What I'm Seeing Now


Buyer Red Flags - At the First Look-see - Part 3 of 3

This is the final entry for Buyer Red Flags.  Of course, the list could probably go on.  But these three lists together are short enough that if you wanted to keep an index card in your pocket while walking through the house you could!  Most you already have on the tops of your head anyway.  You remember what a Red Flag is:

A Red Flag is any visual sign or indication of a defect in structure or property. Certain visual signs may or may not indicate a problem.  If observed in multiple numbers, especially in the same approximate locations, many indicators can point to a Red Flag condition.  A rule of thumb - the newer the property, the redder the flag!

  • Cracks in the slab or foundation larger than 1/8".  This greatly depends on the age of the house.  An older house with such cracking may not be a problem.  On one inspection there was an unfinished basement floor with a 1/4" crack, perfectly straight, which ran wall-to-wall, the length of the basement, about 45 feet!  I had never seen such a thing and called an engineer friend.  His answer was that it is normal cracking.  Normal I thought?!  "The basement floor is a slab," he said, "usually without expansion joints.  If it needs to crack it will."  Well, it did...
  • Boxes piled against the foundation wall, especially if only in one area.  The courts call that "artfully concealing" a known defect.  It has happened to me!  Once, a lot of boxes were piled against one concrete block wall, but only to a particular height.  When my clients moved in the boxes were gone, to reveal a long, horizontal crack.  The sellers said that we had our opportunity to do an inspection and that I should have caught it then.  Hmmm...  I found many items of minutia but just happened to miss a large foundation crack!  We all remembered the boxes.  My clients petitioned for, and got reimbursed, the costs of repairing the "artfully concealed" crack.
  • Synthetic stucco.  Especially the older stuff, without the drainage system used with stucco today.  Look especially for stucco that is deteriorating near windows, bubbling or has lifted creases like a crumpled shirt.
  • The seller is present and diverts your attention.  Once, during an inspection, the seller decided that that particular afternoon was the perfect time to clean an oven.  The process took up the entire inspection. It turns out the oven did not work.
  • Strange things goings on!!  A huge, spongy puddle in the back yard.  Incense in one part of the basement.  A "sleeping" tenant in one locked bedroom.  Once we saw a BIG stump in the back yard with recent, large shavings all around it.  In the basement there were V-shaped cracks in the foundation walls at the same point of the house front and rear.  The two center rooms above had new carpet.  In the attic I finally noticed an entirely new roof structure in the middle third of the house, above the cracks and carpet.  Conclusion - said stump was from a tree, which had fallen on the house!  The kicker -- the seller was a real estate agent, who showed up with HOA paper work.  When I asked her about my diagnosis (NOT rocket science!!) she said, no kidding, she said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you about that.  I was going to let the buyers know..."  Oooookay!  

My recommendation - make your own list.  What things do you commonly see in your area?  Rely on your experience - you have a lot of it.  You know when things don't feel right or look right.  Suggest to your clients that they look for same!

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 4 commentsJay Markanich • November 12 2008 04:17AM


Thanks for the list!  The more homes I go through the better I get but it's always helpful to have an experienced  professional's list as well.  Practice makes perfect.

Posted by Jenn Neumann Deer, Surfside Beach Real Estate (RE/MAX Southern Shores) almost 12 years ago

Jenn - there are only 17 things, but hopefully relevant where you live!  Good luck!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 12 years ago

I love to see rugs on the floor that cover missing boards from the hardwood floors or cracked tile. It's not just a job, it's an adventure.

Posted by JL Boney, III, Columbia, SC Real Estate (Coldwell Banker) almost 12 years ago

JL - Funny you should say that!  I did an inspection years ago at the Watergate in Washington DC.  It was two penthouses that had been combined, including the huge roof area, and sold by a prominent family in American business.  The herringbone floors had inlays, were gorgeous and well kept.  They were sprinkled about with huge (30'x40') oriental rugs.  We looked under a couple of the rugs to find plywood!  Plywood!  The buyer did not like that and demanded herringbone floors throughout, with which the seller complied.  That was an adventure!

Thanks for the comment!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 12 years ago

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