Real Estate Red Flags

Murphy’s Law means that no fewer than 300,000,000 things can go wrong with a home you just bought. If you’re observant enough, you can avoid a few of them. Here’s what you need to check before you buy — feel free to call us Bob Villa!


Make sure the roof is in good condition. Check each room’s ceilings and crawl in the attic (if applicable) for any sign of leakage. Not only are roofs themselves crazy-expensive to replace, but a busted one lets in the elements, which rots away at your interiors. As well, a shoddy roof job can mean a shoddy insulation job, meaning all your bought-and-paid-for climate control is literally lost in the breeze. Check for proper gutters, as well.


Coastal property? Coast in with your high beams on looking for water damage and leaks. Speaking of leaks, look under sinks and around washer hookups. You really don’t want any symptoms of mold and previous water damage that wasn’t properly repaired.


Be on the lookout for bad yard drainage. You don’t want an impromptu lake hanging around and turning the yard into a mud-bogging track. Check the property for large trees within falling distance of the house. Regardless of how old and pretty they are, they’re a potentially fatal problem that — at their most innocuous — can mean replacing a large chunk of the house they crashed through. Additionally, be aware that tree removal isn’t cheap — especially when they’re so large.


Bring a marble and check for uneven floors. If it rolls on its own, that could be a sign of foundational damage, which is indicative of many things, improper drainage being a big one.


Pay special attention to the windows, as well. Feel for drafts or temperature anomalies while they’re closed. Open and close them to be sure they’re functional. Lastly, make sure they lock securely.


Visit the neighborhood at night to check for shady activity. Things can change in a moment and appear … well, you know the saying … like night and day. Another potential interest to you is to head to the nearest grocery store. Those folks will give you a good idea about the neighborhood.


Pull up area rugs to check for floor damage. Ditto moving furniture and large appliances. If you’re going to buy it, you have every right to know what’s over/under/behind/beneath every square inch.


If the house has had unpermitted work done, the permitting authority may say it needs to be torn back out. Make sure the inspector is looking for work that’s not done to code, and a permit search should be done to make sure all work was permitted. If the home inspector doesn’t do this, it’s a good idea to go down to the city yourself and ask for the permit history.


If there are any DIY-type additions to the house, make sure the inspector gets in there with a fine-toothed comb. From the floors being held up by cinder blocks to exposed wiring due to amateur jobs, there are tons of rig-jobs that’ll cost you huge in the long run.


Test the heating and central air by placing your hand in front of each vent. Check for how long it took to reach hot and cold, and if the vent blows decently. The same goes for faucets — especially the showers.


Scout out the neighbors! Few things make home a living hell than crappy neighbors.


Beware of real estate agents rushing you through rooms. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be. If every other house in the neighborhood is out of reach, but your potential new one is modestly priced, you’re going to want that inspector in there like a bloodhound on the trail for reasons why.