Buying September 7, 2023

Real Estate Red Flags

When you are looking for a home, it’s important to set realistic expectations. Unless you are designing and building your own home, very rarely will you find a house that is perfect or has 100% of what you are looking for. On the flip side, you want to make sure that you take note of any real estate red flags and investigate them further before deciding to put in an offer. Real estate red flags are signs to look out for during your home search. While they do not necessarily mean that there is something wrong with the home, or that you should steer clear, they are something to be wary of and explore. This is not an exhaustive list, but let’s look at a few of the most common real estate red flags we’ve encountered with our clients.

There are limited photographs or no photographs at all.

Home buying habits are dominated by online searches. That is why listing photographs are such an important aspect of marketing a home. When buyers search online and a home has limited photographs or no photographs at all, it can give a buyer pause. If a home has no photographs, it could be because the seller isn’t able to afford a photographer, or that the seller is not willing or comfortable taking and sharing their own photos. It could also mean that the home isn’t in great condition and rather than showcasing it through pictures posted online and deterring buyers, they are hoping the buyers will be curious enough to still come check out the home. If the house has exterior photographs, but no interior ones, the selectiveness could mean that the outside is worth highlighting, but the inside is not.

On a different note, sometimes sellers choose to list a home while renovations are still being completed and decide not to upload photographs until the updates have been completed. Other times there can be a discrepancy from when the seller wants to list their home and when they receive the photographs a professional photographer took. All this to say that while a home listing with zero or limited photographs is a red flag, the buyer should take a closer look into the situation before completely passing up the home.

A home is priced well under market value.

When we see a home priced well under market value, we, as realtors, start by asking, “why?” That is because typically the goal of a home sale is to earn market value or higher on the sale. If a home is priced well under market value, it could indicate that it is in a condition that requires extensive work, repair, or financial investment from future buyers.

If a home is priced under value, we do encourage a further look. Sometimes a lower home price could be a result of advice to price under value, a mistake in a listing, or an urgency to sell. With the help of your own realtor, you should be able to quickly assess the situation to determine if it is a home worth proceeding with or is a home that you want to pass on.

A home has a moldy smell and/or water stains.

                Mold is linked to a variety of health problems. That is why a home with a moldy or musty smell and/or water stains is a real estate red flag. Water damage, when left untreated, can cause mold to grow and harbor. The inhalation of these growing mold spores can directly impact the health of those in contact. If a prospective buyer sees a water stain, they will want to make sure that the cause of the water stain was fixed and remedied, even if the visual indicator was not. With a moldy smell, a buyer will want to find the source. A few places to examine are the roof, a crawl space, pipes and plumbing, and the HVAC unit. Ultimately, most of the time, water damage and mold issues can be fixed, but whether you want to take on this project as a new buyer is up to you.

A home is in a flood zone.

                If a home is in a flood zone, that means it is in a place that has an increased risk of flooding. While some may figure this is less likely in areas that are not prone to major natural disasters such as hurricanes, it can also happen in some areas simply due to heavy rain. If a home is in a flood zone, this could be a red flag, depending on the risk level. Homes that are in a flood zone considered high-risk are required to buy flood insurance, which is an additional cost. Even if the home isn’t in a high-risk area, insurance should still be considered. Additionally, in the same way that homes in flood zones may be a red flag to you, homes with lots of water sitting on the land surrounding the home may be a red flag as well. This can mean that there is poor drainage, which could, over time, impact the foundation of a home.

While there isn’t a fix for a home in a flood zone, poor drainage surrounding a home can be repaired. In both situations, it is up to the buyer to assess the red flags and determine their comfortability level.

There are a lot of homes for sale in the neighborhood.

                This one is a bit tricky, because multiple homes for sale in a neighborhood can be indicative of a variety of things, many that are not concerning at all. For example, locally, we see a lot of buying and selling traffic in neighborhoods with smaller homes and lower price points. It is common, in this area, for those neighborhoods to be considered “starter homes,” and for residents to move out to larger homes often. Furthermore, with more employees allowed remote work options, we have seen more of a transient situation in a variety of neighborhoods.

However, it is still important to take a deeper dive into the situation if a neighborhood has a lot of homes for sale. Are there higher crime rates? A change in HOA rules or regulations? Is something happening in the community that is negatively impacting the neighborhood? It’s time to play detective and figure out what is going on.


Ultimately, it is important, when house hunting, to scope out any red flags and evaluate what is going on and any potential implications. While sometimes this requires the involvement of professionals, it is standard practice for a potential buyer to be allowed a due diligence period after going under contract where this can be done. If, during these inspections, a buyer decides not to proceed forward with the purchase of the home, they will not receive their due diligence amount funds back but will be released from the contract. At Oak & Main Real Estate Group, we are familiar with these common real estate red flags and more and can help you review any that you encounter and help you navigate the homebuying process in a way you feel comfortable and confident. Contact us here or email us at