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Real Estate Agents Are Revealing The Subtle Red Flags To Look Out For When Buying A House

Buying a home, condo, or apartment is the single biggest financial investment the vast majority of people will ever make. And for people who are first-time buyers, the whole process can be not only intimidating, but also overwhelming — which can lead them to overlooking or not knowing what to look for when viewing homes.

A couple holding the keys to their new home
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Well recently, I came across this Reddit thread from several years ago where the user asked: "Real estate agents of Reddit, what's a subtle red flag to look out for when buying a house?"

a realtor shaking hands with a couple who just bought a house
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The thread got thousands of responses, and not just from realtors, but also from homeowners who learned from experience. Below are the top, best, and most-often-repeated comments:

1."Fresh paint, new carpet, but nothing else updated. It's the realtor remodel special. Just there to make you feel good on your 15-minute walk-through. Look at the tiles, trim, foundation to see what you really need to know. And always drive through the neighborhood at night if you do not know it."

An empty bedroom
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2."Go to showings when it's rainy as f**k, then check out the basement. This will expose any water issues with the foundation that even a moron like me could see. One house I was shown had a cable run into the basement from outside at the dirt level and never sealed — so there was a stream of water pouring over the circuit breaker box onto the basement floor. Passed on that house."

A house being rained on
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3."Walk or bike through the neighborhood; you will learn more about it than a drive."

A man walking down the street in the fall
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4."Realtor here. Grading. Hands down. Or, the angle at which the ground slopes at the foundation of the house. If the ground slopes toward the house, then that means any rain is just going to be funneled right up to your foundation, and can cause some big problems. Extra caution if it is sloped concrete, like a driveway, 'cause that means either mud jacking or jackhammering, both labor and cost intensive. Seriously, when you're looking at a house, do a walk around the perimeter first. Could save you tens of thousands and future foundation problems."

Two men looking at the foundation of a house
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5."Bang the walls, and if you hear it moving — if an older home — it's a sign that the plaster walls aren't in good shape. At best, you'll have a tough time hanging anything. At worst, you'll have the contemporary open floor plan of your dreams (nightmares)."

A cracked wall
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6."Pizza delivery no-go zones."

A pizza delivery man with a red X through him

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7."Realtor here. Practical stuff: You almost always are going to want more storage. It's easy to overlook when you're busy looking at the kitchen and bathrooms. Pay attention to cabinet space in the kitchen. Also, pay attention to the temperature the sellers keep the house. In the summer, a nice cold house is quite welcome when it's 100 degrees outside. Look for shoddy DIY work, too. Sometimes it's just cosmetic, but if you spot electrical or plumbing stuff, make sure to have your inspector give it a close look if you proceed forward with the house."

A woman looking through kitchen cabinets
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8."As a construction guy, please, please, PLEASE check the attic. People buy houses and never check the actual AC. If you go up there and smell a burnt smell, or see big silvery tubes that look crumpled, those are issues. If there is any strong smell, don't buy. No one spends $80 on Glade Plug-Ins unless they are trying to hide something."

Someone pulling an attic door down
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9."If you walk into a house and are hit by the smell of Febreze or air fresheners...well, expect that it probably smells like dogs or smoke when that stuff wears off. Bear in mind that a lot of agents like to burn pretty smelling candles or bake some cookies right before an open house, so it's not a hard-and-fast rule. You mostly want to watch out for it if you're seeing it by appointment."

A person spraying air freshener in a room

—[deleted]

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10."My grandfather sold real estate for decades. The first two things he looked for was the roof and the furnace. If either were too old or looked like a possible replacement was needed soon, then it's something to consider (most first-time home buyers can't afford to replace in the first couple years, and many older homeowners would rather not either)."

The water boiler in someone's house
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11."When the sellers have stuff hung on the walls in places no one would EVER hang stuff, they may be covering up damage from a decade-long termite infestation. Source: Bought a house where the sellers had stuff hung on the walls in places no one would ever hang stuff, to cover up a decade-long termite infestation."

Framed photos on a wall

—[deleted]

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12."One of the first things I look at before I view the house is the MLS. In my area we have a 17-day average on market. Some houses will sell in less than 10. Some may sell in 23. Once it hits 30-plus days, it is a huge red flag to me. There are multiple reasons why a home won't sell. It could be a bad shape home, greedy sellers, or simply a bad-at-marketing agent. But again, if I see 30-plus days, I become more skeptical."

A "For Sale" sign in front of a house
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13."Open the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and smell (for rodent problems — the air in there is usually 'older' and should be unaffected by air fresheners. If you smell bleach, that’s bad). Also, check the fuse/breaker box to see signs that one throws more often. And any obviously recently super-cleaned vents (hides mold)."

A couple checking under their sink cabinets
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14."If they don’t let you see a particular room, attic, basement, etc., for some excuse."

A lock on some cabinets
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15."If you are viewing houses in the winter and there are a lot of icicles on the roof [and none of the other houses in the neighborhood have icicles], it’s likely not properly insulated."

Icicles on a house
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16."If you're buying a house or condo that is part of a group all built by the same builder, knock on the next door neighbor's door and ask if they had any problems. Especially if it's new construction."

A hand knocking on a door

17."Did the homeowners bother to clean for the showing? If you walk into a dirty house, they are actively trying to sell, the sellers are likely neglecting lots of basic upkeep on appliances, the yard, etc."

A dirty room with clothes and trash on the floor
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18."If the entire bathroom, including the ceiling, has been tiled, they may be trying to hide mildew problems. Make sure and have the inspector check whether the bath fan actually ports outside."

A person adjusting a bathroom vent
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19."Be sure to test all appliances that are staying with the house. Ice maker, dishwasher, microwave, garbage disposal, stove, washer/dryer, etc. Also, when going to initial showings, make sure the house doesn't have any strong odors (pets, cigarettes, etc.). My boyfriend and I are both realtors, and you'd be surprised how many people genuinely believe that smells can just be aired out. I've seen a lot of clients have to completely replace all the floors in their new house because of animal urine."

A man plugging his nose from a smell
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20.And finally, "For the love of God, check your cellphone signal in the house. I just moved into a new house, and I have one bar on the second floor if I stand on a chair. Turns out there's only one cell tower to serve the surrounding neighborhood of 200-plus houses, and since it's next to a neighborhood of million-dollar homes, they can't get the approval to put in another one. So, I'm SOL."

A woman looking at her phone with her hand up in frustration
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