7 Red Flags That Should Make You Keep Looking for Your Dream Home
If you’re like many people, you know that buying a home is a risky proposition – there’s a possibility that you could make an offer on a real lemon. Although having your future home inspected by a professional can save you from being forced to buy a money pit, it still pays to watch out for these seven red flags that should make you run, not walk, away from a house before making an offer.

7 Red Flags That Should Make You Keep Looking for Your Dream Home

If you spot any of these seven red flags, keep your options open:

  1. Too much synthetic scent
  2. Sticking doors or windows
  3. Signs that the owner put off maintenance
  4. Mold
  5. Water damage
  6. Oddly placed accents
  7. Poor ventilation

Here’s a closer look at each. 

Red Flag #1: Too much synthetic scent

It’s nice to have the smell of hot apple cider, freshly baked cookies or clean linen throughout a home you’re touring, but if there’s too much scent, the current owner may have something to hide. Most people know that they shouldn’t use a lot of synthetic scents when they’re showing their homes, which means if your sense of smell is overpowered, you should beware that there could be something foul afoot.
Related: Common closing costs for cash buyers

Red Flag #2: Sticking doors or windows

Doors and windows that don’t open or close properly are a sign of foundation problems. Other signs of foundation issues include visible cracks in the walls (especially above windows) and uneven floors. You can tell whether a floor is uneven by rolling a small ball across it; most homes with good foundations will have flat, mostly even flooring. 

Red Flag #3: Signs that the owner put off maintenance

If you notice signs that the owner has been putting off maintenance – such as a sloppy lawn or beeping smoke detectors – there’s a good chance that you’re only scratching the surface. It’s okay to ask your agent to find out when the last time the HVAC unit was serviced, the septic tank was drained or anything else.
Related: Why “days on market” matters in a home listing

Red Flag #4: Mold

Mold is a deal-breaker. It’s a health hazard, and cleaning it up while treating its root cause is expensive. For most people, it doesn’t make sense to buy a home that has mold problems – it’s just not worth the hassle.

Red Flag #5: Water damage

A home with water damage is a risky buy. Not only does it have existing damage that you can see, but it may have a significant amount of damage that you can’t see.  Water problems never get better with time, which means you’ll have some hefty repair costs to deal with if you go ahead and buy a home that has existing water damage.
Related: The five contingencies you should never waive when you buy a home

Red Flag #6: Oddly placed accents

If there’s a painting in a weird spot, a rug in an odd place on the floor, or just one freshly painted wall, ask yourself why. (And don’t be afraid to lift up the painting or the rug to examine the area it’s covering – you may find a big hole, a mold patch or something else that can help you steer clear of buying a home with a big issue.)

Red Flag #7: Poor ventilation

Poor ventilation leads to moisture problems and potential mold growth, which means you should avoid buying a house that isn’t properly vented. You may not notice poor ventilation when you’re in the home (though you should check by poking your head into the attic and turning on all the exhaust fans you run into), but your home inspector will let you know if there are ventilation issues. 

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