Posted by: Elementary Property Inspections |

Here are the top 10 red flags to look for when buying a home.

When buying a home, it’s common that a buyer may be overwhelmed with many different feelings, emotions, and thoughts. This can sometimes lead to the possibility of not recognizing some very important things while house hunting. There are certain things that every buyer should be looking for when viewing potential properties. Items such as the ages of the roof, furnace, and hot water heater are just a few of the top things to look for when buying a home.

Buyers should also be looking for potential red flags in a home when they are viewing them. Some home buyers are scared away from a home relatively easy and others it can take a lot to scare them away. Many of the top red flags that buyers should be looking for are things that should not be taken lightly.

If any of the top red flags are discovered it’s extremely important that they are addressed prior to signing on the dotted line. So, what are the top red flags to look for when buying a home? Here are the top 10 red flags to look for when buying a home.

Foundation/Structural Problems

One of the costliest repairs to a home is correcting foundation problems. The foundation of a home is arguably the most important part of a home. A home with a problematic foundation can cost a home owner thousands of dollars to correct a problem.

When looking at homes, it’s important to be aware of the foundation. If the home has an unfinished basement it can be relatively easy to observe if there is any cracking in the foundation. Minor cracking may only be a sign of settling in the home, however, large cracks can be a sign of structural problems with the foundation.

If a home doesn’t have a basement or has a finished basement that doesn’t allow for you to look at the foundation, another way to tell if a home is possibly experiencing structural problems is by looking at the door frames throughout the home. If the door frames seem not to be square or the doors seem to have difficulty closing, it’s possible there could be some problems with the homes structure.

The best way to determine whether a home has foundation or structural problems is by hiring a certified home inspector to uncover and document potential issues. The home inspector may recommend additional examination by a structural engineer to provide solutions to uncovered issues.

Shocking Electrical Systems

Depending on the age of a home, it’s possible there are issues with the electrical systems. Inadequate or electrical issues need to be viewed as a red flag for a buyer. Many older homes still have older electrical panels and may contain too many circuits, or may still have knob and tube wiring, which can cause significant problems.

It’s understood most home buyers are not professional electricians, however, simple things such as turning on light switches, checking for flickering lights, and checking outlets are all good ways to tell if the electrical seems to be working properly. Elementary Property Inspections will inspect the electrical panel and test the outlets to ensure the electrical systems are not a safety concern.

Random Fresh Paint

One of the best ways to inexpensively prepare a home for sale is freshly painting. Painting a room is a rather inexpensive way to make a room feel clean and fresh. This is one of the biggest recommendations that Realtors will give to home owners prior to listing their home for sale. When looking at homes, beware of a room with only one wall or small portion of the ceiling that has been freshly painted. This should be viewed as a red flag. Why would a seller only paint a small part of the ceiling? Or only one wall? Is it possible the seller is trying to cover up a problem, which should be a cause for concern.

Pest or Insect Infestations

Depending on the area of the home, there are certain pest and insects that buyers need to be on the look out for. A severe pest problem should raise a red flag. Many pests, especially wood destroying pests, can cause damage to a home that can cost thousands of dollars to rectify. The most common pests that should raise red flags include termites, powder post beetles, and carpenter ants.

Recently while inspecting a home in Niagara, there were signs of pest infestation that were discovered during the home inspection. While not a licensed pest inspector, our report did indicate in that there was resemblance of a pest issue. The buyer requested the seller pay to have a licensed pest inspector look at the possible issue at their expense. In the end, our inspection was correct and there was a carpenter ant infestation on the rear of the home which was rectified by the seller, at a significant cost, prior to closing.

The relative cost of a pest inspection is inexpensive. This cost is worth it since a pest or insect problem can cost a significant amount of money to correct.

Amateur Workmanship, Repairs & DIYs

There are some home owners who are extremely capable of doing quality work around their home. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Lack of ability does not stop many home owners from attempting Do-It-Yourself projects around their home. Amateur workmanship is one red flag that buyers need to be on the look out for when viewing properties. It’s an extremely important consideration to make when buying a flipped property. It’s common that flipped properties are completed by “flippers” who do not have the qualifications to complete the projects properly, so it’s important to pay closer attention to amateur workmanship when viewing a flipped property.

