A recent Reddit thread asked users, “When house hunting for the first time, what are some things to watch out for that may not be obvious?” Here are some of their most helpful responses:
1. You can fix anything in your house, but you can’t get rid of terrible neighbors.
“Sit outside the house you’re interested in a minimum of 30 minutes at different parts of the day. We didn’t find out until closing that a home-licensed daycare was next door to us. Then, when the daycare lady moved out, people with a yappy dog moved in. I’d take the occasional kid yelling in the afternoon to a dog barking for hours on end at 10 p.m.” —Crosswired2
2. If there’s a maple syrup-type smell, there was (or still is) a cockroach infestation.
This is because the substance that exterminators commonly spray to get rid of roaches has a syrupy scent, as do products like the Roach Motel.
3. And if there’s a ton of air fresheners or candles, beware.
“Every time I went to look at my house they had a bunch of candles going. I didn’t really think anything of it because it was my first home purchase and I like candles myself. I was in love with the house and couldn’t wait to move in. However, the day after closing I went in and noticed a horrible cat urine smell.
I had to postpone move-in for a month while I cleaned the walls and ceilings, steam-cleaned carpets multiple times, and scrubbed every surface over and over until the smell went away.” —kperkins1982
4. Check out the roof — are the shingles crumbling at the edges?
“How many layers of shingles are there? If you see a few, it means that the last roofing was done improperly, and instead of replacing deteriorated shingles they slapped more down on top. This adds a ton of weight to your roof, and most roofing companies charge more for additional layers to tear down so your next replacement will be more costly.” —McMandar
5. Look outside at the foundation — any cracks or patch color are a no-no.
6. Check the area on Airbnb and VRBO for short-term rentals.
“I live in Austin and bought a house this year that is next to a short-term rental. Every weekend a new group of bros shows up ready to partaaay.” —r8ings
7. Measure the doorways and consider stairs that make turns, especially in an older home.
“Your furniture might not fit through the doorways or your boxspring might not fit up the stairs. I had to sell a couch unexpectedly from my front yard because of this.” —ThePrimCrow
8. Check if the house’s electrical panel is from an ancient brand like Federal Pacific, Sylvania, Zinsco, or Bulldog — it’ll need replacing.
9. Look at tree limbs and where they are in relation to the house.
“When my fiancé and I bought our house, we didn’t realize that a huge limb was leaning over the house on one of the trees in the backyard. One bad freeze and it would have ruined half the house. Removing it was a $750 expense that was NOT planned.” —cr4ft00l
10. Check the commute traffic during the time you’ll be traveling to and from work.
“On a weekend, it can take me 20 minutes to make the drive to work. During the school year, easily over an hour. Crazy.” —ChubbyBlackWoman
11. Find out which stores are near the house (grocery stores, home improvement stores, etc.), since this is where you’ll be shopping.
12. If you’re hunting in a college town, get a map, draw a line from the popular bars to the dorms, and then DO NOT BUY A HOUSE ON THAT LINE.
“You would be shocked by the amount of vandalism and noise in that area.” —sewnlurk
13. Beware of staged properties.
“Staging can hide flaws like a rug put over a damaged floor. Picture the place empty and check everything twice.” —scangemode
14. Check for water damage behind toilets, in basement corners, and on the attic ceiling.
15. Go house hunting after it rains.
“I found water pooling up against the house (bad for the foundation) and some newish roof leaks that hadn’t stained the wood yet, so I likely wouldn’t have spotted them otherwise.” —McMandar
16. Get a receptacle tester to see if all the outlets work.
“If you use your phone charger, that will only tell you if there’s power to the outlet, but a receptacle tester will tell you if the outlet is grounded and wired correctly.” —BillyRayVirus
17. Above all, get a good home inspector, and don’t commit to anything until you get their report.
“I almost bought a house with hidden fire and storm damage, but was saved by a good inspector.” —-rba-
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.
Got any other tips for first-time house hunters? Share them in the comments!