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Pre-Purchase House Inspection – Red Flags To Look Out For

Last Updated: Monday, March 1st, 2021

It’s easy to get а headache from all the small details you need to review when you’re about to buy a used property. We’ve all been there – the compulsive need to inspect everything so you can be sure you are not on the way to making the wrong decision can be exhausting.

But what does a buyer look for during inspections? What are the red flags when buying a used property? Was an end of lease cleaning service hired, at least?

On a base level, a property consists of two parts – a building and a yard. You should scrutinise both of them carefully and try to keep a mental checklist of pros and cons. It’s all about the proper comparison of what looks good and what actually matters. A pink “Barbie” house might be what you’ve wanted since childhood, but if the roof of that house needs a couple of buckets when it rains, then maybe you should lean towards Mr Bean’s humble residence. If you feel like property inspections require too much attention to detail – not to worry, you’re about to get a simple list of things to look out for when buying used property. 

Things to look out for in the house

There are more than several things to check inside a house before you buy it. Lousy foundation, mould and leaky pipes are just a few of the common problems buyers tend to overlook when they’re eager to buy.

Signs of Foundation Problems

First things first, the right house should have a solid foundation. There’s no point in inspecting any further if the base of the house is compromised. Cracks in walls, especially weight-bearing ones, is a big red flag. A construction with a lousy support structure wouldn’t last long. It’d make heating hard, but there’s also a real chance of rubble breaking off and harming you or your family. This kind of issue is costly to fix so unless you get a substantial discount and redirect some cash towards repairing foundation cracks – you should move on to the next property on your list.

Slopy Flooring Issues

You should carefully inspect every room’s flooring. Slight sloping isn’t that bad, but large cracks could indicate a severe foundation problem. Rotted support beams or broken floor joists can lead to a shift in the house’s level and ruin not just the floor, but the entire construction. If the floor is sloping, take a closer look at which direction it’s going. If it gets lower in the middle of rooms, then the problem isn’t related to the structure. However, if the entire floor slopes in the same direction, it might be best to move on. Structural repairs could cost an arm and a leg.


The most common problem sellers can easily cover-up is mould. All it takes is a fresh coat of paint to hide a whole wall’s worth of damage so that they can sell a house at a higher price. While it may look good, fresh paint doesn’t solve the problem. It makes it worse because mould continues to grow under the paint. In general, interior walls don’t need repainting as often as exterior ones. If you notice that all the walls look freshly painted, maybe the seller put some effort into maintaining the property, but a single wall that oddly stands out is a bad sign. It could mean they tried to cover up a serious problem. Another dead giveaway is a strong mouldy smell. Sometimes the seller can cover the smell with aroma candles. Don’t forget to ask them not to use any sort of air fresheners before your visit. Keep your common sense close and think whether the seller has genuinely kept the property in good condition, or they just want to get rid of a bad place at somebody else’s expense. 

Plumbing Problems

Leaky pipes are an excellent example of water damage. When you neglect leakage for too long, the water soaks into the floor, walls, and windows, and can quickly ruin all of them. A close inspection of the house’s plumbing can reveal potential problems. Ask if the pipes are made of lead and make sure to avoid the property if they are – lead can poison drinking water. Even if you don’t drink it, exposure to the toxic metal isn’t beneficial by any chance. The pipes should be well insulated. You can tell there’s a leaky pipe if there is a brownish water stain on one of the walls or the ceiling. Make sure to test the water pressure in the sink as well. Sometimes, the leakage is too deep within the house’s structure to show a stain, but low pressure could prove something wrong with the plumbing. 

Windows Check-up

When you inspect windows, check if their frames haven’t started to rot. A dead giveaway of a rotten window frame is cracked paint. Another thing you can try is to apply some pressure to the edge. If your finger can push through the wood with ease, then the frame has started to rot. Bad window condition usually means the overall state of the property is not that good. You should also be careful with double-glazed windows. They shouldn’t have any signs of condensation between the panes. Check for noticeable cracks or chips in the glass, too. 

