Red Flags in Your Real Estate Search: Homebuying 101

Aalto Insights Team
Jan 18, 2022

Red Flags in Your Real Estate Search

Being a buyer in a real estate transaction can be unsettling. With so many things to consider it’s hard to know what questions to ask when buying a home and when to ask them.

At Aalto, we want to empower buyers and sellers to be well informed and help remove doubt and uncertainty in a real estate transaction. In this post we’ll cover how you can avoid major red flags by asking the right questions throughout the homebuying process.  

When we think of a home as a long-term investment instead of an upfront cost, we need to look at more than just price. Yes, price is undoubtedly one of the major factors that will shape and define your search for a new home, but remember that it’s only a starting point. You want to make sure you can actually afford your new home and that means staying on top of monthly expenses and maintenance costs to protect your long-term investment. 

For buyers, it is a courtesy to receive disclosures from a seller prior to writing an offer. In strong seller markets where homes sell quickly, many sellers will complete their disclosures prior to showing their home and often have pre-sale inspections done as well. This increases their chance of receiving a strong offer that a buyer doesn’t come back to try to negotiate once in contract when they discover materials items they didn’t know about when they presented their offer.

This enables the buyer to learn about the home prior to an offer, explore any potential red flag issues with a home, and account for the condition of the home. It also allows them to make sure to include any needed repairs in the offer they present.

Disclosures 101

When looking over disclosures you’ll want to pay close attention for anything related to the major systems of the home such as:

  • Structural issues - Are there any issues with the foundation? Is the roof in good condition?
  • Electrical systems - Are there any electrical issues that need to be addressed? Upgrades to be made to the electrical?
  • Plumbing - Are there any leaks or water intrusion issues? Hardware to repair or replace?
  • HVAC (heating ventilation air conditioning) - Is there a report of mold in the vents? Is there insufficient insulation in the home?

Any issues with the major systems of the home could be costly for you as a homeowner or potentially a deal breaker on even writing an offer.

If there have been any repairs or replacements it’s imperative to get detailed information on the work that was done. Was the work done by a licensed contractor, and were permits obtained by the city/county if required? If there’s any uncertainty or lack of understanding about any inspection findings, then call the inspector and ask questions about their reports.  Most new homeowners would rather spend time and money planning for upgrades instead of having to deal with reinforcing a foundation or upgrading a plumbing system.

When you make an offer you want to have a clear understanding of your investment. Don’t let the pressure of other offers push you into a situation that you end up regretting. Remember that all materials have an end of life, and even with new construction it’s important to look at the quality of materials used and make a note of certain design choices that may present issues at a later point in time.  

In addition to any major system issues, think about what information is needed to feel comfortable with the purchase of the home. Once you have a clear understanding about the inspection reports, consider other factors like climate, seasonal effects, the amount of light in the home, traffic patterns, noise, and safety. Maybe the home is in a flood zone or a fire zone and you need to know how that will impact insurance costs or maintenance in the future. 

Time in the home can be another indicator of what questions to ask. If a seller has been in the home for 10 years or more they have a lot of pertinent information based on their experience. On the other hand, if a seller hasn’t been in the home for a considerable length of time it is good to dig in and understand why they might be selling. 

As a buyer you want to take the appropriate amount of time to acquire valuable information around your potential investment. The fear around buying a home subsides when you remove doubt, uncertainty, and pressure. Acquire the information you want and need to feel good, and be mindful of those red flags!

If you have any questions or want to check if something is a red flag, please feel free to send us a note at We’d love to hear from you, and we’re here to help!

Aalto is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, License #02062727 and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. This article has been prepared solely for information purposes only. The information herein is based on information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy of the information. Aalto disclaims any and all liability relating to this article.

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