The Top 10 Red Flags To Look Out for When Buying a House and How To Avoid Them

Laura Schier
The Top 10 Red Flags To Look Out for When Buying a House and How To Avoid Them
While searching for your new home is an exciting process, you should always be on the lookout for red flags when viewing properties. There may be underlying issues that the seller isn’t aware of or isn’t telling you about, such as leaks, electrical issues, and mold.

Paying close attention to detail is a good way to ensure that you won’t face bigger problems down the line. Here are some red flags to look out for when house-hunting:

1. Foundation Cracks

The foundation is one of the most essential parts of a home, and can also be very costly to repair. While minor cracks may not point to any issues, large cracks in a home’s foundation are a sign of major structural problems that could cost thousands of dollars to fix. A few indicators of foundational issues are large cracks visible in an unfinished basement, or doors that are difficult to close.

What you need to do:

Although you can try to find structural issues when viewing the property yourself, the best way to identify this issue is to hire a structural engineer. Having a professional inspect the home closely may help you avoid having to make foundation repairs in the future.

2. Mold

If the house has a moldy smell or you can see mold on the walls or ceilings, this may be a red flag. Some types of mold are toxic, and the presence of mold may mean that the house has leaks or other issues. If you buy the house without realizing there is a mold problem, you may have to replace the furniture or wood flooring.

What you need to do:

As mold can lead to health problems and is often expensive to fix, you should be on the lookout for any mold or moldy smells in the house. Make sure to ask the owner or realtor about mold in the house, and get a home inspection or mold test to see if the property has any issues.

3. Stains on the Wall or Ceiling

Staining on the wall or ceiling is a sign that there may be leaks in the house, whether they are coming from the roof or the plumbing. Leaks suggest that there might be more structural damage throughout the home. 

What you need to do:

While viewing the property, look closely at the walls and ceilings for stains. If you do see any stains, hire a professional to investigate the cause of the staining. Identifying how severe the problem is can save you very costly repairs.

4. Electrical Problems

Some homes have issues with their electrical system that aren’t immediately apparent, such as improper wiring. Older properties may have outdated electrical panels or knob and tube wiring, which can lead to major issues.

What you need to do:

Check to make sure that the light switches work when walking through the house, and look for issues such as flickering lights and faulty circuits. A home inspection can eliminate (or confirm) any uncertainty or doubt you have about the home’s electric system.

5. Fresh Paint in Random Places

Sellers sometimes paint over spots on the wall to hide problems like mold and water damage. If there is a fresh coat of paint on just one wall or one spot in a room, this could indicate that the seller was trying to cover up a problem. Leaks and mold are major issues that can lead to expensive renovations.

What you need to do:

While touring the house, check for walls or ceilings with random fresh coats of paint. If you see spot painting in a room, check to see if the ceiling is sagging or if there are any strange smells. If you are unsure of whether the paint is trying to hide a bigger issue, hire a professional to conduct a home inspection.

6. Pests

Pests such as termites and mice are not only an annoyance, but can cause significant damage to a home. If you buy a home without realizing there is an infestation, you will likely have to get an extermination and pay to fix the damage.

What you need to do:

To avoid a future infestation problem, look for signs that there is a pest issue throughout the home. Look out for any bugs or indicators of an infestation, including hollow wood, mud tubes on a foundation, and droppings. You should also consider getting a pest inspection to ensure that you didn’t miss any red flags. A pest inspection is relatively inexpensive and will save you the time and cost of getting an extermination.

7. DIY Repairs

Some homeowners try to fix property issues themselves to save money, but are not capable of making professional repairs. Problems that weren’t fixed properly can lead to costly fixes if you end up buying the home.

What you need to do:

Pay attention to issues that a homeowner may have tried to fix themselves, including a leaky faucet or toilet. If there are signs that the homeowner made amateur DIY repairs or if you want to be sure there are no poorly fixed appliances, hire a home inspector.

8. Odors

You should watch out for both bad smells and strong good smells when walking through the house. While foul odors are an obvious red flag, a strong good smell throughout the house can indicate that the seller is trying to cover up an odor. 

What you need to do:

Pay attention to the smell throughout the house during your tour. If there are air fresheners all over, this might mean there is a bad odor underneath the pleasant smell. Ask the seller to give you another tour of the house without the air fresheners to avoid future odor problems.

9. Locked Doors

Locked doors or inaccessible areas in the house can be red flags. If there are areas that you can’t see during your house tour, these indicate that there may be a problem or defect that the seller is trying to hide.

What you need to do:

Make sure that you pay attention to any doors or areas in the house that are off-limits. Ask the seller if you can see the blocked-off room or area at another time if you are serious about buying the house.

10. The House Has Been Sitting on the Market

Another red flag is that the house has been sitting on the market for a long period of time. For many potential homebuyers, this implies that the house has defects, needs costly repairs, or has another problem that has prevented it from selling.

What you need to do:

To see if this is a cause for concern, talk with your real estate agent about how much time houses in the neighborhood typically spend on the market. If the time the house has spent on the market aligns with the average time it takes to sell in the area, there may not be any serious problems. But generally, there is a good reason why a house has been on the market for many months or even years.

Make Sure You Feel At Home

Before buying a home, you should make sure that there are no hidden issues that will force you to make expensive repairs. By hiring a home inspector, talking to the seller and realtor, and closely examining the home yourself, you will be able to spot the red flags before you buy.

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Laura Schier
Laura Schier is a content writer with years of experience writing across a wide range of industries including real estate, fashion, finance, and marketing. She enjoys creating engaging and compelling content that increases brand awareness and drives growth.