Buying a house is a risky endeavor. Whether you are a first-time home buyer or a veteran, it’s good to know the potential red flags you should be looking for when searching for a new house.
This list of issues to look for will allow you to make the best decision when purchasing a new home, as well as potentially get a price reduction!
If you’re a home-seller, you can use this list to help boost the value of your home and increase its appeal. The more issues you fix, the easier it will be to sell the house.
Selling or buying, these tips are valuable for everyone.
Minor Flaws (Yellow Flags)
First let’s talk about, “yellow flags.” These are issues in a home that can be easily or cheaply fixed.
These are no big cause for concern, but they are good to be aware of. If you’re okay with rolling up your sleeves and getting to work, there shouldn’t be a problem.
1. Poor Choice of Wall Colors
Maybe the house works nice on the outside, but the walls are hideous!
Depending on the number of rooms that need new paint, this could be a bit more expensive or time-consuming, but generally painting a few rooms is not too difficult.
Unless the entire interior needs a fresh look, this is an easy fix. Check out this blog post for tips on painting.
2. Grandma’s Wallpaper
Wallpaper makes redoing the look of a room a bit more challenging than simply painting over a wall, but again, this is not a big deal.
You’ll just have to use a wallpaper stripper before you can paint the wall. No biggie!
3. Smelly Rooms
A smelly room is not as bad as it seems! As long as the smell isn’t caused by mold or water damage (see #17), then a bit of soapy water and scrubbing can freshen up a room. You can also rent a carpet cleaner, or have a professional company clean the carpets.
Either way, if it’s just a smell, that can be removed.
4. Broken Screens
A house that has many ripped or torn screens may look like a travesty, but repairing screens is actually relatively simple.
The materials for screen repair are inexpensive, and the biggest cost is just a bit of time to replace the screens.
5. Popcorn Ceiling
Assuming the popcorn ceiling doesn’t contain asbestos, (See #28) it’s not a huge issue to remove it. Hiring a professional to remove the popcorn texture is your best option, but you can also opt to do it yourself if you’re up to the task.
6. Poor Curb Appeal
The house may not look the best from the curb, but that’s okay! A newly-painted front door or front porch can make a world of difference!
However, if more than just some minor touch-up needs to happen, use your best judgment. If it looks like the front of the home will take a lot of work, like a complete repainting, or a siding replacement, it’s best to avoid those costly jobs.
7. Old Appliances
Worried about that refrigerator in the kitchen that looks heavy enough to sink the Titanic by itself?
Don’t be! Replacing appliances is a relatively minor cost compared to the house as a whole. Just make sure you leave room in your budget to purchase new appliances.
Cause for Concern (Red Flags)
Red flags are issues that are either expensive, difficult to repair, or could cause major issues in the future. If a lot of these are evident in a home you’re looking at, it’s a good idea to continue the search.
8. An Outdated Kitchen
An outdated kitchen could be a cause for alarm, but it depends on how much work needs to be done. Repainting the cabinets is a simple way to refresh an old kitchen, but replacing the countertops and flooring is a much more expensive option.
This issue is borderline yellow or red flag. Use your best judgment to determine how much work the kitchen really needs.
9. An Old Home
While an older home can be the cause of various problems, it can also be a testament to its build quality. An old home that’s still standing strong is a result of quality craftsmanship.
Assuming the wiring and plumbing systems are in good shape, it’s worth considering.
10. Overhanging Limbs
When buying a home, it’s important to check outside as well as inside.
Look for tree limbs that hang over the home. How much work will it be to trim back the limbs or even remove problematic trees?
Depending on the amount of work that needs to be done, this can range from a weekend DIY project to an expensive service call.
11. Exterior Structures
Make sure you check the back of the house too. If the previous homeowners had a gazebo or shed in the backyard, it can either be a gift or a curse.
If the structure is still in good shape, great! But a run-down shack means you’re either going to have to pay to have it removed, or fix it up. Both of those solutions are pretty costly.
Check the location of windows around the house, and what can be seen from the windows. Especially in the bedrooms, make sure that no one can see into the rooms.
If you have privacy concerns, some thick curtains, or some new shrubbery can solve the problem, but depending on the plot layout, you may not be able to do anything.
