Buyer Beware - Red Flags when Purchasing a Home

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Charlottesville Real Estate Solutions

Top Things to Watch For When Buying a Home 

Virginia is a “Buyer Beware” state when it comes to purchasing a home. While there are lead based paint and the standard seller disclosures included in most active area listings, Sellers don’t always disclose the whole truth to potential Buyers, especially if they’re motivated to sell.

Having a home inspection done is a must when it comes to purchasing a home, but it’s not practical to conduct one for every house you look at.

Buying a home is a big financial commitment, so it’s crucial to know what you’re getting into before you put down any money. An uneducated purchase can result in a lot of time and money down the road.

Here are a few pre-inspection ways for Buyers to spot potential problems in the houses they tour:

“Empty” Neighborhood

Even if the house you saw online has great curb appeal – we just talked about this in a recent blog – it’s also a good idea to look at the nearby houses on the street. Are there several other homes for sale? Are nearby businesses boarded up or vandalized? Have you spoken with the neighbors to see what’s going on? If everyone else wants to leave the street, maybe it’s also a sign that the neighborhood might not be the wisest place to invest in.

Delayed Maintenance

Roofing with missing shingles, mold-covered siding and gutters with plants growing in them are signs the owners aren’t big on maintaining their home. What else did they neglect?Roofing can contain old or damaged shingles or improper flashing. Should you buy a home with roof concerns, don’t ignore it. Repair the roofing in order to prevent costly damage.

Foundation Failures & Poor Drainage

Water intrusion can be one of the most destructive and expensive problems. Check for well-maintained gutters, downspouts, and proper grading around the foundation to direct water away from the home.

Inadequate drainage around the exterior of a home leads to water intrusion in basements, garages, and crawl spaces. This can compromise the foundation of a home and create mold problems.

Scour the foundation for damage. Bulges or cracks bigger than one-third inch can mean the house has serious structural issues.

Storm Damage

No part of this country is impervious to storm damage. And damage from a past hurricane, tornado, or flood can plague a home for years. Inspect the roofing, siding, and exterior railings for wind and water damage and defective repairs. Also, inspect the drywall for water intrusion that could create potential mold problems.

Structural Walls or Floors Have Been Removed

You may like an open floor plan, but was the house always open or did the  Sellers renovate? If they removed a load-bearing wall without adjusting the framing, it can shift weight to other parts of the house. Hire a structural engineer if you think any renovations are questionable.

Faulty or Old Wiring

Make sure all the switches and outlets in the house function properly. Flickering lights, circuits that don’t work and warm or hot outlets or faceplates are all symptoms of wiring problems.

wire  Dated or insufficient electrical systems can cause breaker tripping or, worse, a fire. Examples of electrical safety hazards to watch out for are ungrounded outlets, lack of ground-fault circuit interrupters, aluminum wiring, and faulty wiring in electrical panels or elsewhere in the house. These potentially hazardous defects must be taken seriously.


No one wants a house with a pest problem, be it roaches, mice or, worst of all, termites. Be on the lookout for unwelcome creatures as you tour the house. Even though a Seller has to, by law, have a termite inspection done 30 days before close, you might want to consider a separate termite inspection if you’re thinking of purchasing the property if you have any concerns.

Rotted Wood

Wood that’s exposed to moisture rots over time. Inspect wood in the kitchen and the bathroom, including the tub surround, toilet seat, countertops, and flooring. These spots are especially vulnerable to moisture and should be protected with a special paint or finish. Don’t forget to check the exterior of the home, including the deck, eaves, and trim, for signs of rotting.

Inadequate Ventilation

If a home doesn’t have proper ventilation, moisture can’t evaporate and will inevitably cause problems. Make sure the attic is properly ventilated to ensure that the roof has a long and functional life. This allows the intense heat of the sun to escape from the attic space, and promotes evaporation of moisture that would otherwise damage interior walls and structural elements.

Foggy or Nonfunctioning Windows

Check for water in between double-paned windows and make sure all the windows are functional.

Bad Smells (Inside or Outside)

Take a big whiff of the air inside and outside the house. Do you smell anything that’s off or moldy? If you can’t smell anything but the huge baskets of potpourri or plug-in air fresheners all over the house, this could be a red flag.

Improper Appliances Maintenance

Check to see if the Sellers have performed regular maintenance. This includes cleaning out the lint trap and exhaust hose in the dryer and cleaning filters in the HVAC unit and range hoods.

