Category Archives: home tour checklist

10 Red Flags That Should Make Every Home Buyer Nervous


dream house to tour with potential red flagsWhen you’re touring a potential home for sale, try not to fall in love with the property until you’ve completed the full home tour.  What looks like a flawless home can turn out to be a money pit—if you don’t look for red flags that could signal there are problems beneath the surface.

Curled and cracked roof shingles

You don’t always have to climb up on a roof to see warped, curled, and cracked roof shingles.  Take a quick walk around the home to see if there are any damaged roof shingles visible from the ground.  If you view any roof damage, and are serious about the property, ask your home inspector to inspect the roof.  If the roof is in need of repair or replacement, your real estate agent may be able to negotiate the price to accommodate for the work.  Also beware: if a roof is damaged, there may be water damage in the home.

Water damage

A leaky pipe or roof can quickly turn into more than a just a steady drip.  With pipes running throughout your home in walls and cabinets, the problem can manifest and cause thousands of dollars in damage, including mold and decreased air quality.  As you tour the home, look for signs of water damage, such as: 1) discolorations or stains on the walls or ceiling 2) bubbling or soft drywall 3) mold 4) buckling or crumbling floors.  Another unexpected sign of water damage could be fresh paint, which the previous owners could have used to cover discolorations from water damage—without fixing the cause.

Basement flooding

Hopefully, you don’t walk into a swimming pool in the basement (though we’ve heard of it happening), but you can look for other signs that there has been water in the basement.  Instead of taking a quick peek at the basement and moving on in your tour—especially if you want to finish the basement—check for a water line, musty smell, moldy surfaces, cracks on the floor or walls, or a chalky, white powder.

Old furnace

An old furnace may go forever, or it could shut down the day after you close on the house.  You don’t have to be an HVAC contractor to check for signs of an aging furnace: corrosion, an older unit manufactured with old materials, holes, or cracks.  The good news is that the cost of a new furnace by itself is usually under $6,000 (depending on your local costs); the bad news is that there may be other costs that come with an aging furnace that could drive up your bill.


DON’T disregard any strange smells during your tour; they could be signs of a deeper problem.  Musty odors or a burning smell can signal a very serious issue.  Also be wary of the opposite problem: a home with too many pleasant smells.  Sometimes homeowners can use an excessive amount of air fresheners to cover up any odd smells that could signal there is a problem.

Electrical issues

It’s not unreasonable to check every switch and light fixture in the home during your tour.  If any of the fixtures don’t work, the home may have electrical issues that need to be addressed.  Depending on the extent of the issues, the property may need minor repair or a full rewire (which can be very costly).


You don’t have to see any creepy crawlies or rodents for a full infestation, but you can look for signs.  Droppings, odors, dead critters, nesting materials—even insect and rodent traps—can signal an infestation that you are going have to pay to exterminate.

Substandard deck

A deck is often a selling feature that’ll get you to buy; it’s also may have been a homeowner DIY special not built for the long haul.  Don’t just look at the surface of the deck.  Inspect the supports and structure of the deck for cracking, bowing, or any signs of sub-par work.


When touring a home, go the extra mile; in this case that extra mile is around several blocks.  Drive the neighborhood.  Look for well-maintained properties or businesses that could give off an unpleasant odor or cause other problems—all factors that could impact the value of your potential property and the soundness of your investment.

Cracking, shifting, or shoddy work…

If you do see any of these red flags while touring the property, and are still interested in making the purchase, make note of any issues and ask your home inspector to thoroughly inspect the problem during the inspection.  Your real estate agent can walk you through the process and resolution; though red flags can end the sale, an experienced real estate agent can inform and execute any steps needed to purchase a property with glaring red flags—or can help you walk away from a horrible investment.