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Home Buying Red Flags

Posted 03/06/2020

In a perfect world, every home for sale would be as spectacular as its listing describes it to be. Some of them really are those dream homes, but others may have underlying issues that didn’t make the highlight reel. Before you invest in something as significant as a house, be on the lookout for these home buying red flags.

Before the Open House

What you find online can mean the difference between an in-person viewing and a pass. 

Missing Images

If a room or bathroom is mentioned, it should be included in the online imagery. Missing images are often intentional – if you are serious about the home, be sure to contact the seller about the missing images and inspect those mystery rooms when you get to the open house.

Huge Price Drops

It’s common to drop the price of a home by a few thousand dollars once a month or quarter, but a drop by a few tens of thousands is not standard. Have your realtor dig into why this happened; there has to be some reason, even if it’s only because the current homeowners want to be finished with the process faster.  

Time on Market

There are many reasons that can alter the time a house spends on the market. In general, though, a listing that stays on the market for many months or even years might indicate a problem. To get a better idea you will need to speak with a real estate agent who can give you the average amount of time houses in that area stay on the market.

Visiting the Home

Once you’ve narrowed down some of your options, it’s time to see the houses in person.

The Neighborhood

aerial view of seabrook island luxury golf courses

When you visit the house, take a look at properties and interact with the neighbors, too. Are houses nearby in disrepair? Are there a lot of houses for sale in the area? Does your potential next-door neighbor have several large dogs that you can hear barking from inside the home? If you see anyone outside, engage with them and get their perspective on the health of the community as a whole.

Drainage and Grading

When you’re serious about a home, it can be helpful to visit on a day of intense rainfall. Heavy rains can reveal areas of lower elevation and drainage issues around the home. This isn’t always an indicator of an immediate problem within the house, but it likely isn’t a good sign, either.

Unusual Smells

If the first thing that greets you when you step inside is a healthy whiff of air freshener, be wary. Just as a bad odor is a sure sign that something is amiss, a good one may indicate a coverup. If this home becomes a top contender, ask if you can visit again and request that the owners do not use air fresheners or candles beforehand.

Fresh Paint

While you’re looking around inside, be wary of random patches of fresh paint. This may be a sign that the homeowner has covered up a trouble spot.

Stains on the Walls and Ceilings

On the other hand, if there are stains that have not been covered up, this is a more clear indication that something is wrong or was wrong in the past. The underlying problem might have been fixed years ago, but definitely ask.

Doors That Don’t Fit

As you move through the home, take note of the shape of the door jambs and check if the doors close properly. Since we live on an island near Charleston, SC where humidity abounds, we expect a certain level of shifting – especially in older homes. With that said, there may be foundational issues causing doors to stick.

After the Inspection

This part assumes that you’re having a professional home inspection. Even if there are no new issues discovered in this process, what you get in peace of mind alone will more than pay for the price of the inspection.

HVAC Concerns

Your heating and air conditioning system can be one of the most expensive parts of your home. If your inspection report notes that the HVAC system is failing or approaching the end of its useful life for its location and brand, this might give you reason for serious pause. It may also be used to negotiate the price of the home down. 

Roof Problems

The roof is another major home investment. Be sure the inspection is thorough and that any issues are discussed with the seller before closing.

The home buying process is exciting, but it can be a tremendous help to have someone knowledgeable to guide you through the steps. If you are searching for Seabrook Island homes for sale or for a real estate agent, get in touch with our Seabrook Island real estate office. 

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