15 Things to Look for When Buying a Home
Wendy Kedzierski
March 1, 2023 — Read in 4.7 mins · 942 words

Buying a house is a venture full of variables. The road to finding your dream home can involve overwhelming twists and turns as you navigate the good, the bad, and the ugly. What problems could be deal breakers and what amenities might seal the deal? Here we help you prioritize and flag what’s important in your search. 

Red Flags

Buyer beware: these are problematic, headache-inducing issues that will probably eventually lead to plunking down extra dollars, so proceed with caution.

  1. “As-Is” and “As-Is, Where-Is” properties

Buying a house “as-is” means you agree that no repairs or improvements will be made by the seller before the sale. When the term “where-is” is added, this indicates that the location may be problematic. These properties are often appealing because they are usually priced below market value, but make sure you understand why the seller is listing their home this way. Are they simply not interested in fixing it up? Is the home in a flood zone? Are there elevated radon levels in the area? Make sure your real estate agent helps uncover exactly what the issues are.

  1. Poor roof condition

A new roof is never cheap. Signs of a roof going bad include algae growth; buckling and curling; missing, torn, or flapping shingles; water damage in attic or around chimney.

  1. HVAC problems

Signs of a failing HVAC system can include indoor humidity, strange smells and noises, and inconsistent temperatures throughout the house.

  1. A house that lingers on the market for a looooong time

Ask your agent what the average time is for a property to be on the market if you think the house you’re interested in has surpassed that length of time. Properties may become “stale” for a number of reasons including bad condition, an uncompromising seller, bad staging, or too high a price.

  1. A house priced far below market value

If the price seems too good to be true, it might be too good to be true. Your real estate agent can help you determine the true reason before you sign the dotted line.

White Flags

These problems won’t just induce headaches; they may cause major life disruptions and may even break the bank. If the house you’re considering has these issues, consider a surrender — you might want to accept defeat and walk away.

  1. Major foundation issues

Your sinking house might become a real money pit. Warning signs include:

  • bulging blockwork
  • major cracks and gaps in exterior walls
  • sunken landscaping
  • sticking doors/windows
  • visible cracks above window frames
  • bouncing, sagging, sloping floors
  1. Major water issues

No one wants to end up underwater on their mortgage because of the costs related to water damage and/or plumbing problems. Watch for these warning signs:

  • standing water in the yard
  • old water damage
  • signs of mold
  • poor grading, slope, and drainage around the outside of the house
  • damp or wet basement
  • water stains, mold or mildew
  • faulty plumbing
  • slow drains
  • inadequate water pressure
  • signs of leaks on ceilings
  • wood flooring that is discolored or warped
  1. Major electrical issues
  • faulty or old wiring (including knob and tube)
  • circuit breakers that frequently trip
  • flickering lights that are not fixed by replacing bulbs
  • low voltage in an outlet
  1. Neighborhood problems

Take notice if there are many nearby homes for sale in a given neighborhood. This could be an indication of a problem. Is it a mass exodus? Do your research to determine if your dream house is going to end up being in an unacceptable location. Find out about:

  • zoning issues
  • crime rates
  • noise levels (close proximity to an airport, major highway or railroad tracks)
  • HOA restrictions
  • proposed businesses nearby (think landfills or quarries)
  1. Priced too high

You may fall in love with the perfect house, but if it’s out of your league and there’s no negotiating room, you should probably walk away. A good real estate agent will take note of what you find appealing and try to find those features in a lower-priced home.

Checkered Flags 

Victory! You may have crossed the finish line. Here are some of the signs of a great prospect: 

  1. The right price

Know what price point works within your budget. You can get a quick overview using an online monthly payment calculator and affordability calculator. Rely on an experienced real estate agent to provide neighborhood comparison prices and give you their expert opinion on the price of the homes you like. When budgeting, don’t forget to factor in things like average utility costs, taxes, and HOA fees.

  1. Excellent location

Spend time exploring and researching the area.

  • Is it safe?
  • Are the adjacent properties well maintained?
  • Is it a good commuting distance to work or school?
  • Does it have the shopping amenities you like?
  • Is it in a good school district?
  1. Great condition

While it’s always recommended that you get a home inspection, there are things that you can preliminarily judge for yourself. Are these house features new or great shape?

  • Roof
  • HVAC
  • Landscaping
  • Kitchen and bathroom fixtures
  • Appliances
  • Electrical systems
  • Flooring
  • Paint
  • Doors and windows
  1. Meets most or all of your “must-haves” (non-negotiables) list:
  • Preferred number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • The type of outdoor space you want
  • A good layout
  • Proper square footage
  • The style of home you prefer
  1. Long-term compatibility

It’s important to consider your current lifestyle needs, but also think about the future when thinking about a home purchase.

  • Is the house the right size to last a long time?
  • Is it in a location that is ideal for your lifestyle?
  • Is there room for adding on if needed?
  • Is there space for storage?

Checking out a home online is a great way to start your search and begin your research, but having the expertise of a good real estate agent on your side can save time, money, and effort.

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