Article | 5:18 min read

7 Warning Signs to not Buy a House


When house hunting, you’ll come across many possibilities for your dream home that are an enticing buy. Unfortunately, in the mix are homes that could easily turn into your own personal house of horrors; unforeseen repair costs, outdated electrical systems, or even a location in a flood plain. Don’t commit to a bigger home renovation project than you can afford. Review these five warning signs of when NOT to buy a house.

House with For Sale Sign in front

1. No inspection, no dice.

A major red flag when entering negotiations of a possible home purchase is when the owner will not allow an inspection. Whether they simply will not allow you to use an inspector of your choosing, or they try to coerce you into not using an inspector at all, this should immediately prompt the question: “What are they trying to hide?” Never pull the trigger on a home buy without having an inspector thoroughly examine the home. You may find that the owner has misled you on the true condition of the structure. Save yourself from being trapped into buying a money pit.

2. Neighborhood sale.

When viewing a potential house, look around the neighborhood to see if there are any other houses up for sale. If it seems like numerous homeowners have sale signs up, ask yourself: “Why are so many people selling to get out?” Investigate any reason why the current owners are performing a mass-exodus of the street. You may simply find the reason to be benign in nature. But there is the possibility you could discover that the neighborhood is about to have nearby construction, has socially or economically taken a turn for the worse, or an easement is about to go in place. Cover your bases before committing to a home.

3. Smell test.

Your sense of smell is an understated tool available to use when house hunting. It may feel odd to take a big whiff every time you walk into a room during a house tour, but paying attention to what you smell now, can save you a lot of grief later. What do you smell? Sewage, mustiness, smokiness? These are all signs that the potential home has been staged to look nicer than it actually is – smells signal a risk for: bad sewage piping, mold, damaged walls/carpet from smoke, and even pests. Maybe there’s just an overpowering scent of Frebreeze… but that should once again warrant the question: “What is the seller trying to hide?” When house-hunting be sure to follow your nose.

4. The roof is looking rough.

When you go to tour a house, one of the easiest things to overlook is the roof. You get caught up in the aesthetic of the exterior and the potential held within. Warning signs that a potential home may need a new roof are: shingle edges are curled, there are places where tiling is missing, the shingles are cracked or shattered, and upon looking in the gutters there is debris from the shingles. If the worst is confirmed, and the house needs a new roof, you may consider overlooking that fact and buying the home anyway. In that case, add roofing costs to your budget. HomeAdvisor found that the average homeowner spends approximately $6,600 to repair a roof [1]. However, the price will fluctuate depending on the size of your roof and what kind of materials are selected.

5. Put pressure on the plumbing.

When you tour a potential house, be sure to turn on and off the faucets contained in every room and give the toilets a thorough round of flushing. People may give you odd looks, but this will allow you to test the plumbing system throughout the home. Things you should watch for are: the strength of the water pressure, the water color (no discoloration or rust coming out of the faucets), and making sure the toilet doesn’t leak at the base post-flushing. If you notice water damage or leaks – but are still seriously considering the home, have a certified plumber come to inspect it. If the plumber finds multiple items that need taking care of, gauge how well those costs will fit into your budget and if it is truly worth the buy.

6. Fact check the foundation.

The foundation may not be at the forefront of your thoughts while touring a house, but it is arguably one of the most important qualities of a home. Signs of a bad foundation include cracks in the dry wall, doors not shutting properly, bowing walls, gaps around windows and doors, and flooding in the basement during rain. The symptoms of a bad foundation are expensive to repair – and unfortunately also an expensive fix. HomeAdvisor cited that the average homeowner paid between $1,856 and $6,347 in foundation repairs [2]. When touring a house look for the warning signs accompanied by a bad foundation. The homeowner will likely have taken measures to cover up the majority of damage, but there are still characteristics of the home that can clue you into the conclusion of a bad foundation. Here are some qualities to keep an eye out for: misaligned doors, cracks in the walls, sloping in the floor, and the windows are hard to open or has cracked glass. If you notice a lot of these qualities during a house tour, have an inspector take a look at the foundation before committing to the home. Depending on your budget, foundation repair may be above the bar.

7. Look at the HVAC System.

 HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. This system provides heat and cooling to your home, and can be very expensive to replace. The typical lifespan of an HVAC system is 20-30 years, depending on the brand and quality. It’s important to ask how old the system is, when it was last serviced, and what brand the system is. Some brands allow you to use generic replacement parts, which are significantly less expensive and more convenient, but other brands require you to use parts exclusive to their company, which can run pricier. 

In conclusion, consider asking for a home warranty. This will cover you in the event a major appliance fails, or you need to make repairs. Typically, your relator can include this in the contract, and see if the seller will agree to pay for the first year. This can help cover costs to your HVAC, kitchen appliances, or anything within the agreement, and will help cushion your out-of-pocket costs. 

Sellers can put a lot of pressure on homebuyers. Just make sure that you aren’t getting pushed into a home improvement projected that will put a wrecking ball through your budget.


[1] How much does a new roof cost to install, HomeAdvisor
[2] How much does it cost to repair a foundation, HomeAdvisor


The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.