If a real estate listing says a home is “definitely not haunted,” it may not be a great purchase. Horror movie buffs hoping to buy a home are probably already paying attention to the locations of nearby cemeteries and local legends about murderous neighbors — especially this time of year. But what about less obvious warning signs that something spooky (or expensive) could be lurking in the shadows?
These 10 red flags could tip you off to potential nightmares lurking in the home of your dreams.
- No Photos or very little description
Attention online house shopper. You can see a lot but not not everything surfing internet. And, If you can’t find interior photos of a home, you won’t be able to see the “skeletons” in the closets. It is sure red flag there’s something wrong with the house. A listing with no interior photos could be hiding problems, and there’s no way to tell upfront. This should be a major warning sign for buyers, many of whom begin their real estate searches online. Similarly, watch out for listings that offer no or very little description of the home.
A number of do-it-yourself home-remodeling TV shows make it look easy to turn a trashy into a dream home, but those half hour shows are misleading.If you’re hoping to save money by buying a “fixer” and renovating it yourself, take time to evaluate what kinds of projects you’re willing to handle and which ones would require a contractor’s help.Most buyers are comfortable with painting, flooring and possibly changing out the cabinets and vanities. Projects larger than that — such as structural problems — are often too big for buyers to take on.
- Tender Loving Care (TLC)
TLC is probably the most commonly used description for when [sellers] don’t want to say it’s a fixer. Be careful with this term when shopping your dream home. When sellers or a listing agent say it just needs a little ‘TLC’ to make the home sparkle, that means it needs a complete remodel.
- “As is” listings
Sellers often list a house for sale “as is” when they don’t want to handle any repairs that may be needed. As good as it sound based on the price, this might be OK for buyers willing to cover the repairs, but it might mean they have a hard time getting a bank to sign off on a mortgage. Even seemingly small fixes — such as a broken window or incomplete floor — could be deal-breakers for the bank.
- Cash transactions only
Like “as is” listings, a listing that specifies a sale will be cash only means the home could have some pretty serious issues. That’s one of the most useful real estate red flag things [to watch for]. This means there could be an issue with the house that may make it difficult to qualify for a traditional mortgage.
- Tenant-occupied properties
While some rental units are well-maintained by their tenants, others aren’t. Even with an attentive landlord, rental properties could have issues the owner isn’t aware of. Landlords are not going in every week to check on the condition of a rental.
Tenants aren’t going to invest the time and money required to fix things in the home, and if they don’t notify the landlord, the issues will remain and could become severe.
- Vacant homes
Homes that have been unoccupied for a long time may develop problems that would have been caught if they had a resident keeping an eye on things. Things like burst water pipes and mold can get worse if they’re not caught quickly, and they might not be noticeable in the listing or a walk-through.
- Bring your toolbox
What do you have in your toolbox? A screwdriver? A hammer, Some duct tape? You’ll probably need more than that for the repairs needed in a “bring your own toolbox” listing. While this phrase makes it sound like there are just a few quick fixes to be made on the home, it often means the issue are larger.
- Land lease buildings
If you’re shopping in a big city like New York, you’ll want to watch out for buildings built on leased land. When a building’s lease expires, the owner has to negotiate a new one, usually at a much higher price. This makes the monthly assessments — maintenance fees apartment owners pay to the building — increase dramatically.Everyone’s monthly payments skyrocket, and they have to reduce the purchase price so buyers can afford those payments. This means you may lose money if you decide to sell the home later.
- 10. All work has been done for youSlap the red flag for listings that proclaim “all the work has been done for you!. That generally means it’s a flipper. Flippers are homes that investors purchase inexpensively (typically below market value) and then remodel and resell at a profit. They make cosmetic changes as quickly and cheaply as possible. All they have to do is put in stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, and someone is going to want to buy it.These shiny facades could be hiding serious defects like water damage, mold or an unstable foundation. Other phrases that can indicate a house is a flipper are “total remodel” and “completely rehabbed.
Conclusion: Be smart a shopper, and wear your real estate agent hat when shopping for a new home. While we are trying to help you find your dream home, we are also trying to help sellers move on to the next chapter. Knowing these red flag terminologies often used in real estate listing will make you smarter home buyer and ahead of many buyers. And, it’ ll probably prevent you from potential nightmares.