Category Archives: house tour red flags

Red Flags to Look for During a House Tour


house tourWe see it: you’re captivated by the winding staircase or the open layout during the house tour. You love the big yard and the beautiful trees. But are you looking beyond the aesthetics as you tour the home? Do you know what red flags to look for during a house tour, so you don’t have to pay for the previous owners’ delayed maintenance or improper repairs? Undoubtedly, the location, layout and everything else on your ‘must have’ list is important, but are you looking at the whole property during your house tour? What lies behind those walls?

One way to spot, and deal with, red flags is to hire a real estate agent. A real estate agent can help you spot red flags during a house tour based on past experience. They’ve seen fixer uppers and damage at other properties and can help you find the most obvious signs during your initial tour:

Curled and cracked roof shingles. Do a visual inspection of the roof. If you see curled or cracked roof shingles, or missing shingles, take that as a red flag. Look for water damage inside the home, in case the deteriorating roof has allowed water in. While a damaged roof is a red flag, don’t panic. If you still are interested in the property, there are ways to deal with this red flag after the home inspection is completed.

Signs of water damage. Are there discolorations or stains on the walls or ceiling? Is the drywall bubbling or soft? Look for signs of water damage during the house tour, especially in the bathrooms and kitchen. Be aware, though, that water damage can be in any room and on the walls and ceilings. In extreme cases, a long-term leak can also lead to mold in the walls or attic, so have your home inspection check for any signs of mold in the drywall (as much as possible, anyway, without opening the walls).

Water in the basement. Most likely, you are not going to walk into a pool of water at the bottom of the basement stairs, but look for signs that water has been in the basement. Signs of water in the basement include staining, bubbling or soft drywall or a musty smell. If the previous owners do disclose a water problem in the basement, ask what was done to rectify the problem. Make sure the water was properly cleaned up, drywall was bleached or replaced and repairs were made (such as a sub pump installed) to prevent the water from coming in again.

Furnace age. The furnace may not be the most beautiful part of a house, but it is one of the most important parts of your home—and one of the most expensive appliances to replace. In addition to replacing the furnace, an impromptu breakdown can cause pipes to freeze. Ask what the age of the furnace is and what kind of fuel it uses.

Smell. Trust your nose. If you smell a musty smell or a strange odor, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Has there been water in the basement? Have the air ducts been cleaned? Is there a gas leak?

Electrical issues. Test the switches in the home. If switches don’t work, you have flickering lights, see burned or dangling wires, ask the home inspector to look into possible electrical issues.

Remember a real estate agent is not a home inspector, though they can help you be on the lookout for red flags during a house tour. If you are serious about the home, put an offer in on the property. When the offer is accepted, hire a home inspector to get an in depth examination of the property by a professional so you don’t get stuck with a “money pit” home (among other valid reasons for a home inspection). Your real estate agent can suggest home inspectors they have worked with in the past. Don’t panic if the home inspection hits a few snags, your real estate agent can walk you through your options. That’s why you have a real estate agent: to guide you through the house tour, explore options that can take care of those red flags and get you into the right home.