Skip to main content

Buying a house is a big decision. You have researched and found a knowledgeable real estate agent with which to work. What are your next steps?

Today it is more important than ever to have a home that serves your needs. How can you ensure that your time spent house hunting gets you the best results? Is it more or less space than you need? Does the neighborhood make or break the deal? Are you saving the most money?

Making a list can help put priorities in order when considering everything necessary. However, even with a list and checking off boxes, some things can be easily overlooked, but you will want to include them.

Red Flags When Buying a House

Aside from the standard things to look for when buying a house, there are several lesser-known things to keep in mind. Here are some minor details to look for when making your decision.

Foul Smells – Too Much Scent

Often, sellers welcome potential home buyers with open arms and freshly baked cookies or mulling spices simmering on a stove. Don’t let those smells distract you. The more aggressive a scent is when you walk into a home, the greater the likelihood that the seller could be trying to mask a more telling odor. If you feel overkill with candles, wax warmers, or air fresheners, take a deeper look (or sniff). Be sure to enter every single room in the home, including the basement and garage.

Take a deep whiff of every room you enter. Make a point to sniff outside too. It is challenging to fix smells that are coming from areas in the neighborhood. Check walls, ceilings, and floors for signs of water damage, pet accidents, mildew/mold, or smoke before deciding on your dream home.

Poor Tiling

Look for gaps or uneven tiles – those things can indicate a DIY job. Lazy tiling might suggest that multiple fixes have been done on a fixer-upper property. It could also mean that the work has been done by someone who isn’t in the remodeling business. You could be looking at substantial remodeling and renovation costs.

Foundation Issues

In most homes, small hairline cracks along walls or floors will be found. Those are due to the house settling as it ages. However, be aware if you see large gaps. Those could signal a more significant issue with the foundation of the house. Sticking doors or windows, cracks above the window frames, and sloping floors are other indicators of possible foundation issues. How can you tell if the floors are uneven? Bring a marble or golf ball with you and when you have the opportunity, set it on the floor and see if it rolls.

Nearby Water

The neighborhood creek looks picturesque and quaint now but won’t be so pretty when it cascades through your back door.

Pay attention to the location of neighboring creeks and lakes. Are they close to the house that you are looking to purchase? Is it close enough to cause water damage and flooding if it is near the home? Make a note to ask the seller or real estate agent if it should be a concern.

As a potential home buyer, do your due diligence. Check for watermarks and damage on the inside and outside of the house.


Mold can be a little tricky to find when walking through a home. To check for signs of mold while wandering through the house, discreetly open bathroom and sink cabinets. Then, look around water pipes and drains.

Tiny black or grey spots can indicate that a serious issue with the property may be lurking.

Concealed Water Damage

More often than real estate agents like to admit, water damage is concealed with paint. Of course, not all are guilty, but sometimes sellers will cover these damages to increase their property’s price and speed up the selling process.

Damages require money to fix, but that isn’t the real problem. The issue with water damage concealed with paint is trapped with moisture. Moisture leads to mold. Mold is high on the list of enemies to our respiratory systems and can be detrimental to our health.

Make sure to inspect kitchens and bathrooms closely, as mentioned above. Soft and warped sheetrock under windows can also signal leaks and water damage.

Bottom line – don’t just casually stroll through a potential home like you would a museum. Be attentive to these red flags during an open house. Yes, a home inspector can detect these problems, but finding them on your own can prevent you from wasting your time on a home that isn’t for you. Working closely with your real estate agent can help you find your perfect home.

Jim McInerney Real Estate is the region’s most innovative real estate company, representing spectacular properties and selective home buyers. Providing exceptional real estate services in a unique luxury market like Southern California is an endeavor we perform with professionalism, integrity, and a lifetime of local knowledge on behalf of our clients. For decades, we’ve been here to help clients either sell or find and acquire their dream home while sharing in the excitement and protecting them from the stressors of the process. Call us today; we’ve got the Native Knowledge you need!

7863 Girard Avenue, Suite 208

La Jolla, CA 92037

(858) 480-9945

[email protected]

DRE 01334502