10 Real Estate Red Flags to Look for When House Hunting
Updated: May 8
Searching for a new home? Don’t believe everything you see or hear when looking at real estate. For many, purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments (if notthebiggest investment) they’ll ever make. For this reason, buyers need to be extremely vigilant throughout the house hunting and home buying process. Though it’s all too easy to get swept up in a home’s bells and whistles, buyers must remember to look out for important real estate red flags – no matter how incredible the house seems. After all, if a seller is a little too eager to sell their house, you have to ask yourself, “why?”. Here are 10 other real estate red flags to watch out for when house hunting.
The price is a little too good to be true The most obvious real estate red flag is a listing price that is simply too good to be true. This usually indicates that the sellers are extra-motivated, which should certainly make you wonder why. While it’s possible they need to sell quickly for financial reasons, personal reasons or job relocation reasons, it’s also possible that the home is simply not in good condition. Be sure to ask your Realtor to get to the bottom of the too-good-to-be-true price in question.
The sellers haven’t lived there long Thanks to numerous online real estate marketplaces, buyers can now learn about a property’s history (when it was last bought and sold) with ease. If the home’s sellers have only been living in the house for two years or less, then it is perfectly reasonable to question their short tenure. After all, why do these sellers want to move again so soon? Don’t be afraid to ask the listing agent why the sellers are moving. In addition, if the home has had many owners in the past, this could be another red flag that something is wrong with the house.
Your Realtor is also the listing agent for the home Does your Realtor also happen to be the listing agent for the home you want to purchase? If so, we recommend finding a new buyer’s agent, who can represent your interests throughout the real estate transaction. After all, a listing agent’s job is to get top dollar for the seller’s home. As the buyer, this isn’t in your best interest. The listing agent may be so focused on closing the deal that they lose sight of what is best for their buyers.
The listing doesn’t include many photos Are there only a few photos of the home included in the listing? Are certain rooms or areas of the home left? Pay attention to this important real estate red flag. If the listing doesn’t include high quality photos, buyers should question why that is. We recommend asking your Realtor to find older photos of the home from previous listings before touring the house. If certain rooms were left out of the listing, make sure to ask the sellers, “why?”.
The location of the home is on a busy road or near a highway Is the home located on a busy road or highway? Chances are, the listing photos will try to hide this by avoiding angles where house hunters can see the road. Make sure to search for the address on Google Maps prior to visiting the home. Homes that are located on or near busy roads and highways typically have a harder time selling. Not only do these homeowners have to deal with noise and traffic, but also health problems and pollution.
The home was renovated and/or added onto at different stages Was the home renovated in different stages? For instance, did one owner renovate or add onto the home in the ‘80’s, and another renovate or add onto the home in the 2000s? If so, this could be a red flag indicating that the renovations and changes aren’t uniform. After all, permit requirements and regulations change over time. If many different owners have altered the home, there’s even a chance that some of the work wasn’t officially permitted at all.
There are a lot of other homes for sale on the same street Happen to see a lot of other “For Sale” homes on the same street? There may be a reason for that. A mass exodus from the street is most certainly a real estate red flag, if there ever was one. When multiple neighbors have listed their home, make sure to take note and ask “why?”. This could indicate that something is amiss – or it could just be a coincidence. Either way, get to the bottom of it before purchasing a home on the street.
The house is clearly a flip Is the house clearly a flip? If the home for sale was purchased and renovated by a developer, make sure to look into who renovated the house. Be mindful that corners could have been cut during the renovation process – especially if the developer wasn’t planning to live inside the home. For instance, while the renovation may have included cosmetic changes, it might not have improved the most important components of a house, including the HVAC system, plumbing, the roof and electrical wiring.
The home is suddenly back on the market after being under contract Is the home suddenly back on the market after being under contract? Uh oh. This could signal that something went awry with the home inspection – meaning there’s something wrong with the house. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. Perhaps it was a pest problem or an issue with the electrical. Whatever it was, it’s most likely an expensive fix.
The home has a strange smell You know what they say: where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you happen to pick up on a home’s less-than-desirable odor, pay attention. This questionable trait could mean that the house hasn’t been well maintained. Unpleasant odors can indicate mold, water damage, pests, a poorly ventilated home, plumbing issues and HVAC issues.