The buying and selling season for the housing market is quickly approaching. To aid you in your home search, we have put together our COMPLETE (hopefully) list of warning signs (or red flags!) to look for when making a decision on your newest purchase.
We aren’t real-estate experts but as we have mentioned before in the post The Honest and Somewhat Vulgar Truth to Selling Your Home at a Profit, we have had some decent experience in the housing market.
These are in no way Deal Breakers when putting in an offer but possible issues and costs to consider when writing up an offer for your new home. A Great Real-estate agent will help you with this along the way!
Check it out!
1. Foundation Cracks, Sidewalk Cracks, and Cracked Steps Leading to the House
Cracks tell you that the earth has shifted at one point in time and the house settled in the land. Sometimes, small cracks look worse than they truly are underneath. For instance, sidewalk cracks aren’t typically an issue but you are liable if someone trips and becomes injured on your property INCLUDING sidewalks by the street. Other times, cracks are big red flags warning you of costly renovations to re-establish a solid foundation of the home. And to add the cherry on top, cracks can lead to water damage. When looking for a new home, keep an eye out for cracks. If you love the home, have a professional take a look and estimate the cost of damage repair.
2. How Busy is the Road?
Great homes can be misleading with a lower price all because the home backs up to a very busy road or the driveway leads to a busy road. This is typically a red flag for future homeowners. People don’t want to put money into the biggest investment of their life with the possibility of a pet or child running out onto the road or dealing with the traffic sounds all hours of the day and night. Observe how busy the road is at all hours of the day. Sometimes, mid-day when looking at a house the road may appear less busy but once school and work lets out it can become a traffic nightmare.
3. School Districts
Even if you don’t have kids when purchasing your home, school districts play a role in the value of your home. Homes in more desirable school districts typically sell faster and at higher prices. It is like an investment in your home, so when you turn around to sell later on in life, you will get that money back. Who knows, maybe you will have a child in that school district after all? Saves you the headache of having to find a new home in a better district if you already have one!
A large sign of underlying issues in a home is the odor. If a homeowner selling their home tries to spray air freshener or light heavy scented candles, this too can be a red flag they are trying to mask an odor.
Look out for the smell of mildew which typically means water damage at one point in the home. Heavy animal odors means the carpets need to be cleaned or replaced and smoke is a costly, nearly impossible scent to get out of a home.
Keep an eye out for signs of critters (non-pets of course) making their home in the perspective new buy. This means animal droppings, bugs along baseboards or doors, sawdust on exposed wood (yikes termites!) or the ever so obvious scratching in the walls or ceiling. Critters love making their home in yours because its warm and safe from the outdoor elements. The big problem is they typically damage the home in the process or bring in unwanted disease and bacteria. Yuck.
6. Dryness of the Basement
My first test when walking into a basement (finished or unfinished) is feeling the ground and walls for moisture along with assessing the humidity in the air. Typically the best time to tell if there is moisture issues in underground sections of the house is right after a good rain, but let’s be real…you get what you get when scheduling a showing. If you feel moisture of any sort, this can me $$$ for you later on down the road. So have this assessed by a professional!
7. Grading of the Yard
Many people overlook this part of the home buying process. But in all honesty, it should be a crucial factor in your decision making process. When buying our first home, we were notified of a “small issue” with standing water in the back corner of the property. Thinking it was far from the home, we thought nothing of it. Turns out, the issue stemmed from the neighbor’s sump pump draining down towards our home which then flooded our sump pump which then tried to push the water out towards the back of the yard. This became a BIG issue in the Spring when the snow melted and rain came down on the already soaked yard. Several hundred trips to home improvement stores and lots of hours digging up a muddy yard later, we fixed the problem.
But I will tell you, I am now very picky when it comes to the grading of the yard and the yards around my future homes. Water draining towards the home can lead to flooding and many more future problems.
Oh man, bad neighbors can lead to feeling very uncomfortable in your new home.
Our first home owning experience was not the most cheerful. Our 80-something year old neighbor cussed me out (I know, how rude…) when we decided to put up a fence in our yard. Apparently, he doesn’t like fences and then found every which way to give me his opinion on how I wasn’t “up to the standards of the classy neighborhood”. We were a young, almost married couple surrounded by middle aged or older families. Somebody say JUDGEMENT?!?!?!
