Top 10 Red Flags for Home Buyers

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Normally the average home buyer is looking at 12- 14 homes over a 8 week period before they make a buying decision. Since ordering a Home Inspection on each one would be cost prohibitive,, a new real estate site operated by HGTV, provides this list of 10 things to look for in a pre-inspection that will help identify potential problems.'s Top 10 Red Flags for Home Buyers

1) Mass Exodus from the Neighborhood

Don't let a home's curb appeal keep you from glancing down the street. Are there several other homes for sale? Are nearby businesses boarded up or vandalized? Get the scoop from the neighbors. If everyone else wants to leave the street, maybe you should, too - before you're stuck with a bad investment.

2) Mediocre Maintenance

Three layers of roofing and gutters with plants growing in them are signs the owners aren't big on maintaining their home. What else did they neglect?

3) Foundation Failures

Check out the yard grading. If the yard slopes towards the house, it could cause water to run down the foundation walls or into the basement, which will be costly to repair. Scour the foundation for damage. Bulges or cracks bigger than 1/3 inch can mean the house has serious structural issues.

4) Bad Smells - Inside or Outside

Take a big whiff of the air inside and outside the house. Do you smell anything funky? If you can't smell anything but the huge baskets of potpourri all over the house, this could be a red flag.

5) Faulty or Old Wiring

While you're probably not an electrician, 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.

6) Fresh Paint... on One Wall

New paint can really spruce up drab walls, 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.

7) 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.

8) Foggy or Non-Functioning Windows

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

9) Structural Walls or Floors have been Removed

Sure you love the open floor plan, but was the house always open or did the homeowners 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.

10) Bugs!

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 if no foes pop out while you're there, consider a separate termite inspection if you're thinking of purchasing the property.

The Bottom Line

Always get a professional inspection for the house you choose to buy. Skipping a home inspection is not a good way to cut costs. You'll end up paying more in the long run when problems arise.

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Frank J. Helderle


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  1. Annette Thompson 08/31/2008 06:31 AM
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Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Frank, this is great advice.  Here, we add possums and racoons to the pest list.  When I moved into my house, there was a mother and six or so baby possums living in the attic.  Racoons like to hibernate on fireplace ledges. 

Aug 28, 2008 01:14 AM #1
Frank Helderle
RE/MAX Best Choice - Saint Louis, MO

Thanks Pat for the feedback. I know both require trapping to remove and it's expensive to hire a company here in the midwest to do that. Thanks again and have a great day.

Frank J. Helderle

Aug 28, 2008 01:28 AM #2
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