Red Flags When Buying a New Home

by Rachel Laurendeau on March 27, 2013

When it comes to buying a new home, you can’t always tell if there are problems. You should, however, look very carefully at any house you’re interested in and go back for a second (or third) visit, if need be. Here are a few of the red flags to watch out for as a potential homebuyer.

1. Watch for signs of water damage such as bulging or crumbling walls, peeling or discolored paint on walls or ceilings, obvious patch jobs, musty odors or mold and mildew growth. These can indicate a variety of problems pertaining to foundation issues, basement flooding, leaky roof or plumbing problems. Unless you plan on having a 24 hour plumber on speed dial, you’ll want to steer clear of houses with serious plumbing issues.

2. This may seem odd, but keep your nose active and searching for bad smells. Foul odors can indicate anything from gas line problems, to sewage backups or mold and mildew. These are all problems that can become detrimental to your health and more expensive to fix if left to fester.

3. Foundation problems can be indicators of serious structural problems with a house and they can also allow water into the building. Take a walk around the exterior of the house looking out for obvious foundation problems such as bulges or large cracks (of a third of an inch or more). Horizontal cracks are generally more worrisome than vertical cracks. You also want to see that the yard, sidewalk and driveway all slope slightly away from the house, directing water away from the foundation.

4. Obvious signs of poor maintenance or neglect around the house or property should be red flags for you. If the visible things have been left in disrepair, can you imagine what else has been neglected and what that might mean for the new owner?

5. No one ever wants bugs or pests around their property. Keep an eye open for obvious signs of unwanted visitors but keep in mind that they can be very elusive. You’ll want a home inspector or pest control company to check for termites or carpenter ants if you suspect that this could be a problem.

6. A damaged roof or gutter systems can lead to water seepage, rot and serious damage to the home. Take note of the condition of the roof and gutters repairs.

7. Windows that are cracked, foggy or cannot be opened should also be signs for concern. Not only are windows expensive to replace, inoperable windows can also indicate that the house has shifted a great deal.

Of course, you should be looking for the obvious problems yourself as you tour each house, but nothing beats having a professional home inspection for finding potential problems that raise the red warning flags during your real estate search.

Reference: HGTV’s FrontDoor and Realtor.com

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