Beware of These Red Flags During Your Next Open House
As a potential home buyer, the open door stage is usually the most enjoyable. You can tour a lot of places and imagine your life in them, there are no paperwork and a bad check hasn’t ruined your dreams yet.
It is because of this optimistic mood that it is so important to keep your sanity during the open house. Some red flags announce themselves the minute you walk through the door (or even before). Here are five to keep in mind.
Unusual viewing schedule
Open houses usually take place on weekends, and for good reason: most people have free time on Saturdays and Sundays. If the house is only open for viewing, for example, on Tuesdays from 10 am to noon, something is probably wrong. Maybe something very noisy or otherwise unpleasant happens during normal viewing times, and the seller is hoping you’ll like the house enough to buy it without asking what’s going on on the weekends. By the way, you should definitely ask, and if the realtor’s answers don’t help you, try exploring the area on your own over the weekend.
An overwhelming amount of candles or a lot of potpourri or air fresheners
Making sure your home smells good is one thing, but if you walk in and are immediately attacked by several different smells, it could mean the realtor wants to cover up a terrible stink. This also applies to private rooms, especially those that are less susceptible to strange smells, such as bedrooms, living rooms and offices: if all the candles and Febreze are in the same room, you have to wonder what they don’t want you to smell.
Of course, bad smells don’t necessarily indicate deal-breaker problems like mold, water and smoke damage, or an underground full of skunks. Perhaps there was something clumsy in the refrigerator recently that you plan to replace anyway. But the nose knows what they say, so always trust yours. (And if your sense of smell is not too good, take someone with you with a more sensitive sniffer.)
The whole point of an open house is to see the entire property so you can decide how interested you are in buying it. If some areas are closed during viewing, this is a very bad sign. While it’s entirely possible that sellers are just using a random closet as short-term storage, it’s also possible that no-go areas are someone’s brilliant idea to hide serious security risks.
Realtors spend a lot of time and effort on decorating and preparing properties for sale. Sometimes they do painstaking work, but sometimes their efforts are as good as the infamous “special” school of reconstruction: structural problems and visible damage cease to exist as soon as you paint over them. Here are some common decor quirks to look out for:
- Fresh Paint: No one wants to sell a house with chipped paint, but fresh paint can hide a lot of useful information from buyers. Are there occasional stains of fresh paint or have only some rooms been recently repainted? You may be looking at a hasty attempt to cover up mold or water damage. Can you make out the outline of a sheet of printer paper on the freshly painted wall? This is probably done to cover up a hole that the agent hopes you won’t notice.
- Art hangs at an odd height: a gallery wall is one thing, but a random collection of artwork hung at random can hide cracks or other problems with the walls. Don’t be afraid to peek behind them to check.
- Impractical furniture placement: who would put a sofa right in the middle of the living room or an easy chair in front of the closet in the bedroom? Someone has something to hide, usually some damage to the floor.
No railings on stairs
This is a very specific red flag, but if you’re considering buying a home with a federally insured mortgage, which includes Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and Veterans Affairs (VA) loans, the property must meet certain security standards in order for your mortgage. to do it through underwriting. One of the easiest problems to spot outdoors is the lack of handrails on stairs, which the FHA and VA require for every staircase, indoor or outdoor. (This includes decks.) This is a common enough problem that it often pops up in the /r/RealEstate subreddit, sometimes even for people looking to get a regular mortgage . The next time you’re inspecting the house, look out for stairs without railings – and make a note of the salespeople to install them so you don’t have to.