As if laying down a heaping pile of cash to buy a new house weren’t stressful enough, Scott McGillivray—real estate expert and host of HGTV’s Income Property and new shows Buyers Bootcamp and Moving the McGillivrays—shares nine major warning signs that could drive the total cost of your future home way (way) up.

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The Listing Contains Red Flag Phrases

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).


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. Also look for signs of water run-off from the yard, something that could lead to water in the basement down the road.


You Notice Any Areas With Mold

Sure, mold is definitely something that can be managed, but only if you understand the source. For example, water in the basement or attic is a common breeding ground for mold, but water that creeps into less obvious spaces like carpets or air-conditioning units could mean there’s a larger problem with interior walls or structural elements.


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.

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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.


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.


The Roof Looks Like It Could Need Repairs

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.


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. 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. 


You're Required to Work With an Old-School Broker

If you decide to move forward with the sale, take the opportunity to save as much money as you can on the deal. The real estate market has changed and you don’t necessarily need to work with an old-school, traditional brokerage and pay the pricey commissions. Online brokerages like use technology-powered tools and services to give buyers more control over the transaction process and, in some markets, help you get a rebate of up to 1.5 percent at closing. (Extra money you can put toward renovations or repairs, yay!) 

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