House Hunting – Don’t Buy Me Warning Signs

Buying a house is a big financial commitment. Whether you’ve bought and sold a house before or this is your first time, you don’t want to be trapped in the wrong mortgage or worse, be stuck with a lemon. Yes, you get to wander around the property and through the rooms at a viewing or open house. And yes, you are prepared to pay for any necessary house inspections. To avoid any surprises after purchasing a new home, here are some house hunting red flags to look for.

Owner won’t allow a home inspection.

If the owner won’t give you permission to let a house inspector on their property, it might make you wonder why. A house seller may or may not know about specific problems that would turn off a potential buyer, but if it’s an older home, they may not want to risk what a home inspection would reveal. By law, the owner is required to disclose any known code violations, structural issues, or any other issues such the presence of lead paint or the use of lead pipes.

There are noticeable structural problems.

A big don’t buy this house warning sign are noticeable structural problems. Hairline cracks are “normal” in foundations made of concrete. However, cracks that are wider than half an inch can be an indication of a problem. Structural problems can manifest themselves in the following ways:

  • Cracks in the foundation that don’t follow the mortar joints
  • Cracks on a basement floor where one corner or side is lower than the other
  • Windows and doors don’t open and close easily

Also look for foundation cracks that have been recently repaired, pooling water or damp patches (even though it hasn’t rained in 48 hours) beneath the downspouts, and advanced soil erosion in the immediate area around a downspout that butts up against the foundation. These are some additional signs that can indicate the foundation is shifting or becoming unstable.

The roofing system appears worn.

It all starts with the roof – it protects your home 24/7. When the roofing system isn’t in good shape, replacing a roof or upgrading the gutters is an expensive proposition: Take a pair of binoculars with you. Look for:

  • Missing roof shingles
  • Sagging roofline
  • Missing and/or sagging gutter sections
  • Dented downspouts
  • Obvious damp patches (roof)
  • Extensive tiger striping (gutters)

Signs of water damage inside or out.

Water damage is expensive to repair; something you probably don’t want to deal with unless you have to. Inside the home stains or damp places around baseboards or on ceilings could indicate previous flooding, drainage issues, or roofing problems. Take a close look at the caulking around sinks and toilets – if it’s not in good repair, it could be a plumbing red flag. If the interior of the home smells musty, it could be due to mold.

On the home’s exterior, water damage can manifest itself in a number of ways, such as large cracks in the siding or stucco; peeling paint or finish on window and door trim; wood rot on soffit and fascia; and mold growth.

Standing water in the yard.

The back and front yards should slope away from the foundation, not toward. If there are puddles visible in the yard two days (48 hours) after a rainfall, it could be a sign of drainage issues. When standing water collects too close to the foundation, it can cause basement flooding. If you viewed the house on a rain-free day, drive by the house you want to purchase one or two days after a rainfall. If you see puddles, you will need to investigate further – this could be a house hunting red flag.

Take notice of the neighbourhood.

The house you are interested in buying is part of a neighborhood. When a lot of houses on the same street are for sale at the same time, there are reasons everyone wants to leave the community. These include:

  • Increase in crime rate
  • Sudden increase in traffic flow or noise pollution
  • Proposed landfill or highway
  • Commercial enterprise that negatively impacts the environment
  • Foreclosures – they can impact property values of neighbouring homes

Real estate professionals recommend visiting the neighbourhood at different times of the day to get a real-time feel of what it will be like to live in the area.