New Home Red Flags and How to Avoid Them
Everybody wants to get a good deal on a home, but sometimes a deal can seem too good to be true. And while everything may appear fine on the surface, there can sometimes be problems with a resale home that are not immediately apparent, or might seem minor at first but can cause big problems in the long-term.
The last thing any home buyer wants is to deal with significant repairs soon after moving into their new home.
When you understand some of the red flags that indicate potential major problems, you can save yourself time, money, and hassle by focusing on homes that don’t have obvious issues.
You should always get a home inspection to identify hidden problems, but it can cost a few hundred dollars each time. We’ll discuss this a little more later on.
Let’s look at a few of the things that could be cause for concern.
Dream Home? Not So Fast
As you tour a potential house, you think you’ve found The One. It has the right number of bedrooms. It’s in a great location. And you don’t even have to make any style changes because the owner has already made those updates for you. It looks great.
That’s where the problem might be. Anyone trying to sell a home is going to work hard to make sure it looks nice for buyers. They’ve probably even made a few repairs or upgrades. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s nothing wrong underneath the glossy look.
You need to dig deeper.
Take a serious look at all of the little details of the home as you tour it. This is a major purchase, and you need to give it your utmost thought. Sure, you get an initial “feel” from the home, but it’s important to look at everything.
Here are a few of the areas that you might overlook:
- Doors. Open and close them. Do they work properly? Sticking doors could be a sign of foundation damage.
- Cabinet Doors. Cabinets that are a bit off could be an easy fix, but it could show the homeowner has been careless about other things as well.
- Windows. Close the windows and hold a lighter flame nearby. If it flickers, there’s a draft coming from the window. This might not be a deal-breaker, but it could mean high energy costs in the winter, and window replacement can be costly.
- Floors. Walk everywhere in each room. Do you feel any soft spots? Is there an area that slopes? These could be signs of problems.
- Walls. Look for cracks. In general, small cracks could be the result of normal home settling. Large, diagonal cracks, though, can be a sign of foundation damage.
- Ceilings. Discolouration could be a sign of water damage, particularly if seen in a room that’s just under the roof. The roof may have already been repaired, but it could be something that would take a lot to fix.
- Plumbing. You might not be a licensed plumber, but you can certainly tell if something is off. Does the toilet keep running after you flush? Do the sinks drain properly? These might be small problems, or they could be big ones.
- Electrical Outlets/System. Check or ask about the electrical system. An outdated system could get easily overloaded when you need to use modern appliances, and updating the system is a costly venture. Additionally, older homes don’t always have enough electrical outlets to meet the demands of today’s families. You’ll want to check that there’s plenty of outlets in each room, but also bring a phone charger to see if these outlets actually work.
Clearly, there are a lot of things that you need to be checking on your own before you make a decision, even though you’ll be hiring a home inspector.
Other Major Red Flags
We’ve pointed out some of the areas of the house you should inspect on your own, but there are also other things you should be looking out for.
Sometimes, the homeowner knows there are problems with their home, but they try to make repairs on their own or cover up the problems. You think the house is great, but you find out that plenty is going on underneath the surface.
Be sure to check for the following red flags.
How does the cost of the home compare to other homes in the surrounding area? Someone might mark down the price of a home because they want a fast sale, but it’s usually because they know that the home has some problems. Often, they’re intentionally lowering the price of the home to account for the repairs that need to be made. For instance, if they know the home needs a new roof, they may decrease the asking price by the amount that a new roof would cost.
We’ve already mentioned how cracks in the walls could indicate foundational damage. However, if you see cracks in the basement or around the foundation on the exterior of the home, you could have a big problem. If the cracks you see are large, walk away from this home or be prepared to make some hefty repairs.
Watch out for mould or mildew smells – signs of water damage and/or mould growth. Black mould, in particular, is extremely harmful to your health. You’re likely to find mould growing in the basement, the bathroom, closets, and behind furniture that’s up against the wall. Mould remediation is costly.
Strong or Excessive Air Fresheners
Additionally, a homeowner might use strong air fresheners throughout the home to cover up smells. Sure, it’s fairly common for people to use things like wax warmers to fill the home with a nice scent during an Open House, but ask yourself whether they’re trying to cover something up. This could be mould or animal urine, or a variety of other issues.
This isn’t necessarily a bad sign! Homeowners often freshen up the walls of the home before putting it on the market. However, if you see fresh paint in patches or in an unusual location, it could be something the homeowner did to cover up some damage.
