Here Are 50 Red Flags Real Estate Agents And Homeowners On Reddit Are Suggesting To Look Out For When Getting A House

Here Are 50 Red Flags Real Estate Agents And Homeowners On Reddit Are Suggesting To Look Out For When Getting A House

Buying a house could easily be considered one of the most important milestones a person goes through. And yes, it’s a truly joyful experience to finally obtain your own place that belongs solely to you and/or your family, but this whole venture of trying to land a house inevitably comes with a lot of stress and things to consider. It’s so much more than simply being able to afford one—this whole process includes many important tasks such as, for example, conducting thorough research and reading up on real estate agents’ red flags in home buying.

Luckily, there are a few threads on Reddit dedicated to real estate agents and homeowners sharing the most important red flags one should definitely consider when looking for a home. With that being said, Bored Panda invites you to look through some of the most interesting tips we managed to find.


Pizza delivery no-go zones.


When you bang on the walls if you hear moving it’s probably squirrels. Source – bought house full of squirrels


Go to showings when it’s rainy as heck, then check out the basement.

This will expose any water issues with the foundation even a moron like me could see. One house I was shown had a cable run into the basement from outside at the dirt level and never sealed – so there was a stream of water pouring over the circuit breaker box onto the basement floor.

Passed on that house.


If your realtor says “built to code”, that means they made the building as crappy as legally possible.


If you are viewing houses in the winter and there are a lot of icicles on the roof it’s not properly insulated.


Fresh paint, new carpet, but nothing else updated. It’s the realtor remodel special. Just there to make you feel good on your 15 min walk through. Look at the tiles, trim, foundation to see what you really need to know. And always drive the neighborhood at night if you do not know it.


If you walk into a house and are hit by the smell of Febreeze or air fresheners…well, expect that it probably smells like dogs or smoke when that stuff wears off.

Bear in mind that a lot of agents like to burn pretty smelling candles or bake some cookies right before an open house, so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. You mostly want to watch out for it if you’re seeing it by appointment…


Is this property in a flood zone?

Just because it’s not on the water, doesn’t mean the property is flood free. Check with the county AND ask the neighbors.


As a construction guy, please please PLEASE check the attic. People buy houses and never check the actual AC. If you go up there and smell a burnt smell, or see big silvery tubes that look crumpled, those are issues.

If there is any strong smell, don’t buy. No one spends $80 on Glade plugins unless they are trying to hide something.


When I was young, my parents took me to an open house and they both loved everything about the property. Cut to us being in the half finished, half unfinished basement and my mom has gone into the unfinished part, which has insulation completely put up around what would be exposed foundation concrete bricks. She finds a seam in the insulation and, ’cause that’s who she is…pulls it back a little. My dad is in the middle of saying “dont do that, you’re being rediculouse” when she interrupts him to tell him to have a look. Huge crack in the foundation running from the floor, diagonally across the entire foundation and up to the ceiling.

Dad told the realtor, who was pissed. off. The owners never told her…which you are supposed to do.

TLDR: exposed insulation installed along unfinished foundational wall may = crack in the foundation. otherwise known as…never get upset at a nosey wife while looking at buying a house.


Not a realtor, but viewed many homes before buying — couple things I ran into a lot.

1. Lots of incense/fresheners usually means they are trying to cover up something.

2. Inspect the paint, a ridiculous number of people throw on new paint prior to listing, but do a shit job and just paint over damage.

3. Houses built pre 1930 (In US/CA anyway) can be beautiful, but might as well say ‘here be dragons’ when trying to find problems.

4. If the place has renters/tenants that don’t want you to view — they may end up being a pain later, especially if you need to get rid of them.

5. Put a marble on the floor and see where/if it rolls.


For the love of god check your cell phone signal in the house. I just moved into a new house and I have one bar on the second floor if i stand on a chair.

Turns out there’s only one cell tower to serve the surrounding neighborhood of 200+ houses and since it’s next to a neighboorhood of million dollar homes they can’t get the approval to put in another one so I’m SOL.


Night trains and flight paths


Whether you get enough sunlight. Lived in an apartment that was shadowed by other apartments and trees on the other side. Barely got any sunlight. And it was always so cold.


When the sellers have stuff hung on the walls in places no one would EVER hang stuff, they may be covering up damage from a decade-long termite infestation.

Source: bought a house where the sellers had stuff hung on the walls in places no one would ever hang stuff, to cover up a decade-long termite infestation.


When you see even the family of 10 rats moving out as well


My Grandfather sold Real Estate for decades. The 1st two things he looked for was the roof and the furnace. If either were too old or looked like a possible replacement was needed soon then it’s something to consider (most first time home buyers can’t afford to replace in first couple years, and many older homeowners would rather not either).


Speaking from personal experience – look out for a seller who likes to do DIY home improvements. Sure,those cabinets etc look OK but you are in for a lifetime of shitty problems! For example, the DIY kitchen cupboards all have awkward and poorly sealed gaps which became the scene of a mouse and cockroach infestation. Had to rip it all apart to figure that out. NEVER ever buying a home from a DIY dipshit again! almost 10 years later and we still regularly find a new catastrophe caused by his DIY projects !!


