Top Home Buying Red Flags Sellers Need To Know

Real Estate Red Flags

Home Sale IssuesAs a seller, it is important to be aware of things about your home that will send potential buyers running. These red flags may prevent you from selling your house, leaving your property sitting on the market far too long and possibly resulting in a substantial loss of money if a sale does occur.

Many of these Real Estate issues can and should be resolved prior to putting your home on the market. Home buyers today look for “turn key” homes they do not have to involve themselves with additional time, money and effort.

Most home buyers that are going to take on your maintenance issues will look for a discount which sometimes can be substantial when they are reading to make their offer. Being well prepared prior to your home sale will eliminate many of these Real Estate red flags.

Water Penetration

One of the top home buying red flags is any kind of water intrusion. Signs of water penetration, including sagging or swollen building materials, dark stains or noticeable dampness are often indicators of much bigger problems. Water can cause wood to break down over time, but it could also lead to issues beyond the immediate area. If a buyer sees water damage, they more than likely will suspect mold could be present, possibly behind a wall – a major red flag in today’s market.

Mold infestations can spring up on, behind and in walls and ceilings, and are usually difficult and costly to eliminate. Mold can lead to potential health problems, especially in children and the elderly. When a buyer suspects mold, he or she has a powerful bargaining chip when attempting to buy. Even worse, buyers will often look elsewhere if the mold problem appears like it will be difficult to address.

A seller that fails to address water damage, and any mold that comes with it, risks a lot when putting a house on the market.

Major Exodus From The Neighborhood

Moving Out of NeighborhoodWhen buyers show up to look at a house, they pay attention to more than just the home and the lot it sits on. They also consider the surrounding neighborhood. If this neighborhood is noticeably struggling, they will want to know why, and are sure to consider it a negative when weighting their options.

A large-scale departure of residents could point to a number of serious problems. Environmental issues, crime or an exceptionally low rate of employment are all troubling for potential buyers. If so many people are leaving, why bother moving into the neighborhood in the first place?

Sellers selling in such a neighborhood better be ready to take a hit on the price of their home. Home owners rarely pick up and leave as a whole unless problems are unlikely to resolve themselves – leaving buyers will ample reason to consider other properties in better neighborhoods. If the exodus is just a coincidence which often times is the case be prepared to explain why your neighbors are moving. Is it a transient neighborhood where lots of relocation’s are common? Make sure the buyer knows this!

Electrical Issues

A reliable electrical system is more important in a home than ever. With more and more electronics becoming a necessity, buyers want an electrical system that is up to code and that can hold up to modern demands. If the wiring is old enough, such as with knob and tube wiring, an outdated electrical standard, also makes it difficult to get insurance or even a loan.

Double tapped circuit breakers and old, potentially faulty wiring might have been sufficient in the old days, but it will send today’s buyers off and running to make a list of repairs they will ask you to make.

Bad Smells

Home StinksNothing is as unappealing as a bad smell, either inside or outside of the home. Buyers need to be able to imagine themselves living new lives in their new home – an image that quickly turns sour when an unpleasant smell is present. Whether from garbage, pets or any other source, bad smells need to be eliminated by sellers before the house ever goes up for sale.

This is one reason why real estate agents recommend a professional carpet cleaning before showing a home. It takes care of both unsightly stains and potential smells – well worth the expense to help sell a home.

Don’t ignore this red flag. We all get immune to the smells in our homes. If your Realtor walks through the door and tells you there is a problem trust them! Awful smells are one of the top reasons buyers will not purchase a home they would actually consider otherwise. The fear is that they will not be able to get rid of the odor after buying the home. This is especially true with pet odors and smoking. Both of these things can get into flooring and walls. Buyers understand they are very hard  to eliminate and won’t want to be saddled with that burden.

Painting One Wall Or Ceiling

Some sellers know they need to eliminate signs of water damage or leaks before showing their home. Unfortunately, the seemingly quick fix of painting over the problem is usually detected by buyers and their agents. A quick coat of paint is no solution.

Water damage needs to be repaired professionally to ensure that no mold is present, and when repairs are finished, all walls in the room should get a fresh coat of paint. This will avoid the suspicious single painted wall and the questions that come along with it.

Structural Wall Removal Evidence

Removing a wall that is important to the overall structural integrity of the home is never advisable. However, if it has already been done, and your home has not experienced structural issues then the evidence of removal should be eliminated completely. Even if the removal was successful, buyers may not be happy to discover the changes. If this change has created a potential problem it should be disclosed to a buyer up front.

