• Sarah Lipkowitz

Red Flags To Look Out For When Buying A House

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Recently, I took some clients to see a vacant property. The apartment was completely void of all furnishings, with the exception of one rug awkwardly placed in the corner. The clients chuckled and shrugged it off as a poor attempt to liven up an empty room, but something irked me. I pulled back the rug and, sure enough, the hardwood had water damage from a leaking A/C unit. Though the issue could have been completely cosmetic at that point, it definitely soured their opinion of the home and automatically made us distrustful of the listing agent and the seller. Unfortunately, this is not the only story I have to this effect. It isn’t uncommon for major issues to be swept under the rug hoping that they might escape a buyer’s notice. Now, I’m not saying that every quick fix and cover up is the result of an unscrupulous real estate agent. Clients don’t always disclose what work or“redecorating” they have done to a property. Regardless of who is to blame, it is always worth paying close attention to the little things when looking at a property.

Check under/behind suspiciously placed items. Please don’t go around tearing up people’s properties. If you see a potential red flag, investigate further…WITHIN REASON. Lifting up the corner of a rug is one thing, sliding a dresser across a hardwood floor is quite another. Odds are, there will be other clues that you will need a really thorough home inspection. Truthfully, if you have any doubts or misgivings you should not place an offer forgoing inspections contingencies.A very competitive spring market often pushes buyers to do just that only to find that they regret it upon move-in.

Observe the fixtures. The light fixtures, doorknobs, faucets, and other hardware can tell you a lot about how well a property has been cared for. Look for exposed wires, loose doorknobs, broken faucets, and peeling caulk. Though these repairs should be simple, they may be indicative of owners that have not properly addressed other, more serious issues. There are many homeowners who care little for aesthetic, but take great care of the systems in their home. After all, big ticket items like HVAC and the roof are often the most expensive repairs. That being said, the little things may amount to something larger so be vigilant.

Make note of the new paint. A fresh paint job is one of the least expensive ways to update a home before it hits the market. Many a realtor will recommend this easy update, but beware that paint can cover a multitude of sins. Mold and water damage can be masked for a short while with paint. I know of someone who bought a home only to find a short while later that a serious and long-standing leak had been craftily covered up. So new paint isn’t usually something to be wary of, but if you notice the only room that has been painted happens to be beneath a bathroom, then you may have cause to be suspicious.

Look out for Band Aids. Is it thrift or is it aBand Aid? Not everyone can afford to go all out updating their home and there are plenty of ways to make updates on a budget, but you should always be on the lookout for Band Aids that might be covering up serious underlying issues. Band Aids may come in the form of paint, new appliances, or fancy staging and you need to be able to tell the difference between cover ups and updates. When in doubt, hire an inspector.

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