be an expert to spot – and large cracks are one of them.
Many houses get hairline fractures as they settle. But big cracks in a home’s foundation or concrete floors are another matter because they can be a sign of the house needing expensive repairs.
Cracks around window frames, doors that don’t close right, and uneven floors (bring a marble and give it a roll to test them), can also be signs of problems. One of those problems is water damage. Which leads us to the question...
4. What’s that smell?
When water gets into a house – whether it is from a crack, a leaking roof or pipe, or that idyllic creek in the backyard – you get mildew and mold in the home. And when you get a lot of mold and mildew, you get a smell.
Don’t be shy about walking into the rooms and taking a good whiff. Go to the basement and breathe deep. It’s better to smell a mold problem now then pay to fix it later.
Be suspicious if every room has a scented candle. When the seller has appealing scents all over the place, they might just be trying to hide a smell that’s not so sweet.
5. Wiring and plumbing in older homes.
Old houses can be beautiful and filled with an original feel, but this also means they can have old, outdated wiring and plumbing. This is a problem because older wiring may not be able to handle today’s appliances or be up to current safety codes. Older homes can have cast iron or galvanized pipes – which tend to last about 50 years.
Also, both wiring and plumbing are often expensive to update. So ask the real estate agent if they have been replaced recently. While you are at it, ask the agent these questions, too!
6. Windows that don’t open and close right.
Windows that you struggle to open and close is a big homebuyer red flag because they are pricey to replace. Even older windows in okay shape can be trouble because they tend to be less energy efficient than new ones, letting cold air in during the winter and hot air in during the summer. Inspect the windows and try opening a couple to see how they work.
7. Iffy Location, iffy Neighborhood.
When you buy a house, you are buying its location and neighborhood, too – and are essential for your own happiness. (You’ll be living in the house, after all!) They are also important because they can affect your ability to sell the house later and how much money you can get for it.
A house on a busy street can be an example of a red flag location. So is a house surrounded by rental properties. Both can make a home less attractive to the next buyer and hold down its price. It’s also not a bad idea to check out the local zoning rules to see if the neighborhood allows commercial or industrial development.
Make sure you research the crime rates and school rankings of the neighborhood, as well. The quality of the schools can be important even if you don’t have school-age children, as it might matter to the next buyer. Finally, look at if the community is beginning to thrive or starting to decline, because house values can rise or fall with a neighborhood’s overall prosperity.
Have you found a house without red flags you’d like to buy? Read our post on 5 Things to Do Before Making an Offer on a House!