Red Flags to Look for During an Open House

open house red flags

Attending an open house isn’t just about checking all the boxes. Sure, you want to make sure the property meets your needs and requirements as a household, but you should also be on the lookout for the opposite — signs that it might not be as great as it all seems on the surface.

Are you attending any open houses as part of your home search? Then watch out for these red flags along the way:

Overwhelming smells.

Does the smell of fresh baked cookies or cinnamon just come wafting out as soon as you open the door? Are there tons of air fresheners and candles strewn about? While it might seem welcoming at first, consider that it could be a cover-up. Is it masking the smell of smoke, pets, or mold? Manufactured, too-strong smells can often be a warning that something odorous is at work.

Off-kilter doors and windows.

When you’re at an open house, always pay attention to the windows and doors. If it’s a struggle to open and close them or they’re not sitting well within their frames, it likely means there’s a foundation issue at work. You can also look for uneven flooring and cracks in the exterior walls to confirm further foundation problems.

Minor signs of neglect.

Notice a leaky faucet, cracked paint, or a spot of mold on your tour? If you can tell that the previous owner wasn’t super meticulous about keeping their home clean or well-cared for, then you can bet there are bigger maintenance issues below the surface. That probably means more in repairs (and repair costs) if you choose to buy the home.

Rust and water stains.

Notice water stains on the ceiling or rust around the pipes? It could mean a plumbing leak, roof leak, or flood happened in the past — and could occur again. A musty smell can also indicate there might be water damage at work.

The Importance of an Inspection

If you do like a home you tour during an open house, make sure to include an inspection contingency in your offer. This allows you to have a professional home inspection done of the property, including all its systems, appliances, and more. If the inspector finds defects you’re not happy with, you can ask the seller to repair before closing or even pull out of the deal entirely.

Want more help with your home purchase? Contact your local loan officer at Embrace Home Loans today.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.