If they don’t let you see a particular room / attic, basement etc for some excuse.


Incense, essential oil diffusers, “put vanilla essence in the oven before the inspection” and other masking smells. Also known as “This house has a mould issue”.


Realtor here.

Grading. Hands down. Or, the angle at which the ground slopes at the foundation of the house.

If the ground slopes towards the house, then that means any rain is just going to be funnelled right up to your foundation, and can cause some big problems.

Extra caution if it is sloped concrete, like a driveway, cause that means either mudjacking or jackhammering, both labour and cost intensive.

Seriously, when you’re looking at a house do a walk around the perimeter first. Could save you tens of thousands and Future Foundation problems



Look for efflorescence (white ring from water) on any concrete, stone or brick. Also look for any cracks that are larger than 1/4 of an inch. Look for lifted shingles, popped nails or any damage to the roof. You can make a good guess at the age of a shingled roof by looking at the space between the tabs or on architectural shingles the amount of grit left on the shingles. Also on a brick or stone house push on the exterior walls hard. A lot more houses than you think have a wall that will move. And look for small holes that have been filled spaced evenly around the house (evidence of termite treatment).


Check all your windows, if there is any condensation buildup or evidence of previous condensation they have probably lost their seal. If there are air fresheners anywhere be suspicious, look for them in the vents if the vents are in the ceiling. If they are present they have possibly had water issues in the ductwork. Also if the house is on a slab look in the ducts in the slab to see if there is water or any evidence of water. Look for rust on the water heater and the breaker box.


Plug in the address to the state/local Sex Offender Registry. Nothing worse than finding out your new family home is 2 houses away from a violent pedophile.


signs of water collecting or damage; windows (age, quality); radon test, indoor air quality assessments; is the home in a flood zone and what is the historical data regarding floods and other catastrophic weather events (not covered by traditional homeowners insurance so this is a cost to consider in addition to overall risk)– maybe these arent subtle but rather less often thought of items that lead to the most expensive and / or catastrophic outcomes


If the upstairs and downstairs have different corners, like rounded bullnose upstairs and square downstairs, the basement probably wasn’t finished by the builder. Make sure and check whether the basement finish was permitted. If not, you can’t be sure everything was done according to building codes.

Likewise if you find windows in the basement that have metal frames with levers to detach them, those are construction windows. Most professionally finished basements will replace those with nicer windows, perhaps with vinyl frames. Sometimes this means the homeowner finished the basement and was trying to cut costs and corners.

Open every door and window in the house to see if any stick at the top or sides, which may indicate settling problems.

Look for changes in drywall texture. Drywall texture is tricky to match well. It may be an indication there was water damage, or excessively rough inhabitants, or an addition was built on.


If the house has been on the market a long time and there is only 1 picture…good chance it needs gutted.


Not an agent but I can tell you read the termite paperwork very carefully. I bought a house full of termites that came with paperwork from an exterminator. All they would do is retreat. It took three re-treatments to get rid of them and I had to pay to replace a lot of wood myself.


Not a real estate agent.

But the real estate agent is a red flag you should look out for when buying a house. Take what they say with a grain of salt, they have an interest in you buying the house.


Visit the neighborhood late at night. Drive around the surrounding streets and see how comfortable you are with it.

Check your phone coverage when inside the various rooms.


Highway noise. I’m 1000 feet from one and it’s so fricking loud.


Look out for movement around the bays of older houses, the foundations are not dug as deep around bay windows.

Roofs last around 80 years, know where in it’s lifespan your roof is.

You can cover most things with indemnity insurance.

Woodworm, mould, infestations and damp are all caused by an imbalance of humidity. Correcting the humidity is the answer – not spraying everything with chemicals.

If you find the house desirable then someone else in the future will too – even if it’s next to a busy road or whatever. You can sell anything so long as it’s correctly priced.

Look at other houses on the street to see what planning permission has previously been given to others – this sets precedent that you will be able to do the same.

Insist on ‘vacant possession’ when buying – you don’t want to inherit an attic full of someone else’s crap.


Did the homeowners bother to clean for the showing?

If you walk into a dirty house they are actively trying to sell, the sellers are likely neglecting lots of basic upkeep on appliances, the yard, etc.

Look for any signs of DIY or cheaply finished projects; if you can spot it done poorly on the outside it is probably worse where you can’t see it.

Ikea cabinets in the kitchen are also a red flag for me; they are cheaper and easier, meaning someone was not invested in the longevity of the work or they weren’t all that handy. Fine for a starter-home, or if you want to gut the kitchen anyway, but not good for somewhere you plan on living for 20-40 years.


If they tell you the roof was just redone, ask how much it cost.

If it seems like too good of a number, chances are they brought in some unlicensed workers who just put a new roof over the old rotting roof, meaning in about 8 years your roof will be rotting and leaking again and then you’ll have to pay to have TWO roofs removed AND all new decking installed, because that shit is for sure gonna rot with an entire extra roof on top of it.