Some of the most common amateur workmanship jobs to keep an eye out for when looking at homes include plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work. When looking at homes it is a good idea to keep an eye out for leaky faucets, toilets, missing trim work, messy electrical wiring, and other potential DIY projects. Many of these amateur workmanship issues are not discovered until a home inspection is completed on the home.

Wall or Ceiling Stains

If a seller has not attempted to cover up stains on a wall or ceiling with paint, this should still be viewed as a red flag when buying a home.

Are the stains a result from a leak in the roof? Are the stains a result from ice damming? Are the stains a result of a plumbing issue?

If there are stains on a wall or ceiling in the home, it is important for a home inspector to find out what has caused these stains. It’s possible the stains are from a prior problem that has been corrected. Not investigating a stain on a wall or ceiling can cost a buyer thousands of dollars in repairs in the future.

Poor Drainage & Grading

Water in a home is something that almost every home buyer will be terrified of. Water is the leading cause of damage to homes due to rotting or mold. Most water problems in a home are directly related to poor drainage or grading.

Poor drainage is something that isn’t always easily detected. An obvious sign of poor drainage is pooling water. If the yard of a home has mini lakes, it likely has poor drainage, which can lead to water problems inside the home. Other signs of poor drainage can include overflowing gutters, migrating mulch in the flower beds, water stains on basement walls, and cracking in the foundation.

Proper grading can make a huge difference when it comes to water problems. It is common sense that a negative grade resulting in standing water on the foundation can create water problems. It’s important that the overall grading is sloping away from the homes foundation and that water is being run-off away from the homes foundation. A relatively easy and inexpensive way to keep water away from a homes foundation is by installing gutter downspout extensions.


Like water problems, mold problems should raise red flags when buying a home. Mold can lead to major health problems, especially for young children. Mold problems are not always easily discovered, however, if a home you look at has mold problems, you need to consider whether the home is the right fit or not. There are many considerations that need to be considered to help determine whether buying a home with mold is the correct decision or not.

Mold remediation can be completed on a home; however, it can be costly. Like many of these red flags, a home inspection from Elementary Property Inspections can help discover mold problems in a home. The most common areas for mold in a home are basements and attics. Elementary Property Inspections can perform air quality mold tests to determine whether for certain a home has mold or not.


It’s not unusual that a home owner becomes immune to a foul odor. Foul odors are one of the easiest ways that a seller can kill a home sale right at the front door. When looking at homes, both pleasant odors and foul odors can both be red flags.

It’s obvious that a foul odor is something that can scare away a potential buyer in less than a minute, but, why is a pleasant odor a possible red flag? If a home has a plug-in air freshener in every outlet, a candle lit in every room, and air fresheners hanging in every room, it’s possible the home owner is attempting to cover up a foul odor. While this isn’t always the case, it’s always something that buyers need to be aware of when looking at homes.

If there are windows opened in the middle of the winter when looking at a home, it again should raise a red flag. When looking at homes, if either of these scenarios were to arise, it’s important to find out more and ask the home owner, or have your Realtor find out more. Many foul odors, including smoke, food, and pet odors, can be remedied with Ozone Shock Treatment. Elementary Property Inspections offers Ozone Deodorizing for smelly homes.

Condition of the Neighbourhood

It’s important for buyers to remember that when they are purchasing a home, they are not only purchasing the specific lot it sits on and the property itself. When buying a home, they are also purchasing the neighbourhood. A red flag that buyers need to look for when purchasing a home is a neighborhood that has an overall poor condition.

Buyers should look for things such as boarded up properties and a high number of vacant properties in the neighborhood. Choosing the right neighborhood to purchase a home in is not always easy, however, it is extremely important. Buying a home in a neighborhood that is in decline or that has significant crime problems can be a costly mistake.

Final Thoughts

Buying a home is a huge event in anyone’s life, whether it’s a first-time home buyer or an experienced home buyer. It’s critical that when buying a home, that buyers are on the look out for these red flags. While many of these red flags may not be found while viewing a home, many of these red flags are likely to be found during a home inspection, which just emphasizes the importance of having a home inspection when buying a home. To schedule a home inspection visit or call 289-686-9482.