Buying a home is among the most exciting milestones in most people's lives. However, first-time homebuyers and experienced nomads must proceed with caution. Some listings are not how they appear, bringing down home values and turning your dream into a money pit. Here are eight red flags to be mindful of when viewing houses.

1.   Foundation Problems

All foundations undergo hairline cracks over time as they settle. However, anything larger warrants concern. Sellers must understand foundation issues can lower their home value, while buyers could pay between $2,161 and $7,780 for costly repairs, depending on the fix.

Sinking, sagging floors, obvious gaps and bowing around walls and trim, and un-closable doors are all signs of foundation problems.

2.   Insect Infestations

Visible signs of active pest infestations could cause structural and wiring damage in a home and carry potentially harmful diseases. Before buying a house, look for dead bugs, fecal droppings, gnaw marks, nests and mustiness to determine if insects and rodents are at play. Chewed wood could also signify ants and termites.

3.   Signs of Water Damage

Mold and mildew are among a home's most prevalent signs of water damage. It forms within 12-24 hours after exposure to warm, moist conditions. Most people can see it within 72 hours. Mold is particularly hazardous to your health, causing allergies and respiratory problems.

 Other signs of water damage include:

 ●      Yellow or brown stains on the ceilings and walls

●      Floor, walls and cabinets warping and buckling

●      Peeling wallpaper and paint

●      Cracks in the walls and ceilings

●      A foul, musty odor

4.   Unpermitted Work

Certain renovation projects can significantly increase home values. For instance, a finished basement has a 70% return on investment, while 54% of buyers are willing to pay more for hardwood floors. However, while minor improvements are fine, major changes and additions to a house's structure, plumbing or electrical must be permitted.

Although sellers must legally disclose unpermitted work, some updates go unnoticed. Buyers must do their due diligence, inquire about questionable work and ask for a lower price. Otherwise, you'll assume responsibility if anything goes wrong.

5.   Unpleasant Odors

It's not uncommon for pets, cigarette smoke and other foul smells to overpower a house. Homebuyers may be shocked when they encounter pungent odors. Likewise, if sellers lean into heavy air fresheners or candles, you can guess they're trying to hide something.

Of course, sometimes the unpleasant smell comes from something outside. Sellers do not need to disclose odors and sounds from nearby industrial or commercial sources, depending on where they live. Therefore, buyers should be aware of their surroundings and potential disturbances.

6.   Inconsistent Fresh Paint

Many homeowners paint their interiors before listing to freshen up the living spaces without spending too much. However, buyers viewing homes should be wary of inconsistent paint jobs.

For instance, if only one wall is newly painted or there are patches of paint, there's likely something the sellers didn't want buyers to know about. It's best to inquire about poor paint quality beforehand.

7.   Poor Property Drainage

When viewing houses, the exterior is as essential as touring the inside. Buyers should look for saturated areas on the property, which indicate improper drainage. The last thing any homeowner wants is to have water damage, a worn foundation or other serious problems later on.

If drainage issues were not disclosed in the listing, your real estate agent can negotiate a lower home value so you can address the situation. 

8.   Suspicious Seller Behaviors

Buyers should look for seller red flags when searching for their dream home. Do they have an urgency to sell? Are they pushing back against inspections? Maybe they haven't disclosed everything they need to or are unwilling to negotiate repairs. Consult with your real estate agent and decide whether the home is worth the hassle.

Should You Buy or Keep Looking?

Cosmetic fixes and outdated fixtures are one thing, but structural repairs, plumbing and electrical may not be up for debate or worth paying for yourself. Professionals will provide quotes for the work needed so you can make an informed decision.

Your real estate agent can negotiate repair costs with the seller to lower the purchase price or do the work before you move in.

Weighing the red flags with their potential consequences will help you decide whether buying a specific house is right. Otherwise, feel confident in your decision to walk away and keep looking.

Ensure Fair Home Values When Buying a House

Buyers should remember these red flags when viewing homes to ensure they don't incur expensive damage and repairs. Even the most charming, pristine houses could have underlying issues you're unaware of.