10 Potential Red Flags to Be Aware of When Buying a House

Touring and looking at homes can be one of the most exciting steps in the homebuying process. However, it can be easy to get carried away in the excitement and easily overlook details that could become an issue down the road. Whether it’s the location, a too good to be true listing price, or a red flag with the home’s condition — you’ll want to do your due diligence before making an offer on a home. To help you avoid missing what could be a possible issue or large expenditure in the near future, keep these 10 potential red flags in mind as you’re house hunting for your next home. 

1. There are few photos showing the inside of the home 

One major red flag is seeing a listing with only a few photos (or none at all) of the interior of the home. Instead, the listing may offer more photos of the home’s exterior or surrounding area to entice home buyers. Every home seller wants to present their home in the best light possible, so a lack of interior photos can indicate that the home isn’t in great condition.

2. The price seems too good to be true

Home prices can be a deal-breaker when you’re house hunting. If it’s out of your price range, it’s usually out of the question. However, if you see a home priced below market value, this could mean there’s an issue with the house or location. So, before getting too excited at the idea of a lower mortgage payment, be sure to ask your real estate agent for more information about the home’s pricing and their insights. You may uncover hidden problems, like the home is in need of a new roof or HVAC system.

3. The home has been put “back on the market” 

Of course, there could be a handful of reasons why a house was taken off the market and then re-listed. The previous buyer’s financing could have fallen through or maybe the deal fell apart after the seller and buyer couldn’t come to terms after the home inspection. Or, the house could have been sitting on the market for an extended period of time and the home seller decided to wait for demand to return to their market. In any case, you should be asking why the house was put back on the market. Did the home sit on the market for a long time, and if so, why? What stopped buyers from making an offer? If it was under contract, did a major issue come up in the home inspection? 

Aerial view of a neighborhood

4. Everyone’s selling in the neighborhood

Having plenty of options when you’re house hunting is great, but it could be a red flag if there are too many homes for sale in the same neighborhood. What’s making people sell their homes? Is the neighborhood getting rezoned to a new school district? Is it located near a noisy highway? If you notice that there’s a lot of homes for sale, ask your real estate agent if this should be a concern or not for that area. 

5. It’s a flipped home

A home that was purchased as a fixer-upper and flipped isn’t a red flag that should send you running for the hills by any means. However, there are extra precautions you should take when coming across a recently-flipped home as you’re house hunting. Be sure to get more information on the upgrades the house received. Was it only cosmetic updates or were there upgrades to the plumbing, HVAC, or even the “bones” of the house? Make sure the sellers have permits for the home improvements that required one, this way you know the improvements were done right and according to code.

6. The home is located in a flood zone 

The obvious red flag with a home in a high-risk flood zone is the potential future damage your home could experience. But also keep in mind that you may be spending extra for flood insurance if you decide to purchase the home. If you’re still interested in making an offer on a home despite that it’s located in a flood zone, make sure you get quotes for how much flood insurance would cost over the life of your mortgage. 

7. The house is for sale “as-is”

If the house is being sold as-is, it’s being sold in its current condition and the seller will not be required to make repairs or improvements. It’s extremely important that you do your due diligence before agreeing to purchase an “as-is” property. Consider consulting with a real estate attorney and examining the deed and land records for red flags prior to writing an offer. Then make sure you get the home inspected by a professional to identify any potential issues the home may have before closing.

8. You smell odd odors

When house hunting, it’s important to pay close attention to the details. If you pick up on a funky smell, it may indicate that there’s mold, a plumbing issue, water damage, HVAC issues, or something else. And if there’s an overly-scented hallway or bedroom, such as too much air freshener, that could signal there’s an odor the seller is trying to mask. 

9. There are strange noises

As you tour homes, listen for any loud or strange noises that you can hear from both inside and outside of the home. The last thing you want is to move into your new home only to realize that there are issues with the furnace or roof, or that there are unpleasant sounds from nearby construction or train tracks. 

10. Parts of the home don’t function properly

Be sure to check everything as you are house hunting. Do all the doors close properly? If not, this could indicate that there’s an issue with the foundation. Do all the light switches and outlets work? Are some of the lights flickering? Is the ceiling sagging or are there any odd black stains on the walls? Of course, just because something in the home isn’t functioning properly or easily doesn’t indicate that there’s a major issue. But it’s better to be overly cautious and ask questions if you come across anything that seems a bit off.

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