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7 Hidden Things To Look Out For When Buying A Home

As a professional realtor I walk through hundreds of home every single year. In addition to this I also stay connected with all my clients after they buy and over the years you begin to learn what to look out for in the initial walkthrough when determining if this is a home or neighbourhood in Niagara I should consider buying.

It can be especially challenging when sellers go to great lengths to make their properties more appealing to potential buyers. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to buyers overlooking important red flags that could cause problems down the road. That's why it's essential for buyers to do their due diligence and be aware of potential issues before they sign on the dotted line.

As the saying goes, "buyer beware," and this couldn't be more true when it comes to buying a new home. To help buyers navigate this process, here are seven red flags to keep in mind when looking to buy a new home.

Poor Maintenance:

When buying a new home, it's important to inspect the property for signs of poor maintenance. This includes looking for cracks in the walls or foundation, leaks in the roof, and overgrown landscaping. A property that has been poorly maintained may require costly repairs down the road, so it's essential to address any issues before purchasing the home. It's also a good idea to check the age and condition of the HVAC system, water heater, and other major appliances to ensure they are in good working order.

Structural Problems:

Structural issues can be extremely costly to repair and may also be hazardous to the home's occupants. Signs of structural issues include uneven floors, sagging ceilings, or cracks in the foundation or walls. These issues may indicate foundation problems or other structural defects. It's important to have the property inspected by a professional to identify any potential structural issues before purchasing the home.

  1. Cracks in the walls: Every house has settling cracks so it's important to know which cracks are the ones to really take note of. Especially in many of the home in Niagara that were built with plaster interiors. But some cracks in the walls, especially those that are wider than 1/4 inch, can indicate a problem with the foundation or framing of the house and may warrant a second look and/or you to run away fast!

  2. Uneven floors: If the floors are noticeably sloped or uneven, it may indicate a problem with the foundation or framing of the house.

  3. Doors and windows that don't close properly: If doors or windows are difficult to open or close, it may be a sign of foundation movement or settling.

  4. Sagging roofline: If the roofline appears to be sagging or dipping in certain areas, it may indicate a problem with the framing or structure of the house.

  5. Bowing or leaning walls: This is always a big one in my opinion and should be treated with great consideration... If walls are bowing or leaning, that's above my pay grade and should be looked at by a builder.

  6. Water damage: Check for any water damage on walls, ceilings, or floors. This can be a sign of structural problems, especially if the damage is widespread and recent.

Poor Drainage:

Proper drainage is essential to prevent water from entering the home and causing damage. Signs of poor drainage include water stains on the walls or ceiling, musty smells, or mold growth. Poor drainage can lead to foundation problems, water damage, and mold growth, all of which can be expensive and difficult to repair. It's important to inspect the property's drainage system and ensure that it is functioning properly.

Electrical Issues:

This one is a bit harder to discern on an initial walkthrough of the home but electrical problems can be dangerous and costly to fix. There are a few signs that you can look out for to quickly determine if a house has electrical or wiring issues. Here are some of the most common:

  • Outdated wiring: If a house was built before the 1960s, it may have outdated wiring that is no longer up to code. Knob-and-tube wiring, for example, was commonly used in homes built in the early 20th century and can be a fire hazard. Similarly, aluminum wiring was commonly used in homes built in the 1960s and 1970s and can be a safety hazard.

  • Flickering lights: If the lights in the house flicker or dim when you turn on other appliances, it may indicate that the electrical system is overloaded. This could be a sign that the electrical panel is outdated or that the wiring is inadequate.

  • Burning smells or charred outlets: If you notice a burning smell or see scorch marks around outlets or switches, it could indicate a wiring problem or an overloaded circuit. This can be a fire hazard and should be addressed immediately.

  • Tripped breakers: If the circuit breaker frequently trips, it may indicate that the electrical system is overloaded. This could be a sign that the wiring is inadequate or that the electrical panel is outdated.

  • Missing ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs): GFCIs are designed to protect people from electrical shocks and are required by code in certain areas of the home, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas. If you notice that GFCIs are missing or not functioning properly, it could be a sign of outdated electrical wiring.

If you notice any of these signs when viewing a house, it's important to have a professional electrician inspect the electrical system to identify any potential issues. Electrical problems can be dangerous and costly to fix, so it's important to address them before purchasing the home.

Plumbing Problems:

Plumbing issues can also be expensive and difficult to fix. Signs of plumbing problems include leaks, corrosion, or signs of water damage. It's important to inspect the plumbing system for any issues and ensure that it is functioning properly. This includes checking the water pressure, inspecting the pipes for leaks, and checking the age and condition of the water heater. See if you can identify any of the following before making your offer:

  • Low water pressure: If the water pressure in the house is low, it may be a sign of a clogged pipe or a leak somewhere in the plumbing system.

  • Leaky faucets or pipes: Check for any visible leaks or drips around sinks, showers, and toilets. This can indicate a problem with the plumbing fixtures or pipes.

  • Slow drains: If water is slow to drain from sinks, showers, or tubs, it may indicate a clog in the drain. This could be caused by a build-up of hair, grease, or other debris.

  • Discoloured water: If the water coming out of the taps is discoloured, it may indicate rust or sediment in the pipes. This can be a sign of outdated plumbing or a potential health hazard.

  • Sewer odours: If you notice a foul smell coming from the drains or toilets, it could indicate a problem with the sewer line. This can be caused by a blockage or a damaged pipe.

  • Water stains or mold: Check for any water stains on walls or ceilings, which could indicate a leaky pipe. Mold growth can also be a sign of water damage.

  • Water heater issues: Check the age and condition of the water heater. If it's old or in poor condition, it may need to be replaced soon.

Bad Neighbourhood:

When purchasing a new home, it's important to consider the neighbourhood. Signs of a bad neighbourhood include high levels of crime, graffiti, abandoned buildings, or excessive noise. A bad neighbourhood can impact your quality of life and the value of your property. It's important to research the neighbourhood and surrounding area to ensure that it is safe and desirable.


Finally, it's important to be wary of properties that are overpriced. It's essential to do your research and compare the property to similar homes in the area. If the home is significantly more expensive than comparable properties, it may be a sign that the seller is trying to take advantage of the buyer. It's important to work with a knowledgeable real estate agent who can help you determine the fair market value of the property and negotiate a fair price.

Hopefully we haven't completely dissuaded you from considering a move at this point. The goal here is to educate you so you can have piece of mind in your home search and purchase here in the Niagara Region. The truth is that every home is going to have something to consider, even a new home. Purchasing a new home can be a complex and challenging process. By being aware of these potential red flags, buyers can make a more informed decision and avoid costly mistakes down the road. It's important to work with a professional real estate agent who has the experience and knowledge to help you navigate the buying process and find the perfect home for you and your family.


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