When inspecting a prospective new home, it’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs that the house has irreparable issues. While there are common warning signs of a bad deal, there are also a variety of ‘sneaky issues’ that can fly relatively under the radar.
We asked our agents what they tell their clients to look out for when searching for a new property. What they came back with was advice on not only physical issues in a home but also common things to avoid during the home buying process.
Your agent should be educating you on the following pitfalls, but just in case they aren’t, here are our top 10 things to avoid when purchasing a home.
1. Don’t compromise because of a time crunch. Avoid making compromises due to a time crunch, says Austin agent Matt Witte. "It's a huge investment, don’t settle for a property you don’t like just because you have to be out of your current home soon. If you need to Air BnB for a month, that’s better than ending up in a neighborhood you immediately want to leave.” Take the time to get to know the community, inspect the house thoroughly, and make sure your purchase is the right one.
2. Avoid online lenders. A popular new option available for home buyers is the online lender. However, many agents would advise you not to use them. “Some experiences my clients have had include the actual rates and fees being higher than what was advertised,” says Broker Seth Thompson. “Also, since there was no local person to connect with, communication from the lender was lacking, and several transactions did not close on time. Instead go with a local lender, credit union, or get a recommendation from your Realtor®. It's important to select a lender that will not only give you a good deal but also be able to get the loan closed.”
3. Avoid homes that need too many updates. While a fixer-upper can be a fun challenge, many people underestimate the costs involved with doing a complete renovation. “I'd watch out for homes that need major updating,” says Dallas agent Mike Williamson. “It could get very costly, and often it’s a lot of work.” Unless you have someone who has experience flipping houses on your team, it might be best to avoid a house that needs too many updates.
4. Pretty investor flips may hide expensive flaws. Speaking of flips, nowadays it’s common to see homes that have been recently flipped, featuring granite counter tops, fresh paint, and subway tile in the bathrooms. “Be careful not to fall for enticing investor flips,” warns DFW agent Barbara Null. “They tend to hide major issues with attractive finishes.” While this certainly isn’t the case with every flipped property, it’s pretty common. If you fall in love with a flipped property, do your research and ensure that there are not major issues like mold, foundation issues, or water damage.
5. Don’t pass over a home that has easy fixes. On the flip side of the previous two issues, don’t pass over a home just because the paint color isn’t right, or a few fixtures need updating. “Try to think outside the box,” advises Austin agent Lauren Pryor. “Remember, paint and wallpaper can be changed. What's important is the layout, size, and location of your home as those are permanent.” Too often people lack the vision to see that with just a few simple, small updates you can give a house new life!
6. Know how to spot houses with visible signs of foundation issues. “Homes with obvious signs of foundation issues need to be thoroughly researched,” says Austin agent Jenn Salladay. “If there are diagonal cracks, doors/windows that won't close properly, and uneven flooring, it's imperative that a foundation specialist assess the situation. Even homes in which the foundation was repaired should be thoroughly examined to determine the condition of the plumbing and pipes.” Often, a cracked foundation is accompanied by damaged pipes which together can be costly and challenging to fix.
7. Avoid flood plains. “Be very careful when considering a home that has experienced significant water damage or is in a floodplain,” continued Jenn Salladay. “You will want to work with your Realtor® to assess the risk, research the floodplain, see if an elevation certificate is available, and find out what the flood policy premium will be. If information is not available as to how a flooded home would be mitigated, it might be best to walk away or avoid the risky purchase.”
8. Be sure the property is insurable. Adding onto the above warnings, it’s ultimately important to make sure your property is insurable. “Water damage issues can be big enough issues to prevent getting reasonable homeowners insurance,” warned Austin agent Pam Wachholz. “The ‘mold scare’ in Texas in 2000 changed the policy forms and scared a lot of Texas insurers. So, it is IMPERATIVE that during the option period, the client calls their carrier (or more than one). They should make sure they run CLUE reports to not only get accurate quotes but also be sure the property is insurable.” This will help you avoid an unfortunate situation in which your insurance is too expensive, or the home is uninsurable!
9. Don’t skimp on the inspection. While it might seem like an unnecessary part of the process for some, the inspection is one of the most important steps when purchasing a home. “New home purchases should always have an inspection,” says Austin agent Rhonda Riley. “Things that are not right can be righted before move in. Even if you’re dealing with a new build, things can get missed. Like insulation, I had a newly constructed home get inspected, and insulation was missing over an entire side!”
10. Don’t withhold information from your agents or lenders. It can be tempting to withhold information about your financial situation from your agent or lenders, but this can do more harm than good. “Buyers should avoid keeping pertinent information from their agents and lenders,” advises Dallas agent Krystal Miles. “We can't help work through an issue if we don’t know one exists! Some issues if found out too late (like job loss or change) could cost you money.”
Follow these tips and don’t forget to ask your agent what they recommend watching out for when searching for a home. You can never be too safe when it comes to a purchase this large, so ensure your home buying process is smooth and straightforward by doing your research!