Get a glass of water as soon as you get in. If it smells bad or is non drinkable. Nope out


I’d like to add that if there is a basement check the floor joists for the 1st floor. One house I looked at was a great house however it was sitting on an old stone foundation with no vapor barrier or anything between itself and the floor joists. The joists were rotted at both ends, to the point where you could push your finger through. Two stories of house were sitting atop these so its a serious issue.

Guess who had an inspector tell them it was a problem when they originally bought the house? Guess what wasn’t on the sellers disclosure? Guess who played dumb? We finally got them to give up their inspection report (after two weeks) which outlined the issue. Don’t trust sellers.

Real estate agent sort of played dumb, too. Noped out of that house real quick.


Be extra careful if the house used to be rented out. We bought a house that was rented out the year before we moved in, and it was RIDDLED WITH BEDBUGS. The inspector will not check for this. It cost us thousands.


An inspector taking only an hour or two to look at the house


Be sure to test all appliances that are staying with the house. Ice maker, dishwasher, microwave, garbage disposal, stove, washer/dryer, etc. Nothing worse than spending so much money to get into a house only to realize half the appliances don’t work properly. Also, be sure to visit the house multiple times from the time you are under contract until closing day. Check out the house and yard when it’s raining, scope out the neighborhood in the evening when all the neighbors are home, try to drop by on Saturday or Sunday mornings to see which neighbor is mowing their grass at 8am. When going to initial showings, make sure the house doesn’t have any strong odors (pets, cigarettes, etc.). My boyfriend and I are both realtors and you’d be surprised how many people genuinely believe that smells can just be aired out. I’ve seen a lot of clients have to completely replace all the floors in their new house because of animal urine.


Along with the advice to go during the hours you’d normally be home, make sure to check local crime stats if they’re offered in your area. We found a wonderful little starter house, neighborhood was iffy but not terrible, really quiet every time we visited. Asked about crime in the area and the realtor told us they legally couldn’t answer that. We looked it up ourselves on an open source crime database and found out that robberies were super common on the street and that a car had been stolen from the house we were looking a year prior and then again six months prior.


Light bulb won’t turn on get a new bulb and check again.

Bought a house with bad wiring


Not a REA, just a homeowner.

Red Flags:
If you hear “foundation work”, flee, no matter the warranty. Same for foundation cracks and patches and unlevel anything.
Check the outside wiring, especially the incoming cable/telco. If it’s frayed/patched/worn it will affect everything coming in on it.
Fuse panel, particularly on older homes.
Aluminum wiring in 70s-80s vintage homes.
Make sure the current owner can show you all traps and cleanouts for the plumbing and that they work.
Consider hiring your own inspector, do *not* trust that one hired by either agent will be in your court.

Those are the major ones, IMO.


Always check the basement ceiling for mold. It will probably be black. This shit is deadly and extremely expensive to deal with. Do this especially if you see a de-humidifier in the basement.


if you walk in and the house smell is just OVERPOWERED by nice “smellys”.

Air fresheners, incense sticks etc.

They are probobly trying to a hide a smell that is more permenant.


Water marks are never a good or even a neutral sign.


Don’t street appraise a house. A good looking front is a plus but you should be looking at the whole package. I’ll personally buy the worst house in the best neighborhood every time. Crappy neighbors are the worst.

Look for too many cars parked on the street at night. Are kids playing outside?(if yes it’s probably a relatively safe area). Are the neighbors lawns cut? Location, location, location.


I’m not a realtor but base off experience, may want to stay away from For Sale by Owner. They don’t always disclose everything up front. I was in the process of purchasing a manufactured home, everything seem to be going ok until the appraisal went through. We found out he had moved the house from one spot of the lot to another which made the house not eligible for finance loan. He didn’t want to release the earnest money check back to me and threaten to bring in his lawyer. Only when I said I would go to court to fight for it he gave up, we also found out he had had 7 previous fail contracts with the house. The thing that sucked was I lost close to $1,500 in inspection/appraisal fees


REALTOR here. There are a lot of subtle things, try using a professional if you can. In VA where I am buyer representation is free. Barring that, age of HVAC, roof, permits for additions, things staged in a way that looks odd (possibly trying to cover something), black spots on the Plywood of the roof, piles of sawdust or patterns in the wood (insects), sagging dry wall or water anywhere it shouldn’t be, visible cracks on brick/concrete, priced really competitively. None of these are necessarily a no go, but they are things that need to be looked into by a professional.


When a ghost who inhabits the house casually introduces himself.


I always look around the floor of the basement, usually you can tell if there has been standing water down there. Obvious signs are: A ‘ring’, like a high water mark. It can be difficult to see if there has been some cleanup(i.e. cover-up) done, but you can usually tell on the back of the stairs or someplace else inconspicuous.

If there is anything metal down there, like a shelving unit, and the legs are all rusty.

If there are lifted or missing tiles, particularly if it’s in a low spot or around a drain.


A simple test I learned when home shopping. Take a golf ball with you. Go to the open floors and place it on the ground. If that ball starts rolling in different directions, your foundation is off kilter. Were talking in the tens of thousands of dollars to fix. Nope right on out of there.

This content was originally published here.

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