Red Flags to Look for When Shopping for a New Home

Buying a new home is an exciting prospect. Touring a house can feel like walking around your favorite store, picking out all of the things you love. It’s easy to get distracted by things like fresh paint or nice furniture and forget to look for important structural aspects of the home that can make or break a deal.

Most sellers will be honest and straightforward with you about the state of the home. In some cases, they are required by law to inform you about costly issues with the home (lead paint or sewage issues, for example). Other times, a seller is under no legal obligation to inform you about potential problems with the home. In these instances, you’ll need to rely on your own senses. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten red flags to beware of when buying a home.

  1. Fresh paint 
    It’s common practice when selling a house to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. It’s an inexpensive way to spruce up the home for potential buyers. Sometimes, however, the paint is used as a quick fix for hiding more serious issues. Water damage, mold, and mildew can all be covered up, momentarily, by a coat of paint.
  2. Strong odors
    We say “strong” rather than “bad” odors because sometimes someone selling a home will try to mask bad smells with air fresheners or candles. Bad smells in a house can be the result of plumbing issues, humidity, indoor smokers, water damage, pet urine, uncleanliness, and any number of undesirable things.
  3. Bad roofing
    Missing, broken or stacked shingles are all signs that the roof is in need of repair–a costly fix you probably want to avoid if buying a new home.
  4. Cracked foundation
    A damaged foundation could be a sign of serious structural problems with the house. Especially in sloped areas, cracked foundations can lead to water damage in the basement.
  5. Poor wiring 
    Don’t be afraid to ask to test out the lights and outlets in a home or take a look at breaker boxes. Flickering lighting and faulty outlets are signs that a home is in need of electric work.
  6. Pest issues 
    Many people underestimate the power of insects when it comes to damaging a home. Wood-eating termites and carpenter ants can both devastate the structure of a home and usually results in an expensive repair. Noticing ants is a huge red flag, but if you suspect a home could have an infestation for any reason try to get it inspected by a pest control firm before you make the deal.
  7. Locked doors and off-limit rooms 
    When touring a home there should be no areas that you aren’t allowed to see. A locked door or “do not enter” sign are all red flags that the seller may be hiding something in that room.
  8. Leaking faucets
    Small plumbing issues like leaky faucets or toilets that run excessively are signs that there could be even larger issues with the plumbing in the house.
  9. Deserted neighborhood
    Multiple homes for sale in the neighborhood, deteriorating buildings and closed businesses are all signs of a problem neighborhood. It could be due to economic issues or a decaying community, but either way these are things you’ll want to consider before moving into a new neighborhood.
  10. Defective windows 
    Windows that are sealed shut, fogged up, or won’t open or close are all signs of costly repairs. You’re going to depend on windows for the security of your home, lighting and aesthetic, and to a minor degree for retaining heat. They should all function properly.

Choosing a Home Size That Makes Sense for You

When you drive through a new housing development does it seem like all of the homes are enormous compared to when you were growing up? You’re not alone. In fact, over the last 40 years, average home sizes have increased by over 1,000 square feet. In other words, you could fit an entire small house inside of the amount homes have grown in size.

Why do Americans love huge houses?

It’s counter-intuitive that home sizes should keep growing larger. Bigger houses mean higher prices, more maintenance, and more expensive utilities. To understand why, we need look no further than the automobile industry.

In spite of the fact that larger vehicles cost more to buy, use more gas, and do more harm to the environment, people still buy bigger and bigger trucks and SUVs. There are a few reasons why. One is that they can afford to (or they can at least afford the payments). Another reason is cultural. For the most part, bigger meant better in American culture–until recently.

Recently, many Americans have begun saying they would prefer smaller sized houses. That desire hasn’t entirely caught up to the people building the homes, however. And even as simple living trends and the “tiny house” phenomenon gain traction, building contractors still stand the most to gain from large houses and the people with the money to build houses continue to build big to stay aligned with the other homes in their neighborhood.

There are other obstacles in place for people who want a smaller house. Some counties around the U.S. now enforce minimum square footage requirements to uphold the building standards of the area. So, people hoping to move to a particular suburban area but don’t want a huge house might be out of luck.

How big of a home do I need?

There are a lot of things to consider if you’re buying a home. Size and cost often go hand-in-hand, but even if you can afford a larger home, do you really need the space? Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine how large of a house you really need:

  • Do I or will I have a family?
    Kids need space. They need bedrooms and places to play. The size of your family is going to be a huge factor in choosing the size of your home.
  • Do I need all this stuff?
    Many people use their homes like storage containers. Think about the last time you moved and what you brought with you. Now determine how often you used the things you brought. Odds are you have a lot of items just sitting around taking up space that you don’t really need.
  • Do I have hobbies that take up a lot of space?
    Woodworking, working on cars, playing drums… these are all examples of hobbies that call for some leg room.
  • Am I a dog person?
    Just like kids, pets tend to take up some room. Larger dogs and energetic dogs require more room, both outside and inside the house.
  • Do I have time to keep up with the maintenance?
    Bigger houses means more windows to clean, more toilets to scrub, more grass to mow… you get the idea. You might find that you’d rather have a beautiful and well-kept small home than a hard-to-maintain huge one.

Automating Your Home

What in the world is home automation?  Almost everyone knows what a timer on an outside lamp post is for, you can program your outside lights to turn on when the sun goes down and back off in the morning.  There are lots of ways to setup lighting to prevent waste and still maximize the benefit.  So what if you whole house could be managed and from one place or even when you aren’t at home?  The kids left some lights on when they left for school, and you can turn them off from your phone, with some systems.

A product known as X10 has been around for quite some time now, now there are other options.  Home depot has their own products and even Google is making contributions these days.  The whole idea is convince, for example there are products that work with the X10 system that allow you to change the lighting in your home from an iPhone or Android device, you can use this from anywhere you phone works.

Setting up a system like this can start to prove costly.  The more devices you want to control, the more expensive the project ends up, naturally.  You should also be aware some products require a moderate level of know-how in the electrical sense.  One of the most useful products is a replacement switch; changing one should always be done with care and proper precautions of course.

Spend some time and figure out what your goals are with your project, it can be as simple as putting a few outdoor lights on timers to being able to control and monitor everything in your house no matter where you are.  It’s a fun idea at the very least.