3 red flags to be aware of when house hunting

Hank Bailey
Hank Bailey
Published on March 18, 2019

We call them “red flags” or “warning signs,” and some even call them “whoa, don’t-buy-this-house” kind of signs, but there are certain undesirable situations that produce the symptoms of a sick home that you need to be aware of before you fall in love with the “shiplap” accent wall in the dining room or that perfect backyard. Once you’re emotionally dialed into a house, it might be too late!

Please don’t get me wrong, most houses, new ones are no exception, have something wrong with them. Even if it’s a problem as easy to fix as a leaky plumbing fixture, no home is ever going to be perfect upon inspection!

What I’m looking at today are major issues – those items that require emptying your bank account to make repairs.

They don’t necessarily “have” to be considered deal breakers, but should prompt you to have the home inspected by the appropriate professional. This would include not only your home inspector, but potentially a structural engineer, contractor(s), etc…so make sure you negotiate enough time in your due diligence period to cover all your bases.

First off, please don’t be downhearted if you happen to find some of these items because the good news is that you found them now, rather than later. You can either request the seller fix the issues or you can back out of the deal (if within your due diligence and to a lesser extent other contingency periods). If you were to learn of these later, say after you’d moved in, the responsibility and burden would be on you and your bank account to fix them.

So, let’s take a look at a few of the big problems and some of the clues to look for.

Not much more disgusting than that

Imagine your fun of taking a shower and being greeted by raw sewage bubbling up through the drain? Oh, yes, it can—and will—happen. It’s caused by a clogged sewer, septic line, or full septic tank that’s backing up.

Consider foul smells and drainage issues or “gurgling” coming from drains around the home a clue for further investigation. Likewise, if you notice these smells outdoors maybe near the home’s drain fields, if on a septic system. Do the toilets flush? Especially on a rainy day?

If any of these symptoms are present at showings to your home inspection I’d encourage the “seller” to call in a plumber.  Then I’d write into an amendment addressing concerns that a licensed and certified septic company pump and inspect the septic tank with the appropriate verbiage so that if there are any issues, the seller is required to make those repairs before the end of escrow and closing.

Sewer fixes aren’t necessarily cheap either.  Are tree-root-damaged lines present? If so, this can cost from $4,500 to $13,000 for just a 100-foot sewer pipe, according to costhelper.com.

If it’s a septic system that possibly has you concerned, if the system needs to be replaced, plan on a figure from $2,700 to $8,000, according to homeadvisor.com.


A home’s foundation has the following set of purposes:

  • Support the weight of the structure.
  • Assist the home to withstand natural disasters.
  • Keeping ground moisture from seeping into the structure.

According to homeadvisor.com.“Most homeowners will pay around $4,004 to repair foundation issues. Major repairs involving hydraulic piers can cost $10,000 or more, and minor cracks cost as low as $500. The typical homeowner pays between $1,850 and $6,342.”

Look for sloping or sagging floors, this doesn’t mean there’s a problem, but definitely something to check out. Look for cracks in the foundation, walls and floors. Note that interior doors that don’t operate properly – open and shut flush – are out of “plumb” due to settling in the house and gaps around window frames or exterior doors are a possible warning sign to make sure you get inspected.

You might like the information that hdfoundationrepairs.com provides where they looked in greater detail on each of these symptoms on their website.

Don’t forget the plumbing

Low water pressure can be a lot more than just “annoying” when trying to rinse the soap off in the shower. It may be a symptom of major plumbing issues that need addressing.

Now, don’t get stressed out. Most of the causes of low water pressure are easy to remedy, such as the water softener requiring service, a clog in the lines, mineral deposits in the faucet or showerhead. Even sludge in the water heater.  A licensed plumber can handle all of the above!

Look for evidence of leaks such as stains on the ceiling and signs of mold or mildew.  Repairing leaks from what I’ve seen doesn’t have to be costly. From my experience, the seller wants to know about those to protect their home. Even if you didn’t move ahead with the sale, most sellers would still get someone out to address these to protect their investment!

Remember, if you suspect any problems in the home that the home inspection didn’t quite ease your mind about, I’d urge you to bring in a specialist. This could be a structural engineer, who can put your mind at ease about cracks in the foundation.  Also a plumbing contractor can give you an idea of the state of the home’s plumbing.  Beyond that, your real estate agent knows contractors – no doubt – that cover evert trade within the industry.

Please feel free to reach out and contact me. I’d be more than happy to help you answer any questions and walk you through the process of assisting you in finding that perfect next home!

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