Real Estate Red Flags You Need to Look for When Buying

Red Flags to Look for When Buying a Home

When you're buying a home, you're looking anxiously for the perfect one for you. Sometimes an attractive property will lead you to overlook some of the negatives--you want it to be the house of your dreams, so you look at it through rose-colored glasses. But it would help if you were as wary and practical as you can be when making a purchase this size. Here are nine real estate red flags to look for when buying a house.

Price is Too Good to Be True

Sometimes you find a great deal that is too good to be accurate, but most of the time, there's a reason that the price is low, and it's up to you to figure out what the problem is. The house might need some serious work that isn't apparent at first glance. There might be structural problems or plumbing problems. Or worse, there might be neighborhood reasons why the owners are desperate to get out of there--neighbors who blast music all hours of the night or who have terrible dogs that will terrorize your family. Your job is to ferret out why the house is so cheap and see if the cause is something you can live with or something you need to pass by. This can be one of the biggest red flags when buying a house.

Foundation Cracks

Foundation cracks are the most common red flags in a home inspection. Every concrete foundation is going to have hairline cracks. Still, suppose you spot cracks that are approaching half an inch. In that case, you need to have a foundation contractor come and examine if the foundation has major problems that will cause flooding, mold, and instability. A significant crack is a sign that the house isn't settling correctly, and as time goes on, more things will start to strain, bend and crack, from your brickwork to your drywall, to your ceilings. 

Funny Smells

You may go into a home and be overpowered by air freshener and scented candles, and that may be useful staging. Still, it may also be covering up an odor that the owner wishes to hide. It may be the smell of cigarettes that has permeated the walls, or it may be mold or bad plumbing. Whatever it is, if there's a bad smell, you can be assured that something is broken. 

Water Stains

Water stains indicate that water has gotten somewhere it shouldn't have--the most common culprits are in the ceilings and drywall. These water stains may be dry as a bone by the time you see them, but they're indicative of a leak somewhere. Maybe the roof leaks (or it leaked at one point, got repaired, but rotted the wood trusses). Perhaps an upstairs bathroom overflowed, which could leave all kinds of mildew, mold, and water damage leftover. Just be aware that there's more to the story than what you see on the surface when you look at a water stain.

Unusual Fresh Paint

Fresh paint is typical in a house on the market, but it can also be a red flag to look for when buying a house. Is there a patch of fresh paint in a particular spot on the wall? Is the whole room old paint, but one wall new? Any of these things can be signs that the homeowner might be trying to cover up a problem. You shouldn't just abandon a house because it has some new paint, but you should investigate more into why that fresh paint is there--and only there.

Half the Houses in the Neighborhood are For Sale

Maybe you've found a gold mine--a whole neighborhood of houses actively looking for buyers. This might be great, as the area might be welcoming to a whole bunch of new blood, a new cohort of kids to go to school together, or a welcoming area for retirement communities. But beware: all of those homeowners might know something about that neighborhood that you don't know. Maybe city planning has changed the zoning--a perfectly quiet residential street will be getting some unsightly and unsavory businesses. Perhaps a big road is scheduled to be built through the neighborhood's center, drastically increasing traffic. Maybe there's an environmental problem--something in the water or chemicals in the soil--and people flee for their safety—time to do some sleuthing.

The Listing Doesn't Include Many Photos

If the listing doesn't include many photos or photos that don't match the described interior, that's a red flag. If a home says it has five bedrooms but only shows pictures of two, you have to wonder if the other three are unsightly--or, worse, if the listing itself is fraudulent. If the photos don't show the features advertised--a pool, new appliances, renovated bathrooms--then you should be suspicious as to what they're hiding. To be fair, maybe they aren't good at listing their house, and it's perfectly fine. But the hair on the back of your neck should stand up a bit when you see that.

The House was a Flip

If you can tell from the purchase history that the home was purchased recently for a smaller amount and now being sold at a higher amount, odds are good that it's being flipped. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with flipped houses. Still, it would be best if you went into it knowing that the flippers were trying to squeeze the most profit out of it possible with the least work possible. Often a lot of the changes are merely cosmetic. Much of the structure remains the same, and a redecoration job isn't enough to sell a house.

Standing Water

If there's standing water on the property, that's a major red flag. You should have adequate drainage. If there's standing water, you know that it's getting down into the ground next to your foundation and looking for a place to seep into your basement. It's also bad for the grass and the plants. (And if there's a septic system with standing water, you've got even more significant problems.)

Always work with the best when buying your home. Make sure you structure your offer right so you can get the best home!

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