The one red flag you never want to have is doing things to conceal prior problems. If you do this there will be a total lack of trust from the buyer moving forward. They will look over your home with a fine tooth comb to make sure you are not hiding any other issues.

Bug Damage

Bug Dmage in HomeSigns of bug damage, such as termite evidence, make buyers nervous. Everyone knows that where there is one bug, there are many, and no one wants to buy into a major bug problem. Sellers should always repair any bug damage fully before showing their home to avoid scaring off potential buyers.

Almost every home is going to have some kind of bug especially if you are in close proximity to woods. For example carpenter ants are very common to be found in homes.  Preventing an ant problem becoming something of a concern is usually pretty easy. There are many pest companies that can be hired for yearly pest maintenance programs.

Radon Issues

Radon is a potentially deadly gas when you are exposed to  it over the course of many years. Radon is found in all homes but if the levels are found high enough they can become a health concern. Most of the time it is possible to eliminate it or at least lower the concentrations to safe levels, but doing so requires the help of a professional. Buyers do not want to purchase a home filled with a deadly gas, so any radon issues should be dealt with far before the house ever goes up for sale.

Some sellers of course do not take the time or effort to check and do not discover they have been living with unsafe radon levels until a buyer has gone ahead and done an inspection.

What is really interesting is that radon is discussed as an issue in Real Estate sales quite a bit from the stand point of being found in the air but what many do not realize is that radon can also be found in well water. While removing radon from the air is fairly inexpensive, removing radon from water is not. The average cost of removing radon from air runs around $900-1200 dollars while a system for removing it from the water can run upwards of $5000!

During a recent Real Estate transaction I was involved with in Upton Massachusetts, it was discovered that the radon levels in the well were above the requirements. The buyer of course wanted the seller to take care of remediation. The seller was none too happy to find out he would have to take a significant amount of cash out his pocket for this repair. Reluctantly the seller agreed to take care of the radon issue as the buyer would have backed out of the sale otherwise.

There are no federal regulations in place that require a seller to remove radon from a home but buyer’s expect to be able to purchase a home that does not pose a health threat to their family.

Failed Septic System

Septic System FailedAll buyers want a healthy and functional septic system. Few want to get into the details of the septic system if they do not have to, and even fewer want to spend serious money on a home when there is a chance that the septic system will go out on them. If you have always been fortunate enough to have municipal sewer at your past homes, you need to understand a septic system needs proper maintenance and care.

One of the biggest disappointments that home buyers discover when purchasing a home with a septic system is the fact that it is not recommended to have a garbage disposal. This can be a major inconvenience when you have gotten used to having one. Garbage disposals can take years of life out of a septic system as the food does not break down quick enough and clog the leach field.

Shoddy Maintenance

While many DIY home repair enthusiasts do good work that meets code requirements and will last for years, many others discover that they are not quite as talented as they first imagined. Repairs that are obviously second-rate are undesirable, because buyers know they will have to fix such problem areas on their own dime.

This kind of shoddy home owner work is often discovered once a buyer does their home inspection. While the above are common home sale issues there are other home sale problems that do not crop up quite as often but should not be ignored. Keep all these common real estate red flags in mind when selling your home and you are likely to be far more successful.

Other Articles Worth Reading on Home Selling Issues

Use these additional references to make sure you do not have any of the common home buying red flags. If you can eliminate these problems before hand you stand a much greater chance of having a smooth real estate transaction.

About the author: The above Real Estate information on top home buying red flags sellers need to know was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 28+ Years.

Thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.

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  1. says

    Great highlight of the fundamental issues that impact both buyers and sellers. Well Done, and the great photos will make this a fun article to share with clients. Thanks for the great work!

    • says

      Thanks Dan this article was an enjoyable one to write and of course putting together the graphics is always fun. There are many sellers that do not think of these issues and they come as a complete surprise when they surface. A well educated client is always better to deal with.

    • says

      Thanks Wayne! I actually have HOA covered under another article I have written about all the questions you should ask before buying a condominium. You are right on the money!

  2. says

    As a professional home inspector in NY I would love to see a home where sellers have spent time and money addressing the issues you point out before the inspection process. Pre-Sale inspections are something everyone selling a home should have done if they want to sell for the best price possible with the least amount of hiccups along the way.

    • says

      Alan I agree with you – a pre-sale home inspection can be a great investment for a seller. There are a lot of items that could be taken care of before the home goes on the market.

  3. says

    Bill these are such good points for sellers to consider and take care of before putting their home up for sale. I try to encourage my clients to put as much into getting their house ready to sell as they can to help the process go quickly and smoothly. This will be a great article to share with them. Thanks!

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