Age of Heating & Cooling Systems

A failing or aging heating and cooling system in an older home will likely require costly maintenance. These systems could also emit carbon monoxide fumes, which are harmful to your family, and are less efficient than modern choices and consequently have higher heating and cooling costs. Many units have the install date marked on them.

Environmental Hazards

Because there was limited technology and fewer building restrictions in the past, an older home may contain lead-based paint, high levels of carbon monoxide, radon, toxic molds, or even asbestos. Any of these require professional testing and monitoring to ensure the safety of your family.

Plumbing Problems

The pipes under a sink can be made of incompatible materials that lead to dripping faucets, leaking fixtures and slow drains. Quest piping is a common concern. Address all plumbing problems before you buy a home to save yourself from costly repairs in the future.

Fresh Paint on One Wall

New paint in several rooms can be a good way to freshen up a listing, but it can also hide bigger problems, like water damage, mildew or mold. If the room smells strange or if you see stains or saggy walls or ceilings, have an inspector look for mold and leaks.

Amateur Repairs

The longer a family has lived in their home, the more likely you’ll find household repairs done by the homeowner or another amateur. Often these repairs — most commonly seen in the areas of plumbing and electrical — don’t follow building codes and are likely to fail or cause more damage down the road.

Locked Doors and Blockades

Ask about any rooms that are “off limits” during your home tour, and arrange to see them later if you’re interested in the house. Be sure to tour the entire house before making an offer.

Loose or Missing Hand Rails

Over time, railings inside and outside of the home can become loose or go missing. Unstable or insecure railings aren’t safe. Examine a home’s porch, deck, stairs and landings to make sure all railings are stable and up to code.

Foreclosed Properties

You might get an amazing deal on a foreclosed property, but be sure to check on the condition of the property before you sign for it. If you buy a foreclosed property, watch for stripped or damaged cabinets, surfaces, fixtures, and appliances.

BOTTOM LINE: Always get a professional inspection by a trained and certified inspector as it’s your best bet for discovering these defects and making a smart buying decision. It’s worth every penny. Skipping a home inspection isn’t a good way to cut home buying costs. You’ll end up paying more in the long run when problems inevitably arise.

Buyer Beware: Red Flags when Purchasing a Home


Re-Blogged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Frank Rubi 05/02/2015 08:04 AM
  2. Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster 05/02/2015 09:57 AM
Home Buying

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David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

Amen to this I always advise to get an inspection done as you dont want to pay for someone elses problems

May 02, 2015 07:27 AM #1
Ella Reape, Realtor 603-821-1140 ~ Selling Homes Throughout Southern New Hampshire
Keller Williams Realty Nashua NH - Nashua, NH
Luxury Homes Division, Keller Williams

Great information, especially for first time homebuyers. I'm in 100% agreement.

The Home inspection is not the place where you want to save money as it can cost you tenfold later on.

May 02, 2015 07:29 AM #2
Frank Rubi
Frank Rubi Real Estate, LLC - Metairie, LA

Charles McDonald This is an extensive list. Bottom line as you point out have all your inspections perform by a license inspector. 

May 02, 2015 07:57 AM #3
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

A post that covers all potential issues that could arise when buying a home.  Checking the neighborhood is something that people seldom do and they have those post purchase regrets.

May 02, 2015 08:04 AM #4
Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster
Maricopa Real Estate Co - Maricopa, AZ
A Maricopa Agent who Works, Lives & Loves Maricopa

you have some great points on this. Every buyer should read it. I think I'll reblog myself and I don't do many of those so this was worth it!

May 02, 2015 09:54 AM #5
Lisa Friedman
Great American Dream Realty - Essex, VT
30 Years of Real Estate Experience!

Charles, I came over from Tammy Adams ~ Realtor Maricopa, AZ 's re-blog. So glad she re-posted it. This is chock full of information and has given me some ideas of things to add to my buyer presentation. Thank you.

May 02, 2015 10:17 AM #6
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Charles - Great things to look for when buying a home. Many of these things you can check out prior to making an offer and ordering a home inspection.

May 03, 2015 09:15 AM #7
Desiree Daniels
RE/MAX Tri County - Robbinsville, NJ

Good informatiob ... By the way I am back!

May 12, 2015 09:15 AM #8
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

 Good morning Charles McDonald . Those are all excellent things to look forward purchasing a new home.

Mar 19, 2016 05:19 PM #9
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Charles McDonald

REALTOR®, Blogger, Principal Broker®, Owner
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