From then on, I hid every time he was outside. Silly I know, but I am not a confrontational person and there was no arguing with that man…
Scoping out the neighbors can be hard when finding a new home. Walk the neighborhood and introduce yourselves to a few people outside. Ask how they like the neighborhood.
Some red flags can be when there are people that don’t keep up with their yards. We have turned down several potential properties due to the fact that the yard next door was unkempt and honestly it looked like a hoarder was living there. An eye sore is not something you want to look at every day…plus it hurts your resale value.
9. Crime Map
Check out the crime map of the area you are thinking of purchasing a home in. Take the extra step and look up nearby registered sex offenders. We typically didn’t have a problem when owning our homes due to the proximity of the schools. Registered sex offenders must live outside of a certain mile radius of schools. If you are putting a lot of money into a home, you want to feel safe.
10. Comparison Homes
Ask your relator for comparison home prices of the house you are interested in. A good realtor will do this research for you when you decide to put in an offer. You don’t want to over pay for a home. If a home is severely cheaper than other comparison homes of the area, that may be a red flag as to a reason they are selling so cheap.
The dreaded taxes. My husband has a lot of input on this topic… ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS research the property taxes of your potential new home. Some areas have such high taxes you will be basically paying another mortgage. Not. FUN.
Also pay attention to local income taxes which can range anywhere from 0.5% to 2.5%+. If you are unfortunate to live an in area with local income taxes, this can add another yearly expense. If you don’t live in the same city as you work then you could be paying local income taxes to both cities. While there is usually reciprocity between the cities allowing you to reduce the total amount of local tax you pay, you still might be paying more than living and working in the same city.
If you don’t pay local income tax where you work, then you will be paying the full amount where you live. Local income taxes will vary between municipalities and if you move just outside of city limits into a township you could save on local income taxes altogether. When choosing our first and second home, since we don’t pay local income tax where we work, it was important to find a locality that also didn’t have local income taxes. A lot of times, it is hard to tell if the house you are looking at is technically inside the city limits or just outside so it is best to research before you buy.
12. HOA Fees/Regulations
Depending on where your possible new home is located, there may be a Home Owners Association. They typically have yearly/monthly fees for grounds maintenance and/or a clubhouse. These fees can add up based off the amenities of the neighborhood.
Another factor to consider, many HOA’s have rules regulating the “standards” of the neighborhood. For instance, in my neighborhood sheds of any kind are prohibited. Some neighborhoods are more strict with regulations on fences, house color, etc.
Inquire about the HOA before putting an offer in on a house.
Depending on where you live in the United States, radon is a natural element that leaks into houses with below ground grading. It is suggested to have the levels of radon tested in your home. Above a certain threshold, radon should be mitigated safely out of the house. This can cost you $$$ when purchasing a new home.
14. Urgent Renovations and Big Ticket Items
Something to look out for when purchasing a home is the cost of renovations or big ticket items you would need to repair/replace upon moving in. These things include the age/condition of the roof, furnace, air conditioner, and appliances. Make sure the bathrooms and kitchen are functional. If the carpet or flooring needs replacing, these are all factors to consider as costs or negotiations when purchasing a home.
15. Signs of Water Damage
Signs of water damage means signs of costing you $$$. Look along ceilings, corners on roof lines/rooms, bubbled wallpaper, moisture in the air, and dampness along entry points (doors and windows). Even if the spot appears dry yet there is rot or discoloration, years of damage may have occurred underneath. Have a professional asses the situation and write this in to your offer.
16. Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency is a big thing now, but many older homes have yet to be updated. Older one pane windows leak out heat from the home and bring in cold air. This will cost you a lot in heating and cooling. Make sure there is ample insulation through the house to ensure a lower bill too. Older appliances prior to the energy efficiency movement will cost you more money than their worth, meaning you will need to dish out money for replacements.
Locality, locality, locality! You can remodel and update a home to look like it came fresh out of a magazine but if the location is bad, selling will be very difficult in the future. Some of the craziest locations we have experienced are houses with water towers or cell phone towers right up against the property, a costco store in the back yard, railroad tracks right next to the home, and the giant ugly highway sound walls in the backyard attempting to divert your attention from the speeding cars yards away from your window. If it is in a poor location…run the other way!
We hope this list helps you in your future home purchase to make a smart and financially stable decision!
Do you have any warning signs you look for when purchasing a home? Comment them below!