When searching for their dream home, buyers need to be aware that there are a plethora of important things to consider beyond just the square footage and location. Many times it falls to us as agents to inform and educate a potential buyer with regards to the red flags that may be screaming out to us, but that the customer generally overlooks. The customer will naturally get a home inspection before the final closing, but if we agents can prevent the buyer from getting their hopes up for a property, only to have them dashed by an inspection that details things we noticed on the showing, it can give the buyer the feeling that you really are looking out for their best interests and increase their confidence in you! It's a fine balancing act - we don't want to scare a customer off from a home that could be great but has a few minor issues they may not have noticed, but of course, we want to be ethical and point out the warning signs as we see them. So where do we draw the line? What are the biggest, most important red flags that absolutely can't be ignored?
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that one of the most important issues, especially here in Florida, is the roof. Now, I'll hazard a guess and say that the chances are slim to none that you're both an agent and a roofing contractor, right? So while you might not have the authority to say a roof is truly bad, we've all seen our fair share of cruddy roofs in our time in the business, so we can definitely spot the warning signs and point them out to a buyer. Lifting and curling shingles, dark spots, or obvious patches are all things we need to look out for. Keep an eye on the ceilings as you walk through the home, and note any spots where it appears water may have leaked down and begun causing damage. Oftentimes this doesn't necessarily have to be a deal breaker, but the client should know which of the houses they're looking at are going to need an expensive re-roofing done right off the bat, and whether or not they're willing to try to negotiate that into the contract.
Next up, be sure to keep your eye open for any cracks in the outer or inner structure, as well as any sticky doors or windows. These could be early indicators of foundation issues, which can be astronomically expensive to repair. Pay attention to the grading of the land around the home, and see that it's angling away from the structure to ensure proper drainage and prevent a crumbling foundation. Be sure to make your client aware that while some settling is to be expected, especially in older homes, cracks in concrete or brick are likely indicative of a deeper issue that the client may not be prepared to handle.
Be aware of any potential plumbing issues, as this is another one high up on the list of expensive repairs. Turn on the water in the sink and flush the toilet at the same time to check the water pressure. A decrease in pressure could be a sign of faulty plumbing! Check the floor area around the water heater for dampness or rot, indicating a leak that could result in the need to replace it sooner rather than later. Also, take a peek under the sinks and check to see if it looks professionally done, or if there's duct tape holding the pipes together. Yes, people really do that. And no, it never works.
Finally, point out any obvious DIY home repairs. While many homeowners are completely capable of installing new light fixtures or regrouting the tub, major home renovations should always be completed by a licensed professional to ensure the work is done up to code with the strictest safety standards in mind. If the fuse box is full of crossed wires and pieces of electrical tape, it might be best to steer your buyers in another direction before they make an offer.
For the most part, none of the things I've listed above have to be the death sentence to a potential deal. Most of the time, a seller is willing to negotiate the terms of the contract to allow for these types of repairs, and the work can be completed before the new owner starts moving their stuff inside. However, as agents, I believe we need to be the advocate for our buyers and make sure that they enter into the contract process with both eyes open, fully prepared and informed about what they're getting themselves into. Some folks don't mind at all having to tear down walls and rewire electrical systems! But that single mom of 2 who works full time and is trying her best to find a safe home for her family might not be ready to undertake that kind of work.