13. Floor Plan
Make sure that the floor plan suits your needs, both currently and your predicted needs in the future. Do you have room for the kids to stay after they move out? What if you have guests over? Where are you going to put that office you’ve always wanted?
The house may look nice, but if it doesn’t have the rooms you need, it’s going to be frustrating down the road.
14. Power Outlet Locations
This issue mostly appears in older homes, but keep an eye out regardless.
Make sure there is power outlet access wherever you will want to put your electronics. For example: Next to the bed to charge phones at night, or in the office to power a computer and a printer.
Installing new outlets will need to be factored into your budget if the home lacks sufficient power access.
15. Stuck Doors and Windows
Stuck doors and windows could be as simple as just needed to clean up the hinges and frames, or it could hint at a much bigger problem with the foundation (see #34).
Check the hinges and frames to see if they are in good shape. Try to knock on them and listen for a hollow sound. If it sounds hollow, or you see evidence of mold, that’s a problem. But if everything looks good, the foundation might be in trouble.
16. Suspicious New Paint
Is only one wall painted? Or maybe just a ceiling?
It could just be the homeowner cleaning up their child’s scribbles, or it could be them hiding water damage. Inspect carefully for sagging or brown spots. Ask them why they decided to repaint.
If the answers are dodgy or you spot water damage, it could be time to keep searching.
17. Mold Prevalence
Mold is bad. It’s difficult to remove, and often even harder to discover where it’s coming from. Mold is a result of water leaking from the plumbing.
This is a huge red flag and a borderline deal-breaker. A professional inspection can help determine the extent of the damage but use your best judgment.
18. “Perfect Price”
Is the price a little low for the area? Is it lower than the average?
You need to discover what is causing this discrepancy in price. Talk to the owners. Try to figure out why the price is lower.
It could be something minor, or it could be a major issue they are trying to bury. Be careful.
19. A Forest of “For Sale” Signs
Do you see “For Sale” signs on every street or many on the same street as the home you’re looking at? Do some research.
Talk to the owners and their neighbors. Find out why so many houses are for sale.
If it’s a newly-built neighborhood, this is normal, but if it’s not, that raises concerns. Is the crime rate higher than normal? Is there a problem with extreme weather?
Don’t rush into a purchase, be thorough in your information gathering.
20. “Off-Limits” Areas
Are the current owners restricting you from going to a certain area? This is a huge red flag.
This usually means the owners are trying to cover up for something. Make sure you get a chance to visit this “off-limits” area and listen to their reasoning as well. If it’s a flimsy story, chances are there’s a major problem with the home.
In most cases, it’s good to just keep looking and not be worried about what the owners could be hiding.
21. Gutter Integrity
Check the gutters. Are they in good shape? Is water flowing safely off the roof and down to the ground?
Is any water going into the roof or siding?
Gutters can be expensive to replace if the entirety is warped, but replacing just a few is reasonable. Just ensure that you note the current quality of the gutter system and judge accordingly.
22. Floor Coverings
Rugs and floor mats are nice but check underneath them for signs of water damage or heavy wear.
Again, water damage is generally very expensive to fix, but if it’s just a scuffed floor or torn carpet, that’s a much more manageable issue.
If repairs are needed, factor that into your budget for the home, or request a price reduction.
23. Pool Location and Integrity
If the house has a pool, there are a lot of things to consider.
Are you willing to maintain the pool? Is it above-ground or below-ground? What are the common problems with pools? Is the pump in working order? Is it heated, and if so, is the heater functional? Can you buy pool supplies nearby? How expensive are pool chemicals?
A pool can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a big expense. Make sure you get answers to the questions above and are confident that you can manage a pool.
24. Quality of Upkeep
You can tell a lot about the state of a home by how the owners have maintained it.
Is the yard neat and tidy? Are the gutters clear of debris? Is there dust everywhere inside?
On their own, an untidy space could be no big deal, but it could hint at a bigger problem caused by years of neglect.
Ask the homeowner what they’ve done to take care of the house over the years, and what repairs they’ve done, if any. Were they DIY projects, or professional contractors? If DIY, do the owners seem capable? If professional, do they have paperwork?
Ask a lot of questions. Much like a car, the previous owner can make or break a good house.
