Buying & Selling

11 Red Flags Homebuyers Look for at Showings

A year ago, the real estate market was so hot and properties so scarce that buyers engaged in bidding wars over choice homes — and even a “fixer-upper” could fetch multiple offers. Buyers were willing to overlook almost anything to secure a home of their own while the interest rates were so low. 

Well, the pendulum has now swung somewhat in the other direction. Higher mortgage interest rates and home prices make would-be buyers more cautious with their real estate investments. Even though the real estate market is still considered to be a tight one, prospective homeowners are getting choosy again. 

Naturally, your average buyer doesn’t have a contractor at their beck and call for every home showing, but nobody wants to pay for multiple home inspections before committing to a deal, either. That means that your prospective buyers are likely to come to an open house or private showing armed with a mental list of things that they want to check. 

If you are getting ready to put your home on the market, it pays to know the “red flags” that can send a potential buyer right back out your door without a second glance. Knowing more about the things that make buyers cautious can help you decide which issues to address beforehand and how to increase your chances of a successful sale. 

Without further ado, here are 11 red flags that most concerns home buyers: 

1. The Home’s Structural Integrity 

First things first, the structural integrity of your home is a top concern. Buyers are on the lookout for any signs of structural problems, e.g., cracks in walls, uneven floors or sagging ceilings. These issues can indicate potential foundation problems, which can be quite costly to fix.

2. Any Inaccessible Areas 

You may have a perfectly logical reason for locking the walk-in pantry or blocking the door to the attic during a showing. But most potential buyers want to see the entire property they might purchase, not just part of it. They will likely assume that you’re hiding something you don’t want potential buyers to see, and that’s very off-putting.

3. Your Plumbing System

Next up, expect your plumbing system to be scrutinized, because plumbing problems are both inconvenient and expensive. During home showings, potential buyers may turn on faucets and showers to check for water pressure and proper drainage. Leaky faucets or slow-draining sinks can raise concerns. They may also inspect the water heater for signs of age or ask about the general condition of your pipes.

4. Your Electrical System 

Similarly, electrical systems are a significant consideration for buyers. They may flick all the light switches to ensure they are in working order. Non-functioning outlets or flickering lights can raise fears about an electrical system that might not be able to handle modern appliances and electronics. You can also expect potential buyers to inspect your electrical panels to check if they are outdated. Savvy buyers also ask sellers when they last made any upgrades or repairs.

5. The Condition of the Roof

The roof is what protects your home from the elements, so it’s a major consideration for a lot of prospective buyers. Expect visitors to look for lifted or missing shingles, gutters clogged with leaves, and evidence of leaks. You can just about bet that every buyer will also want to know the age of your roof so that they can judge just how long it may last before a replacement is needed.

6. Any Signs of Pest Infestations 

Whether it’s termites, ants, wasps, silverfish or mice, nobody wants these kinds of uninvited guests in their house. While pests may make themselves scarce during house showings, they can leave behind tell-tale signs that buyers will see, like droppings, nests and chew marks. If you have any kind of infestation, that’s definitely something to handle well before any potential buyers come through.

7. Poor Drainage

If your yard slopes downward toward the house or there are low-lying areas of the yard that collect water and turn into a muddy mess after every rain, you can expect buyers to be concerned. That indicates that the yard doesn’t have good drainage, and water may easily seep into the house. Since would-be buyers shop for homes on both wet and dry days, it may be worth the investment to have a gravel bed laid around the house or get the yard graded.

8. HVAC System Problems

Your potential buyers will look for a well-maintained and functioning HVAC system. A bad HVAC system leads to discomfort, high energy bills and the need for costly repairs or replacements. You can generally expect buyers to inquire about the age of the furnace and central air conditioning unit. But the number one thing that many buyers use to judge the functionality of an HVAC system is their own comfort. If your house is too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter, don’t expect potential buyers to stick around very long.

9. Evidence of Water Damage

Peeling paint, mildew, musty smells and mystery stains on walls, ceilings and floors all point to water damage. This, in turn, suggests problems with your roof, plumbing, drainage, windows or more. It is always wiser to first repair any leaks and mitigate the subsequent damage before listing your home.

10. Poor Overall Maintenance

Dirty siding, an unkempt yard or scuffed paint in the rooms or baseboards may just be hallmarks of a busy life. But buyers immediately associate a lack of regular maintenance with a property that has been neglected. The general logic is that if a homeowner fails to address the obvious signs of wear and tear, they probably haven’t kept up with any bigger problems that aren’t immediately apparent. 

11. Foul Odors or Unusual Smells 

Finally, bad odors are a major turnoff for buyers. Sellers may have become “nose blind” to the stench, but you can be sure that buyers will notice any strange odors, including mold, pet urine, smoke or sewage. Scented candles, air fresheners or incense only broadcast that the sellers are trying to mask something unpleasant. It’s far better to do a deep clean (or even hire a professional service) to tackle the source of the problem head-on before you list the home for sale. 

When you’re used to your home, it can be difficult to look at it objectively the way potential buyers will. That’s why it’s always smart to rely on the expert guidance of your real estate professional. They can help you determine what it will take to make your home “showcase-ready.”