Buying February 25, 2023

10 Things to Watch Out for When Looking at Homes



A walk-through of a potential home you might purchase it is crucial to look at it from an objective point of view. Look over the house in detail and jot down any potential outstanding issues. Here are a few things to watch out for when looking at homes.


Check the Floors

Floors can tell a lot about a home’s structure and plumbing. Look for sagging and unusual dipping near bathrooms and everywhere else in the house. If there are warps in the floors near bathrooms, it could be a telltale sign that some gnarly plumbing might be underneath. There could be structural issues if dips are present anywhere else in the home.

Notice Cracks in the Walls and Ceilings

Cracks should be considered and carefully reviewed. Some fine line cracks in drywall are usually nothing to worry about, but larger cracks in a brick wall, for example, cause concern. Larger cracks typically are a sign of movement of the walls and are a serious sign of structural problems. I was house hunting a few years ago. There was a large crack we could put our hand in on the basement ceiling by a post, a red flag went up, and we never put an offer on that home.

Pay Attention to Fresh Paint

Fresh paint is sometimes a good sign. If the entire home has been freshly painted, the homeowners want to refresh the home before new people move in. However, if the house appears like it has never been renovated for a while and there are patches of paint in the cellar or basement, it could be hiding something, such as water damage. If fresh paint is out of place, ask why it was done.

Look for Water in the Basement or Dampness

Take extra time to investigate the basement thoroughly. Look for water damage on the floor and near windows. Dampness or humidity might also be cause for alarm in newer homes. However, if the house is older, it usually comes with the territory.

Test the Windows

Open and close every window in the home to ensure they all work correctly. I wish we had tested the windows in our current home we have lived in for 13 years, because only 2 out of 10 windows open, which makes for an expensive air conditioning bill every year. Take note of the age of the windows or if inexpensive windows were installed. Changing the windows can be costly, and not changing them out leads to a lot of heat loss, increasing your energy bill.

Assess the Roof

Ask when it was replaced last and ask to see the warranty documents. Be wary of older homes with multiple layers of shingles, which can potentially have asbestos. Ask a professional for help to assess the roof if there are any glaring issues.

Note the Trees Outside

Trees are lovely to have dotted around the yard but look closely at them. Look for how close they are to the house, how many are there, and what types they are. Trees like elms not only have a lot of dropped leaves to manage but if they ever need to be trimmed, they must be appropriately remediated to prevent Dutch elm disease. Trees close to the home can have their roots grow and push into the basement walls, leading to many problems. If there are many trees on the property, they also have a high chance of growing into your main plumbing pipes, leading to sewer backup and many other issues. Trees can also fall during heavy storms and damage your home.

Look at the Plumbing and Electrical

Electrical and plumbing are hidden. However, there should be some exposed pipes and wires in the mechanical room to help you determine the age. Look at the electrical panel and ask if the homeowner experiences electrical shorts. Be wary if the electrical system hasn’t been replaced for a few decades.

Plumbing is a lot harder to tell if there are any issues. Hire a professional to walk through the home if anything is amiss. There are home water testing kits to test the water to ensure its lead-free or if anything else is in it.

Dig into the History 

Find out how long the previous owner had that home and why they are selling it. A flipped home might be hastily finished, possibly leading to oversights in the future. 

If the owner is present during the viewing, ask them questions about their home. Ask about repairs and who they were done by. When were the furnace and water heater repaired or installed, and are they owned or rented? Ask about all warranties on the repairs and if any are still valid.

After the Walk-Through, Follow-up

Check on permits and violations. If you are ready to put in an offer, work on investigating any open violations or permit issues the home might have. Also, check to see if there are any neighbour complaints against the property or homeowner. This could be a sign of problems with house repairs or sensitive, problematic neighbours. 

Sometimes no permits are pulled for extensions or work done on the home. Be sure to ask the sellers if all the permits are in order, if the renovations look shoddy, follow up with the permit office.


When looking at homes, these few things to watch out for will help you in your house-hunting journey. If you are unsure after finding problems with the house, follow up with the homeowner or professionals to gain more insight.

Contact your local real estate expert today to let them guide you through the home-buying process.