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.
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?"
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."
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."
3."Walk or bike through the neighborhood; you will learn more about it than a drive."
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."
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)."
6."Pizza delivery no-go zones."
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."
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."
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."
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)."
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."
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."
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)."
14."If they don’t let you see a particular room, attic, basement, etc., for some excuse."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."