Touring homes is one of the most exciting steps in the homebuying process.
During this time, buyers are usually focused on how well a house will fit their needs. They wonder if the kitchen is big enough or if the bathrooms need updating. Of course, these are legitimate factors to consider, but it’s easy to get caught up in a home’s allure. Not every home will be perfect in every way, but there are certain things that you can keep an eye out for that should raise a red flag. These red flags don’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the house, just that you should gather more information before moving forward.
Red Flag #1 – Missing Photos
An initial red flag when house hunting is real estate listings that are missing photos of crucial areas or have no photos at all. Most home sellers want to present their home in the best possible light, so the case may be that the listing is in the “Coming Soon” stage and is not yet available for showings. However, suppose the home has been on the open market for several weeks with no explanation for missing photos. In that case, a buyer should dig deeper to determine why vital aspects of the home are not advertised.
Red Flag #2 – Bargain Price
When a house is priced below market value, it’s essential to find out why before you rush to snatch it up. While it’s possible they need to sell quickly for financial, personal, or job relocation reasons, it’s also possible that the home has significant issues. You certainly won’t be getting a fantastic deal if the sewer system backs up a month after you move in, flooding your home with raw sewage.
Red Flag #3 – Back on the Market
There are a handful of reasons why a house would be taken off the market and then re-listed. Perhaps an improvement was made to the home, or the seller needed a break. If the home was in contract, the previous buyer’s financing could have fallen through. Maybe the deal fell apart after the seller and buyer couldn’t come to terms after the home inspection. In any case, you should be asking why the house was put back on the market.
Red Flag #4 – DIY Additions
Some DIY additions are more evident than others. While many homeowners are capable of making repairs around the house, not many have the knowledge and skill to construct an addition that meets building codes. If an addition has been made without oversight from the local building authority, there is a chance it could have structural, wiring, or plumbing issues.
If an investor purchased and renovated the home, be mindful that corners could have been cut during the process since the investor had no plans to live in the house personally. A Realtor should assist in gathering additional information if you are concerned there may be an unauthorized addition.
Red Flag #5 – Air Fresheners & Odors
If you’re immediately overcome by the scent of air freshener when you walk into a house, this could indicate the homeowner is trying to mask something. Again, this doesn’t mean you should stop your tour. Perhaps they had a strongly spiced dinner the previous night, or they enjoy the scent of strawberry pie.
If you notice a stench despite any efforts to cover it up, just keep an eye out. The seller may be trying to cover a pet urine-stained carpet, or they may be masking the musty odor of mold caused by an undiscovered plumbing leak. Note that most mold isn’t of the toxic variety, but the presence of mold could indicate a larger problem. A Realtor will also pay attention and further investigate any offending odors.
Red Flag #6 – Mediocre Maintenance
Be sure to check everything as you are house hunting. Three layers of roofing and gutters with plants growing in them are signs that maintenance of the home may have been lacking
Flickering lights and hot outlets suggest potential wiring problems. Moisture within double-paned windows can indicate the window seal has failed. Door frames may be out of square because framing members have shifted. Spot painting could suggest that the seller is trying to cover up a defect on the wall, such as a water stain. Of course, just because something in the home isn’t functioning correctly or easily doesn’t indicate significant issues. But it’s best to be overly cautious and ask questions if you come across anything that seems a bit off.
Red Flag #7 – Everyone is Selling
Having plenty of options when your house hunting is fun, but it could be a red flag if there are several homes for sale in the same neighborhood. Don’t focus too much on a home’s curb appeal and forget to glance down the street. Are there several other homes for sale? Multiple sellers on the same street could indicate that something is amiss – or it could just be a coincidence. Either way, your Realtor can help you get to the bottom of this before moving forward with a purchase.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of whether you spot any red flags, you must never waive your right to a home inspection. Your Realtor will help you arrange for a certified home inspection professional to conduct an in-person inspection inside and outside the home. The inspector will provide a written report concerning the condition of the house. If the inspection report does reveal problems, your Realtor can help you negotiate to have repairs done before completing the sale. Of course, sellers don’t always agree to pay for repairs. Nevertheless, you will know precisely the condition of your home when you buy it.