You grew up being told not to judge a book by its cover. However, the opposite is true when you’re shopping for the home of your dreams. Keep an eye out for the following red flags when you’re touring open houses.
Red Flags When Buying a Home
When you’re outside, take a look at the gutters to see if leaves are piling up or if there are plants growing. You sh
ould also observe the yard; if it slopes toward the house, water could run down the foundation walls or into the basement. Cracks on walls inside or outside the house could indicate the foundation is shifting, which will be expensive to repair.
While you’re looking at the walls, take note of whether there’s new paint on just one wall. That could be used to hide mildew, mold, or water damage. Peeling paint can also be a sign of trouble, suggesting possible dry rot or moisture penetration.
Other things to look for inside the home include broken fixtures, outdated electrical outlets, sticky doors, or unusual drafts. You can also use your sense of smell to tell if something seems off – does the basement smell a little musty? Is there a funky smell in the garage? Is there a large amount of candles or potpourri trying to mask the smell of something else?
If there are any sections of the house that are off limits during the open house, be sure to ask about seeing them at a later date if you’re interested in buying. In some cases, this may not be a red flag – but if there are countless excuses as to why you can’t see a certain room or part of the house, it might be time to reconsider.
The homeowner may have taken down a wall to create a more open floor plan. It may look great, but if they removed the wall without adjusting the framing, weight can shift to other parts of the house. If there was a strict deadline, some corners could have been cut including no permits or electrical and plumbing that was never fully inspected. You can ask the city for construction permits and records. Turn all the light switches on and off to check the wiring and make sure none of the lights flicker.
Know your Surroundings
Your house isn’t the only thing you want to inspect before buying and moving in. Take a close look at the neighborhood you’re moving into. If there are multiple homes for sale on one street, it could be a sign that residents aren’t happy with the area. Nearby businesses that are boarded up or vandalized are another bad sign.
Drive through the community during the day and again at night so you can get an idea of what it’s like at all times. Are there plenty of sidewalks and street lights? If you see any people on your drive, ask how long they’ve lived there and if they like the area.
Last but not least…
…get a professional inspection! A qualified home inspector is trained to spot structural and system problems that the regular, untrained eye may not notice. They’ll check the reliability of your heating and ventilation system and they can advise on potential repairs. An inspection may be on the costly side, but it’s much cheaper than buying a home with countless problems.
Want to learn more about what to look for in a new home purchase? Download our first time homebuyer's checklist to help keep you on track.