Red Flags for Home Buyers

It’s always demoralizing when you find a home that you really love, begin the purchasing process, and then discover that there’s something wrong with it; that there’s some kind of a deal breaker.

Then again, it’s much better to find out before you buy rather than after, when you may wind up stuck with a property that you’re not thrilled with, or that has some costly maintenance issues.

When house hunting, there’s a lot of merit to keeping your eyes and ears open for red flags, little giveaways that there’s something shady about the place. Hopefully, you’ll be able to identify these red flags before you get too attached to the place.

Here are some of the most common red flags for home buyers to look for.

Common Red Flags

  • Everyone’s leaving. As you explore a home, make sure you take a glance down the street. Do you notice a lot of For Sale signs? Does it seem like half the neighborhood is trying to leave? If so, there’s probably a reason for it. At the very least, you might want to ask around and see if you can figure out what’s causing everyone to move.
  • Foundation issues. Foundation issues can be hugely problematic, and expensive to fix. So how can you identify them? First, look to see if the yard slopes down toward the house; if so, there could be water rolling down to the foundation. Look at the foundation itself for scouring or other obvious signs of disrepair.
  • Muddled maintenance. Basically, if you see a lot of major signs of poor maintenance, that should be a pretty clear indicator that the house is going to have its share of issues. Every house has a few areas that could use a bit of TLC, but if the roof is in shambles, the gutters are barely hanging on, or there’s plant life growing up through the sidewalk… well, those are bad omens.
  • Funky smells. Sewage smells, for example, are a definite red flag… but then again, you should also be a little concerned if there are mounds of potpourri in every room, and that’s all you can smell. It may be that the seller is overzealous, or it may be that they’re trying to hide something.
  • Faulty wiring. You don’t have to be a credentialed electrician to notice the signs of faulty wiring. Are there lights that flicker when they come on? Switches that don’t seem to do anything? Electrical outlets that are hot to the touch? These are the warning signs of bad wiring.
  • New paint on just one wall. If the whole house has a fresh coat of paint, that’s one thing. But if there’s a single wall that was just redone, well, that could be a tell. Is the seller trying to hide something, like mildew, water damage, or some sort of stain?
  • Rooms that are off limits. If you’re going to buy a home, you obviously have every right to see the whole place. If you come to a house where there are rooms blocked off, that’s almost always a red flag.
  • Bad windows. We’d put bad windows into two categories: Windows that are foggy (which means their seal has been broken), or windows that won’t function at all. You can and should try raising windows in the home you want to buy, ensuring they go up and down the way they’re supposed to.
  • Bugs, mice, and rats are obviously a nuisance. What’s more, they’re often quite hard to get rid of! And, if you see pests in a house, it may mean there are other issues that are attracting those pests. All told, bug problems should be considered a significant red flag.

Be Alert for Red Flags

There are a number of indicators that the house you’ve got your eye on has some serious issues, and maybe isn’t a smart purchase. Be vigilant the next time you’re out house hunting.

Ready to learn more about being a smart home buyer? We’ve got tons of resources available here at And when you’re ready to get a home sold, we encourage you to request your free home seller’s report, available whenever you’re ready for it.