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Greed is NOT good when purchasing a home. The ethics of selling a house have reached new lows and some realtors are little more that used car dealers looking to take advantage of the gullible and the inexperienced. Here are five things that should encourage you to walk away from a sale.

The Angry Realtor
Regardless of the circumstance, the sale of a home should not be a cause for anger. Terms are either acceptable or not, and an overly emotional or condescending realtor is a good indication that he or she is trying to distract the buyer (and sometimes the seller.) The ethical realtor understands that buying a home is one of the big decisions in life and everyone should be happy when the check is exchanged.

Unfortunately, the past decade has seen ruthless and unethical realtors gain a foothold in an otherwise, honorable profession. If a realtor accuses you of being unreasonable, they may be trying to attack your sense of self and create doubt so that you’ll back away from your convictions. Again, the terms are either acceptable or not, and if not, a counter offer or a polite decline are the only appropriate responses.

Buying a home can be a win-win, or win-lose depending on the ethics of the seller

Buying a home can be a win-win, or win-lose depending on the ethics of the seller

Flipped Houses Tricks
Buying a cheap house, fixing it up, and reselling it used to be an honorable vocation. It is no longer.

When profit is the primary motive, ethics of the seller and their realtor become meaningless. Anything in a house that needs fixed or replaced will likely be done at the lowest price with the least amount of quality and work. Here are some tricks in remodeling for profit that you should be wary of when buying a home:

Single pane, aluminum frame windows are great if you like high heating bills and wasting energy

Single pane, aluminum frame windows are great if you like high heating bills and wasting energy

  • New windows trick – Insulating dual pane windows are a standard in today’s home. Homes with single pane windows should have been updated in the during the last 20 years. Rather than updating all the windows, unethical sellers will only replace the windows on the front of the house, which improves its curb appeal, but doesn’t fix the problem.
  • Landscaping trick – Landscaping is a key indicator of how the house was maintained. People who didn’t take care of their yard, probably didn’t take care of their house. The unethical seller will plant a few new trees or bushes, and some decorative stone to cover the weeds and dead lawn. If everything looks new, ask about the drip system for the plants. If their isn’t one, then you know they are just trying to disguise poor maintenance with rock and mirrors.
  • Plumbing fixtures trick – New toilets and faucets make a house look updated, but that can mean it is updated. The unethical seller will use the cheapest toilets and fixtures at Home Depot or Lowe’s and pay an unlicensed handyman to install them on the lowest bid. Run every faucet, flush every toilet, and look for leaks, and/or sloppy installation.
  • New carpet trick – Worn floors and carpet will cause most buyers to walk away from a house. Enter cheap tan carpet. The quickest and cheapest fix is inexpensive tan carpet. A house that has new tan carpet gives the feel of a well-maintained home, but this should cause the potential buyer to look even closer at the home. It is worth the trip to a carpet store before a buyer begins home shopping. A home buyer should know the look and feel of high quality carpet versus cheap tan carpet.
  • Electrical outlets trick – A home with ungrounded, (AKA:  two-prong outlets,) is in desperate need of updating. It means that the house should be rewired (See Outdated Systems.) To disguise this issue, the unethical seller will change the two-prong outlets with three-prong, (AKA:  grounded) outlets, but they won’t replace the wire, nor will they have run a grounded wire to each outlet.

Bidding Wars
Bidding wars on a home is a win for the seller and always a loss the buyer. Home buying is not a game. The pressure of people bidding against each other drives the price up, and the value down. Walk away from a bidding war.

Getting a great deal is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. By shopping for homes over a period of months, the chance of being at the right place and time increases. There is a name for people who expect to spend only a week looking for a new home: Suckers.

Outdated Systems
Because everything wears out, and because newer house systems (heat, light, plumbing, electrical, appliances, etc.) are more efficient, buying a home with outdated equipment means, 1) that the previous homeowner didn’t do the maintenance they should have, and 2) the real cost will be much higher as you will be burdened with the cost and inconvenience making it current. Here are some systems you should ask about before you buy:

  • Water Heater Tanks – The life span of most water heaters is ten to thirteen years. If the heater is older than 2001, it needs to be replaced.
  • Furnaces – A well-maintained furnace can last 25 years. A furnace installed before 1990, is not only at the end of its life, it is costing you money because it is inefficient.
  • Electrical – The electrical system has about a 40-year life span. Any home built before 1975, should be rewired. It’s a tough job and expensive. It is not a job that should be done on the lowest bid.
  • Plumbing – Metal pipes can last for 70 years or more. Newer PVC (plastic) pipe has a much shorter life (25 to 40 years.) Clay pipes (used for sewer pipe in the mid-1900’s, is past its lifespan. A good home inspector can verify the state of the existing plumbing and their advice should be heeded.

High Pressure Sale
Anytime the buyer or their realtor is applying undo pressure for a decision the buyer should be ready to walk away. Used car salesmen have used this tactic for decades to push people into a deal that they don’t want. It also means that the seller may have significant problems with the house that they don’t want the buyer to discover.  

Certainly the buyer needs to make timely decisions, and a seller should not expect to have to pass up other offers while waiting for another buyer to decide, but if the seller is demanding an immediate decision, then warning bells should be going off in the buyer’s mind.