House Hunting Red Flags

Buying a new house can be an extremely exciting time. Because of that excitement, it can be easy to rush into buying a house that may appear perfect for you without giving it a thorough look.

There can often be red flags that are overlooked or hidden when house-hunting, but are extremely important to take note of. Tell tale signs that the house you’re interested in may not be what you think. They are often subtle and can go unnoticed. Be sure to take extra caution when house-hunting and be on the lookout for these red flags. 

Odors / strong air fresheners

If you walk into a home and the first thing you notice is the strong smell, this is a very important indication that something could be wrong. No smell should be so overwhelming that it hits you right when you enter a home – whether it be an air freshener or an odor. If it’s an odor, such as pet urine, this could indicate that carpet is saturated with it and needs to be replaced. Or if you’re smelling a strong air freshener, it could be that the owner is trying to cover up a smell of a worse problem in the house. Either way, pay attention to strong smells when house-hunting. 

Random fresh paint

Not all fresh paint indicates something is wrong, which means you need to be on the lookout for random fresh paint. If an entire room was repainted to match the owner’s new couch, there’s nothing to worry about there. However, if you notice random spots that have been freshly painted – maybe just half a wall in the kitchen or a random spot in a bedroom – these are things to take notice of. If fresh paint is random, it’s likely that the owner is trying to cover up something, which brings us to the next red flag: water stains.

Water stains

Random fresh paint often is hiding water stains on walls or ceilings. Other times, home owners may not bother to repaint over these yellowish or brownish areas and you might see the actual water stains when viewing the house. Water stains can indicate the house has leaks, which are never a great sign. Water can rot the structural wood of the house. So, be sure to look for them on walls and ceilings when touring a house and it’s not smart to make an offer on a house with prevalent water stains. 

Mold or moldy smells

Most mold isn’t a toxic type such as Stachybotrys, but no one wants a mold problem in their house. Even if a home doesn’t have toxic mold, regular mold can cause respiratory problems, headaches and other illnesses. Be sure to notice any mold smells or mold spots in a house before making an offer. If you smell mold, but don’t see it, check areas such as under the sinks, around windows and in basements. Mold can indicate problems with a house such as leaks and can cause things such as drywall or carpet to need replacement. 

Foundation cracks / problems

If floors in a house are out of level and the slope is very noticeable, this could mean there are problems with the foundation of the house. Structural issues can cost thousands of dollars to fix and may not be worth the house. This is why it’s important to not only notice foundation problems such as sloped floors or cracks in the foundation, but to have a structural engineer inspect the foundation of a house to assess any damage and repair it might need. 


Before making an offer on a house, be sure to look out for signs of insects, specifically signs of termites. A major sign of termites are brown droppings on the floor near a wall or multiple walls. Other major indications can be mud tubes on the foundation of houses and a hollow sound when you knock on wood. Termites can cause serious foundation issues and can often put house contracts in jeopardy. 

Everyone’s selling / location problem

Lastly, the location of your home is everything when house-hunting. Don’t just pay attention to the house you’re looking into, but take notice of the neighboring homes and subdivisions. Are there many homes for sale? Have a mass of people been moving out of the area recently? If the answer is yes to both of these, that might indicate that there’s a problem with the area such as a rising crime rate. Be sure to look into the location of where you want to live before you start touring houses to save yourself some time. 

Ultimately, researching areas before house-hunting can save you a lot of time. Although it’s important to look out for all of these red flags while you’re touring houses, hire a professional inspector to inspect the house you’re interested in. Inspectors will catch all of these red flags and more, which can save you even more time when looking for the perfect home. 

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