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When you look at a house you’re thinking about buying, you may love the charm, landscaping, amount of space, or other features. But you should also approach a home viewing with a critical eye and be on the lookout for red flags.

Maintenance Problems
As you tour a house, look for indications of how well it has been maintained. Cracks in the foundation could jeopardize the structure of the entire house. Strange odors could indicate mold or an animal or insect infestation. Clogged gutters could lead to roof leaks, damaged siding and foundation and landscaping problems.

Problems with the windows could lead to high utility bills and expensive replacement costs. Check the windows to make sure they open and close property. If you notice condensation on the windows or between the panes of glass, that could indicate that the windows aren’t functioning as they should and need to be replaced.

As you walk through a house, turn on the lights in each room to make sure they work. Flickering lights are a sign of an electrical problem. Check the outlets to make sure they function correctly. A faulty outlet or one that gets unusually warm could indicate a localized or widespread wiring problem

Is the Owner Hiding Something?
Homeowners often paint the walls to make a house more attractive to prospective buyers. A fresh coat of paint could be a good sign, or it could be an attempt to cover up mold or water damage. If you notice a musty odor, the owners could be trying to conceal a problem.

If you aren’t allowed to enter a particular room, that could be because something valuable or personal is stored there, or because the room is undergoing repairs—or the owners could be trying to hide something. If you aren’t permitted to see a room, ask the real estate agent why. A vague or unsatisfying answer could be a red flag. If the agent provides what you consider to be a reasonable explanation, you should still ask to see the room before you agree to buy the house.

Look Around the Block
Consider the neighborhood as a whole. If other residents don’t seem to take care of their houses and yards, that could drive down your property values if you were to buy a home in the neighborhood. Several houses for sale could suggest a variety of problems with the neighborhood, such as noise, traffic, crime or interpersonal conflicts.

Get As Much Information As Possible
It’s natural to be excited when viewing houses, but approach each with a healthy dose of skepticism. Look for signs of trouble and ask the real estate agent a lot of questions. Before you commit to buying a house, be sure to have it inspected by a professional. Some red flags are obvious, while others are hidden. Learning as much as you can before a purchase can save you a lot of time, money and stress later on.