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House Hunting Red Flags
09-17-2021 | Armbruster

House Hunting Red Flags

So, you’re in the market for a new home. You scour listings and attend open houses. You have your checklist of must-haves—the right number of bedrooms, the location, how big the kitchen is, your price range, the style of the house. All of these things are important.  There are some other things that you need to bear in mind as well. The home-buying journey is filled with pitfalls. Some of those pitfalls can cost you money and time. There’s no replacing a home inspection to get the scoop on any property you consider buying. But it never hurts to be informed about some of the problems you might encounter when buying real estate. Below, we’ll share with you some of the most common house hunting red flags. When it comes to home-buying, look before you leap!

The Home is Priced Too Low

You find a house you love that’s priced much lower than you’d expect. Proceed with caution. Sure, a bargain price could be because the current owner needs a fast sale. In that case, you may have gotten lucky.  On the other hand, a bargain basement price on a home can indicate a whole host of problems. Check with your realtor. Sometimes they know the inside scoop on why something is priced below market value. The same goes for any property that has been on the market a long time. 

Watch Out for Water

We can’t live without water, but too much water in the wrong place spells trouble. There are a lot of issues to watch out for when it comes to home-buying and water.


Try all the faucets in the house. Look for leaks, low pressure, and slow drains. Is there water leaking around the toilet? Are there leaks under the sinks or near appliances? You want all of those addressed before you purchase a home. 


Look for how water drains outside the house. Check gutters and downspouts. Water shouldn’t drain so that it pools around the foundation. It should drain away from the house. Stagnant water can cause the foundation to deteriorate, and it can enter the home causing damage and problems with mold. Note if the property is in a flood zone. Don’t be afraid to ask if the property has flooded before.

Water Stains

Look up. Are there water spots on the ceiling or near the top of the walls? That shows that either water leaked during a storm (in which case, double-check the roof) or there was a leak in the pipes. You want to find out if there is only cosmetic damage or if there is a bigger problem. 


Mold is a common problem in bathrooms due to the moisture from baths and showers. Mold can also hide under sinks, near windows, in the basement, or if there are any cracks on the exterior of the house. Mold can cause headaches and respiratory problems, so be sure that this is properly addressed before you buy. Also be wary if you smell a heavy scent of air freshener or candles. This can be a homeowner attempting to mask the smell of mold.

Check the HVAC

You don’t have to be an expert on HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) in order to buy a house, but it helps to know a few basics. This is especially true when you want to avoid HVAC problems after you buy. HVAC repairs can get pricey! Some of the basic components of HVAC are:
  • The heating appliance itself. This can be an oil burner, a water heater, or a heat pump.
  • The heat distribution system. There are a number of different systems that can send heating throughout a home—forced hot air, hot-water heating through radiators or baseboards, and hydro-air, among others.
  • Cooling. Cooling systems involve condensers, refrigerants, and evaporator coils. 
  • Ducts. The duct system is how hot and cool air get distributed throughout a home. You can’t see them because they are in the walls, ceilings, and floors. 
Most of us don’t know a lot about HVAC, but a good home inspector should be able to identify any problems. There are a few signs you can look out for yourself when you visit a home. 
  • Look at the exterior of the house. You should be able to see intake and exhaust vents around the roofing. If you don’t know what to look for, ask questions. 
  • Check the HVAC units for signs of age. Furnaces and water boilers don’t last forever and they are expensive to replace. Find out the age of the units and ask for maintenance records. Units that are serviced regularly will last longer than those that aren’t. 
  • Check the condition of the roof. Replacing a roof is another costly home repair. Make sure that a poor HVAC system isn’t the cause of roof damage. You don’t want to get hit with a double-whammy after you buy a property.

There are a Lot of Houses on the Market

If you notice a lot of “For Sale” signs in the neighborhood where you’re looking to buy, find out why. There may be nothing nefarious going on. A total coincidence. There are seasonal and market-driven peaks and valleys in home sales, after all.  There could be other reasons, though. You don’t want them to become a problem for you. Check into public records or call the local city hall to find out if there are big changes planned for the neighborhood. Is a mega-shopping center being plopped down in the middle of the neighborhood? Is a highway being planned? Is there a problem with roads or municipal water supply?  Ask your real estate agent if what you’re seeing is a normal amount of turnover for the neighborhood. 

Look for Signs of Pests

It goes without saying that you don’t want to buy a house and find out later that you’re sharing it with pests. Bugs and animals won’t show up at an open house, so keep your eyes (and ears) open. Even a clean-looking home can have hidden problems with pests. Keep an eye out for these tell-tale signs of unwanted guests.
  • small piles of sawdust near wood trim
  • holes in the exterior of the house, especially near the roof and under the eaves
  • animal droppings in corners, near baseboards, or in the kitchen area 
  • rooted wood
  • chewed wires
  • reddish-brown spots in bedrooms (bedbugs)
  • a strong smell of ammonia from animal urine
  • scratching sounds in the walls
Many potential home buyers opt to get a separate pest inspection done for their own peace of mind.

Beware DIY Additions or Renovations

Most people don’t think they have the knowledge to build a structurally sound home. A lot of people, though, attempt their own renovations and additions. People sometimes patch together their own crew of friends or family members who do construction on the side or are just handy.  You know what a lot of DIY home projects have in common? They don’t have the right building permits, and they haven’t had plumbing and electrical work signed off by an inspector. Make sure your own home inspector looks carefully at any DIY projects in a prospective home.    Buying a home can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the seller, your real estate agent, and your building inspector. If you’re not getting the answers you need, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration, and you can move into your new home with a few less worries. Need help with a move? Contact us to schedule a virtual home survey.
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