25. Quality of the Insulation
The quality of the insulation is important for temperature regulation and sound dampening. Peek into the attic and make sure the insulation is in good shape.
Ask if there is an insulation rating for the house too.
If you notice that inside the home feels as hot/cold as outside does, this could be a sign of little or poor insulation.
26. Hot Water System
Hot water is very important in your home, especially in the winter. Ask questions about the age of the water heater, if it’s tankless, electric or gas, etc.
Check for signs of damage or leaks around the system, and try the hot water. Make sure the wiring and gas lines are in order, and that the pressure relief valve is in good shape.
27. Signs of Pests
You should have peace of mind in your own home, and when pests are around, that’s nearly impossible.
If the only problem is small insects like spiders and ants, you can buy sprays that will create a bug barrier in your home. That’s no big deal, but bigger animals like mice are.
Look for signs of pests in the home: mouse traps, animal droppings, bait, etc. Also look for any signs of termite damage.
If you have any doubts about pests, opt for a professional inspection.
Deal-Breakers (Black Flags)
The following issues, if found in a house you’re looking at, should be treated as deal-breakers. These issues are either extremely expensive to fix or will cause major problems down the road.
28. Asbestos Inspection
If the house was built before 1980, get an asbestos inspection for sure.
If it was built after 1980, ask the homeowner if asbestos was used in the construction of the home.
If you have any doubts, opt for a professional inspection.
For more information on asbestos, you can click this link here.
29. Roof Integrity
A good roof can last well over 30 years, but not every roof is good. Depending on the size of the home, a new roof can run about $10,000 to $30,000, according to Forbes.
Get up on the roof and see if any shingles are loose or missing. A professional inspection is the best option if you have concerns, and the cost of the inspection is much less than the cost of replacing the entire roof.
Be informed before you make the decision.
30. Owner Renovations
Has the owner made any changes to the home’s layout? If so, you will need to ask a lot of questions. Did they do the renovation themselves or was it a professional? What exactly changed in the layout of the home? Why did they renovate?
This is important because repairing their work could be hundreds or thousands of dollars in fixes depending on the issue.
Thoroughly inspect any renovations the homeowner has done, especially if they were recently done. Many homeowners do cheap renovations right before selling to make the home look better.
31. Lack of Upgrade Room
Thinking about changing the house layout yourself? Maybe adding a new room?
Before you buy a house, if you intend to add to the home, check with the local government to make sure you are actually able to.
Local zoning restrictions may make it impossible to upgrade.
If this is important to you, then you will need to move on.
32. Electrical Wiring
An outdated electrical system is a huge fire hazard.
Check the main fuse box in the home to make sure everything is in the clear.
Pay attention to any exposed wiring or wires that go nowhere. If possible, get an electrician to do an inspection, especially in older homes.
A complete home rewire can cost thousands of dollars. Don’t be shocked, be smart.
33. Plumbing and Sewage System
This is a big issue. Be looking for water stains, sagging floors, and mildew.
Check the faucets, toilets, and showers for water pressure and proper drainage.
The safest bet is to get a plumber to do a sewer inspection. Repairs to a sewer line or septic tank will be between $25,000-$50,000 according to Forbes.
Knowing the true condition of the plumbing is well worth the cost of the inspection.
34. Foundation Issues
Issues with the foundation are difficult to spot but very important.
Check the grade of the yard, if it’s sloping towards the house, this means water will be constantly in contact with the foundation or basement. Look for large bulges or cracks as well.
If you notice these things, opt for a professional inspection.
35. Flood Zone
You don’t have to be next to a body of water to be at risk of flooding. If the home you are looking at is in a high-risk flooding area, insurance costs will be enormous. You can use this flood zone map to determine the risk of the house.
Talk to the neighbors and local authorities about the risk of flooding and which areas are most impacted.
At the end of the day, buying a house in a high-risk flood zone is a bad idea. Between water damage, insurance costs, and difficulty re-selling the home in the future, it’s all downhill.
Now that you have a list of things to look for when you purchase a home, you can house-shop confidently!
If you are a homeowner looking to sell, Restor-It offers services including flooring installation, renovations, carpet cleaning & repair, and resurfacing.
Call today at 678-355-6645 to get connected and get your home ready to sell!