Rooftop Inspection

Another thing you should not ignore is the state of the house’s top. A rooftop can be flat or pitched. A pitched rooftop requires less maintenance because of the better drainage system, but that isn’t always a good thing. A newly built pitched roof can last up to 30 years. However, if the previous owner had a false sense of security, the rooftop could be long overdue for a repair. A saggy ceiling is the first red flag to a faulty roof. Any curved or cracked shingles on top of it could lead water in, which could cause the ceiling on the inside to sag. The kind of work required to solve this problem is costly, so make sure you check every room and the attic. 

On the other hand, a flat roof is cheaper to build and maintain but lasts shorter, and its drainage system is less effective. When inspecting a property with a flat roof, make sure to check every corner of every room. The most common problem with flat roofs is ponding. These kinds of roofs shouldn’t be completely flat, so rainwater doesn’t accumulate and ruin your ceiling. It’s always a good idea to bring a spirit level and check the angle by yourself. The standard rule for flat roofs is a 72⁰ slope angle, or 1:80.

Another red flag for these roofs is cracking or stretching. As time passes, the roof’s waterproof layers can crack due to environmental conditions. These layers are made of flexible materials, but the constant stretching from drying and rewetting can wear those materials off and lead to cracks. Check the property’s roof joists and corners for any signs of stretches or cracks and don’t trust the “We had it fixed last year” sentence if you find any. 

Power Grid Problems

One of the essential things in a house is the power grid. Everything runs on electricity so you shouldn’t neglect the quality of the wiring. First, you should ask if the wires are Aluminium-made. Aluminium is a big red flag. Houses used it in the past, but it’s a fire hazard. There’s nothing better than copper when it comes to housing power grids, so don’t ignore this. You should also check the fuse box – it should be easily accessible, but at a safe height away from children. All the fuses should be in good working order. Next, you should check the number of power outlets. There should be at least one for every 4m of wall length to provide enough space for all possible appliances. Power outlets shouldn’t warm up or vibrate while you use them.  Last but not least, check if the lights flicker. One flickering light can be a sign of a bad light bulb, but the grid might be low quality if this problem pops up in every room.

Things to look out for in the garden

The state of a property’s yard is significant, too. There isn’t much point to buying the perfect house if the yard looks like a dumpster site. Important things to check are signs of possible pest infestation or water problems. You should also mind the position of trees if there are any.

Drainage problems

A lot of problems can arise from a yard with lousy drainage. Bare spots or wet areas are a sign of inadequate drainage. That can lead to puddles in your garden. You shouldn’t have to wipe mud by yourself every time you enter the house. On top of that, water pools provide an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes, endorse moss’ growth, and prohibit grass from growing properly. You shouldn’t overlook this red flag if unless your garden gnomes are amphibian.


If your desired property has a tree(or a few) in its yard – you could be lucky. A thick shade sounds terrific for those hot summer days, but you should make sure it’s safe. A common problem with old trees is that their branches break off. It can be dangerous to you and your family. Ask the seller about the tree’s age and consider the price to remove it, or at least clip the drier branches before making your purchase. On top of that, older trees can look enticing to rodents that need a nesting ground.

Signs of pest infestation

There are more than a few obvious signs to look out for when checking a yard for pests. If there are brownish spots in the grass, or it seems to wilt in certain areas, then there might be a pest problem. Pests can also hide underground so check for holes in the soil. A flashy slime trail is a dead giveaway for slugs, while an area missing grass might indicate an armyworm problem. A good yard should look green and healthy and shouldn’t have any traces of animal droppings.  


  • The state of a building’s foundation is the first thing to check.
  • Water damage can come in many forms – check for plumbing leaks, mould issues and stains on the walls.
  • Don’t ignore the rooftop’s condition. Check thoroughly for any apparent breaches in its integrity. 
  • Electricity is everywhere, and it’s dangerous. Make sure all safety and convenience standards are met.
  • Water pooling in your yard could be a real problem. Check for bare spots in the grass or pools of water that could indicate lousy drainage. 
  • Trees are lovely to have but don’t forget – safety first. Inspect the trees’ age and check for dry branches.
  • Pests are always a nuisance. Look around for obvious infestation signs like droppings, trails or check if you can find a nest.

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