House Hunting of Horrors

There are plenty of things to look for when house hunting. And as far as warning signs, there are a few biggies. Case in point: you may have seen my tweet yesterday about one particular house hunting horror:

We’ve been house hunting in LA for weeks now, with two failed bids in our pocket. The first, we were outbid by nearly seventy thousand dollars for a house we saw as a fixer-upper, but apparently everyone else saw as a pristine jewel of real estate.

The second… was slightly more upsetting, as it was a house we wanted that just had too much work to do. It was a bummer to let it go, but such is the way of things. Circle of life, I guess.

cirlce of life

But we’re at the point now where we’ve seen plenty of places with enough horror stories to fill a lovely little blog post.

things to look for when house hunting

  1. Absentee realtors. There are some states where the selling agent or broker legally has to show you the house, but California isn’t one of them. At a few open houses, the selling agent was bullish to the point of rude, but at a few private showings, the realtor was M.I.A., which sent up a LOT of red flags for me. It shows me that the selling agent is just in it for the commission and has no intention of brokering a deal that is good for all parties involved.
  2. Yep. Thats a fridge in a closet.

    Yep. Thats a fridge in a closet.

    Realtors with a little TOO much information. I love realtors who are forthcoming about house flaws (we’ve met a few, now, that are open to pointing out things that will need to be fixed, and a few that are too cagey on details, like when the roof was last replaced). But one guy, so far, was selling a house he obviously hated. It was a foreclosure, where the flipper ran out of money in the middle of the reno. He happily told us about a potential dead rat in the back yard and that he thought there was a squatter in the empty house when he arrived to clean up for the showing. Thanks but no thanks, dude.

  3. Absentee neighbors. Almost as big of a red flag for me as the absentee realtor. Los Angeles is a city where neighborhoods can change block by block, and if I don’t see anyone walking down my potential new street on a Saturday afternoon, I have to wonder why. Is it not safe to walk, even in the broadest of daylight? Or, almost worse yet, is there just nothing to walk to? That’s a surefire sign of a dead and unlivable neighborhood.
  4. Age and quality of the cars in the driveways. I’d actually be way more uncomfortable living in a neighborhood of brand new Mercedes than a neighborhood of 10 year old Honda Civics. If the entire location is driving luxury SUVs, they’re probably not going to be too welcoming to me and my rescue pit bull.
  5. Incognito appliances. And not just major fixtures lurking in weird places, like the aforementioned bedroom freezer. It may be that the previous owners took their fridge with them, but if you’re in a super tiny kitchen and there are no appliances it probably means that they don’t fit and the seller is trying to trick you in to thinking that the space is bigger or more amenable than it actually is.
  6. IMG_2816Wires wires everywhere. I’m 5’10” and that’s me standing on the back patio of a house we looked at. About eight inches above me is a biiiiiiig black wire that ran from one utility pole on the street, through some shrubs, to another utility pole behind the house. My dad says it’s likely telephone or cable and not power, but no matter what– on moving day, some poor, unlucky sap is taking that down by accident. Another house we looked at had power lines in contact with the gutters. Zzzzapppppppppp. Maybe it’s an LA thing, but our utility lines seem to have grown a mind of their own– and it’s not always the utility company’s responsibility to fix them. A new big red flag on my list.
  7. Goldilocks syndrome. We’ve been looking at places on days where it’s been over 90* every single day. Yay, California! But I’m now super attuned to Goldilocks syndrome– where the only room in the house that’s a comfortable temperature is the one where the realtor is lurking. That means it’s the only room where the A/C works. No, thanks!
  8. Fruit trees. I have two big, stubborn dogs and what I’ve learned in the past from renting a house with a fig tree in the back yard is that no amount of yelling or screaming will make a dog drop a smell, gushy, rotten piece of fruit he or she has snarfled up into its happy maw. A lot of fruits and plants are toxic to dogs– so if your potential new back yard has a plant that’s going to kill your dog, you can’t live there, unless you’re willing to spend the money on an arborist who can come and take out the tree.
  9. Real Estate Senility. If you’re asking yourself, “Which house was that again?” It’s not your home.

What are your things to look for when house hunting?

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