These days, you can almost always find a video on YouTube showing you how to make a necessary home repair. That doesn’t mean you’ll do a good job of it, though. If you see signs of DIY repairs in a home, especially if they’ve been done haphazardly, you may want to be wary. The homeowner could have quickly made repairs to get the home in “sellable” condition. If they’ve cut corners here, though, it could be a warning sign that they’ve cut corners in other places.
High Number of Neighbourhood Homes on the Market
At any given time, there are probably a few homes for sale in a neighbourhood. In the springtime, there may be even more. If it seems like there’s an unusually high number of homes on the market, you should be asking why. The homes in that neighbourhood may be close to something that will drive down your market value, like a noisy highway.
Long Time on the Market
On average, it takes about 53 days to sell a home in Edmonton. Some prime resale homes will go quickly, and some houses might take a bit longer to sell. But if something’s been on the market for a long time, there might be a problem with it. There’s a good chance that someone else was interested, but uncovered something wrong in the home inspection process.
Real estate agents know that homes that have been on the market for a long time start to get fewer bites. Sometimes, they’ll unlist a home, then re-list it a month or two later. To many, it will look like the home is new to the market, but if you dig deeper, you’ll see that it was already listed for six months earlier in the year. Why weren’t people interested before?
Water stains look like discolouration in uneven splotches, and you might find them on the walls, floors, or ceiling. If there are water stains, there was some type of leak. The cause of the leak may have been fixed, but you’ll need to know for sure.
What Can You Do?
Does all of this have you thinking that maybe you shouldn’t buy a house after all?
Most resale houses are going to require some small repairs from time to time. That’s just a part of homeownership.
We really just wanted to warn you about some of the signs of major problems. These are the things that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix.
No one wants to deal with those high costs, especially so soon after buying a home! You want a home that’s going to be move-in ready, with no need for immediate repairs.
That’s where your home inspection comes in.
Once you’ve found a home you like – one that doesn’t have any of the major red flags we’ve listed – you would usually make an offer on the home. However, that offer would also be contingent on a successful home inspection.
As mentioned, the home inspection will cost a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of the home and everything included in the inspection. The inspector will come out to the home – usually with you – and make note of all the things that may need repairs.
If there’s a big problem that’s going to need immediate repair, your inspector should let you know. Even better, they’ll also usually tell you about all of the little things you might need to repair down the line. For instance, they might note that the roof is 10 years old. Since most roofs last 20-30 years, you’ll know that you don’t need to replace the roof right now, but it’s something you’ll need to do in about 10 to 15 years.
If there’s a major problem, you can sometimes go back to the homeowner and negotiate the deal. You might agree to the original price but require them to pay for the repair. Maybe you ask for a discount based on the cost of the necessary repair.
In doing this, the homeowner may 1) counter with a different offer, 2) agree to your offer, or 3) refuse the deal altogether.
Finding a Qualified Home Inspector
Look for a home inspector that has proper licensure and insurance. Ideally, you want a referral from someone you trust. If that’s not possible, read reviews online of the home inspector. Your real estate agent may be able to help you.
Consider getting quotes from different inspectors, but as you look at their quotes, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples by looking carefully at what’s included in the cost. An inspector with a high cost may offer an everything-included price, while a low-cost inspector may have additional costs for add-ons, such as a chimney inspection or a more thorough pest inspection.
Property Condition Disclosure Statement
You’ll often be able to get a property condition disclosure statement from the seller. This form is supposed to require the seller to disclose any knowledge of potential problems with the home.
In most cases, the seller is honest and upfront about the condition of the home. Occasionally, though, the seller either lies or does not disclose the full truth.
While the property condition disclosure statement can be nice to have, you shouldn’t accept it in lieu of a property inspection. If it turns out that there were problems with the home, you may be liable for repairs.
We understand that it’s not easy to cough up an extra few hundred dollars when you’re about to make a big down payment, but we believe you’ll find it’s well worth the cost.
Buying a new home is exciting, and you shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of worrying about whether or not the home you choose is going to need major repairs. In fact, you don’t even want to pay for minor repairs soon after you move in. The home inspection can protect you, but there’s an even better solution: a brand new home.
New-build homes are ideal because EVERYTHING in the home is new, which means perfect condition. There will be no need for repairs, and if anything does happen soon after you move in, it’s usually covered by the new home warranty. You won’t have to pay for those repairs or any!
New homes tend to cost more than resale homes, but we think you’ll be surprised by just how affordable they can be. In fact, when you think about the way you’re able to avoid repair costs, you’re going to find a new-build home is the better deal. Even better, you’ll get to select all of your design details along the way.
Want to learn more? Take a tour of some of Sterling’s showhomes, then talk to an Area Manager to learn about how easy it is to buy a brand-new home.