10 Red Flags to Watch Out for When Buying a New Home, According to Experts

When to run away as fast as humanly possible

As if laying down a heaping pile of cash to buy a new house wasn’t stressful enough, recent research revealed that 95 percent of people uncover issues with their home after buying it. So we called on property experts, real estate agents and TikTokers alike to outline the top ten warning signs that could drive the total cost of your future home way (way) up.

Meet The Experts

  • Scott McGillivray: Host of HGTV’s Income Property and new shows Buyers Bootcamp and Moving the McGillivrays.
  •  Kyle Hiscock: Pittsford NY Realtor at RE/MAX Realty Group.
  • David Leroy: accredited plumber and owner of David Leroy Plumbing, based in York County, Pennsylvania.

8 Things First-Time Home Buyers Never Realize

1. Wordplay in the Listing

For example, “needs TLC” is a delicate way of saying that what you’ll actually need is a ton of money to make the house you’re about to buy beautiful. Or “sold as-is” is a signal that the seller knows the home has problems, but the price is non-negotiable. Other words to watch out for: “Fixer-upper” (the house is a disaster) or “all the work has been done for you” (basically, the house is a flip, so it’s up to you to inspect for shoddy workmanship).

2. The Home Inspection Failed

Well, duh, you might be thinking, but never, ever rely on the seller to disclose everything that’s wrong with the house. Mainly, because a recent survey conducted by warranty company Cinch Home Services revealed that 60 percent (!!) of sellers admitted they sold a house with an issue the buyer wasn’t aware of. Hence, why having an impartial expert come in to evaluate the property is the best way to get an honest and informed opinion before signing on the dotted line.

3. Leaky Pipes and Faulty Plumbing

“Don’t overlook the pipes,” says plumbing expert David Leroy. “Check all visible pipes for signs of leaking or corrosion. This includes the crawl spaces and basements for [damaged] pipes. If there is a puddle of water in the basement where there usually wouldn’t be, this can be a telltale sign of leaky pipes.” Leroy also mentions how important it is to inspect the toilets, faucets and showers for functionality and water pressure. “You will want to flush every toilet in the home to make sure there is adequate water pressure. Also, test all the showers’ and faucets’ water pressure and time how long it takes for the water to warm. If it takes a long time for the water to heat up, then there might be an issue with the water heater,” he adds.

4. There’s Mold

Sure, mold is definitely something that can be managed, but only if you understand the source. While water in the basement or attic is a common breeding ground for mold, it can also creep into less obvious spaces like carpets or air-conditioning units, and this could mean there’s a larger problem with interior walls or structural elements. Take it from TikToker Jade Hooper, who moved into her dream home, only to be met with a toxic mold problem that led to a two-year lawsuit. “The best thing you can do—because you can’t see mold all the time—is an air quality test,” explains Hooper in a video. Basically, you can either hire somebody to come in—or invest in an air quality pollution monitor—to test the air for mold spores that aren’t visible to the human eye.

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5. Or Any Signs Of Bugs

You might not be the only one taking up residency in your dream home. If you see bugs—or even bug traps—it might be a sign of a pest problem. Bugs can cause significant (and costly) damage, depending on what it takes to have your home treated.To that end, Kyle Hiscock, realtor at RE/MAX Realty Group, says it’s in your best interest to identify the problem before signing. “Recently, while selling a home, there were signs of pest infestation that were discovered during the home inspection….The buyer requested the seller pay to have a licensed pest inspector look at the possible issue at their expense. In the end, [the inspector confirmed there] was a [beetle infestation] on the rear of the home, which was rectified by the seller, at a significant cost, prior to closing.”

6. The Foundation Has Visible Cracks

It’s always worth it to walk around the outside of the home and check for cracks or other damage, which could mean you’ll be dealing with costly structural issues in the future. Often, cracks can be caused by structural issues—including subsidence, poor design, seasonal decay, brown plaster and water damage—which can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs down the line. “Not every crack will be cause for concern, but normally the bigger they are, the bigger the issue,” explains Kyle Mattison, property expert and TikToker known as @thatpropertyguy, in a video. “If there are cracks, look out for uneven flooring…Hairline cracks in plaster can be common, and these might just be a simple fix with filler. But when it comes to cracks, it's important to always get a survey,” he adds.

7. The Light Switches And Outlets Don't Work

Even if you don’t know the first thing about electrical work, make sure to flip on the switches and test the outlets in every room. If the lights flicker—or don’t work at all—faulty wiring could mean there are expensive, not to mention hazardous, electrical problems to come.

8. The Windows Keep Getting Jammed

Having to replace a few windows won’t blow your budget, but replacing them all isn’t cheap. Make sure you open each one and look for signs of water damage or condensation, two things that could cause interior damage or mold.

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9. The Roof Shingles Look…Off

A well-maintained roof can last up to 30 years, but if it’s been installed poorly or uses low-quality shingles, it may mean you need to replace it sooner—a cost that really adds up. Hiscock recommends looking at the keyways of the roof (AKA: the space between each shingle). “If they are spaced far apart, it normally means the roof has not been replaced recently.  Other things to check for can include loose, missing, or curled shingles,” he explains.

10. Poor Neighborhood Condition

Lastly, you want to consider how the neighborhood can affect the resale value of your home down the line. “It’s important for buyers to remember that when they’re purchasing a home—they are also purchasing the neighborhood,” says Hiscock. That’s why he recommends looking out for things like boarded-up windows/doors and a high number of vacant properties that can indicate a decline in the neighborhood. He also mentions the importance of a neighborhood’s tax rate pattern, which can speak to its current price and future value. “A trend (increase or decrease) in the tax rate can affect monthly payments, so having an idea of what the rates have done over the past several years can help predict what they will do in the future,” Hiscock explains. 

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