If a real estate ad says a house is “definitely not haunted,” it might not be a good buy.
Horror movie lovers hoping to buy a home are probably already paying attention to the location of nearby cemeteries and local legends about murderous neighbors, especially around this time of year. But what about the less obvious warning signs that something scary (or expensive) might be lurking in the shadows?
We spoke to five real estate professionals who weighed in on what buyers should look out for when they first see an ad.
These 10 red flags might alert you to potential nightmares lurking in your dream home.
Lack of photo
If you can’t find interior photos of a house, you won’t be able to see the skeletons in the closets.
âIf there are no photos of the interior, there is something wrong with the house,â said Bloomington, Indiana real estate agent Deb Tomaro. “A salesperson should yell at their real estate agent if there are no pictures [in the listing] and the house is ready for the show. “
An ad without interior photos – like this $ 7.9 million Victorian in San Francisco – might hide issues, and there’s no way to tell in advance. This should be a major warning signal for buyers, many of whom are starting their real estate searches online.
Likewise, watch out for advertisements that offer little or no description of the house.
âThis means the agent is not very good at his job or that he cannot find anything good to say about the house,â Tomaro said.
An abundance of do-it-yourself home improvement TV shows make it seem easy to turn a landfill into a dream home, but these shows are deceptive.
âIt only takes half an hour on TV, but it’s probably not a good idea for most buyers,â Tamaro said.
If you’re hoping to save money by buying a “repairman” and renovating it yourself, take the time to assess what types of projects you’re willing to handle and which ones would require the help of a contractor.
âThe majority of the buyers I work with are comfortable with painting, new carpeting, and possibly changing cabinets and vanities,â said Jon Boyd, real estate agent in Ann Arbor, Mich. And former president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyers. Agents. Larger projects, such as fixing holes in walls or fixing structural issues, are often too large to be taken on by buyers.
Take this two bedroom home in Van Nuys, California. The listing says this is a “top fixer” and the photos indicate some updates are needed, including paint to cover the graffiti and new kitchen cabinets.
“I think ‘TLC’ is probably the most commonly used description for when [sellers] I don’t mean he’s a repairman, âsaid Elizabeth Weintraub, real estate agent in Sacramento, Calif., And home buying expert on About.com.
âWhen they say it just takes a little TLC to make the house shine, that means it needs a complete makeover,â she said.
It will take a little more than TLC to make this home in West Palm Beach, Florida suitable for human habitation. All the love in the world couldn’t fix the missing ceilings (although a contractor could).
Lists “as is”
Sellers often list a home “as is” when they don’t want to deal with any repairs that might be needed.
âThey feel like they are offering their best price and they don’t want to end up with a buyer who brings them down to zero for every repair,â Tomaro said.
This may be suitable for buyers willing to cover repairs, but it may mean they are having trouble getting a bank to approve a mortgage.
Even seemingly minor repairs – like a broken window or incomplete floor – could be deal breaks for the bank.
Even though sellers say a home is sold “as is,” buyers still have the right to inspect the property and can often negotiate with the seller to have certain repairs done, says Tomaro.
Take this lakefront cabin in Hoodsport, Washington. It’s in a beautiful location with mountain views, but the listing warns buyers to beware of unstable bridges and it looks like it needs a lot of work inside.
Cash transactions only
Like “as is” ads, an ad that specifies that a sale will be in cash means the house could have some pretty serious problems.
“This is one of the most useful real estate jargons [to watch for]”Boyd said. This means there could be an issue with the house that could make it difficult to qualify for a traditional mortgage.
This three-bedroom home in Hesperia, Calif., Listed as a cash-only sale, does not specify what issues, if any, it has. But the red and green bathroom with a spooky image of Santa Claus staring at you from the shower tiles may be one of them.
Properties occupied by tenants
While some rental units are well maintained by their tenants, others are not. Even with a careful landlord, rental properties can have issues that the landlord is not aware of.
âThey don’t come every week to check on the status of a rental,â Tomaro said.
Tenants won’t invest the time and money to fix things in the house, and if they don’t let the landlord know, the problems will persist and could get worse, she said.
In these houses, pay special attention to the cleanliness of everything. âI think the cleanliness shows a lot how the house is maintained,â Tomaro said.
This tenant-occupied home in Columbus, GA, for example, appears to need a good cleaning inside and out.
Homes that have been unoccupied for a long time can develop problems that would have been detected if a resident were watching things, Boyd said. Things like bursting water pipes and mold can get worse if not caught quickly, and they might not be visible in the listing or in a visit.
The advertisement for this three-bedroom farmhouse in Souderton, Pa., Specifically warns buyers that “the property was vacant and [the] The state of utilities is unknown. Before closing a deal on a vacant property, Boyd said, buyers should have an inspection done and activate utilities to check for problems.
Bring your toolbox
What do you have in your toolbox? A hammer? A screwdriver? Scotch tape ? You’ll likely need more than that for needed repairs on a âbring your own toolbox,â Boyd said. While this phrase makes it seem like there are only a few quick fixes around the house, it often means the problem is bigger.
âThere was a house in my market that said bring your own toolbox, and it had $ 15,000 in basement repair projects,â Boyd said. “These types of tools aren’t normally in anyone’s toolbox.”
You will definitely need more than your standard toolbox to repair this Limington, Maine home. With a collapsing porch, shattered windows, and noticeable water damage, this house would be better if professional contractors were called in.
If you’re shopping in a big city like New York City, you’ll want to watch out for buildings erected on leased land, said Brad Malow, New York-area real estate agent and founder of BuyingNYC.com.
When a building’s lease expires, the landlord must negotiate a new one, usually at a much higher price. This dramatically increases monthly appraisals – the maintenance fees apartment owners pay on the building – says Malow.
âEveryone’s monthly payments are skyrocketing, and they need to lower the purchase price so that buyers can afford those payments,â he said. This means that you risk losing money if you decide to sell the house later.
This three-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, listed at nearly $ 2.4 million, doesn’t look scary at all, but the property’s ground lease could be scary in the form of higher payments to the to come up.
“All the work has been done for you”
Beware of ads that proclaim “all the work has been done for you!”
âIt usually means it’s a fin,â Weintraub said. Pinball machines are homes that investors buy at a low price (usually below market value), then renovate and resell for a profit.
âThey make cosmetic changes as quickly and inexpensively as possible,â she said. “All they have to do is put on some stainless steel appliances and granite counters, and someone is going to want to buy it.”
These shiny facades could hide serious flaws like water damage, mold or an unstable foundation.
Other expressions that can indicate that a house is a pinball machine are âtotal renovationâ and âcompletely rehabilitatedâ.
This Ridley Park, Pa., Home, sold just five months ago for $ 65,000, is now listed at $ 184,900. The list includes brand new cabinets, counters and appliances with fresh paint throughout. Although the list does not mention any below-surface upgrades, real estate agent Michael Santolupo said the renovations included plumbing in the kitchen and bathrooms and brand new heating and air conditioning systems.