Looking for Red Flags

When I am showing houses, there are a few specific items I watch for. I guess I think of them as red flags: things that create an immediate concern if I see them.

From the curb:
The condition of the roof. Does the roof lay flat or are there waves of high and low areas? This is a sign that the roof is installed over additional layers of roofing material. When the the time comes to replace the roof, will it require a total tear off? What is the condition of the shingles? If they are wood, are they lifting and curling? On a wood roof, this might simply be a sign that the shingles need to be treated with preservative. More concerning on a wood roof is if the shingles are split and broken. On a composition roof, are there missing shingles? Is the material obviously deteriorating?
What is the siding made of? Specifically I am looking for composite siding that was widely used in the 1990’s and manufactured by various companies but commonly referred to as LP siding. I am familiar with the specific knot pattern used in the pressing of the product to look like wood. The other siding I am looking for is EIFS. This is a pre-manufactured stucco product that was widely used about the same time as LP, and usually installed incorrectly. Either one of these siding products immediately tells me that if the house is a candidate, we need to inspect the siding carefully.
Going inside, the electrical panel There are several brands of electrical panels with poor reputations. The most widely used one, and one that I see lots of, were manufactured by Federal Pacific. I have been told, in writing by a licensed electrician, that Federal Pacific panels have been unfairly targeted for failure by over testing and that if all brands of panels were scrutinized to such a degree they too would be found faulty. Having heard this, I have seen documentation that shows that Federal Pacific panels have a history of failure. This red flag, like the others, tells me we need to carefully inspect and investigate.
Older Homes Is there now or has there ever been oil heat? This implies an oil storage tank. This must be addressed prior to purchase. Are there single-pane windows? What insulation has been added to the home? Both issues are going to affect the energy efficiency of the house. Some older homes have been completely updated making these concerns a non-issue. Others have not. It could be a cost consideration in the purchase and livability of the house.
Drainage issues Especially in Oregon, at this time of year, it’s pretty easy to see if the yard has standing water or erosion on an embankment. Generally, drainage issues are highly correctable. It’s good to recognize them so that the right questions can be asked and inspections planned.
Home Owner’s AssociationsWhen buying a property in a Home Owner’s Association (and this is more than just condos and townhouses, many newer subdivisions have HOAs) you are buying into the association and need to be clear about what that means and how it will affect you. Make sure to understand the rules and regulations as well as the costs/budget of the HOA. As part of the home inspection process, a property within an HOA will have inspection considerations that are specific to the HOA including review of the rules and regulations, review of the budget and reserves, as well as review of the Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions. I also recommend getting a copy of the HOA meeting notes for the previous 12 months. If the HOA has problems, the members of the HOA will be talking about them at the regular meetings.

I am by no means an expert on the items on this list. But I do know enough that when I see an issue, I want to bring in an expert to give their opinion about problems or corrections. And really, the inspection process begins the first time you see a house. Having a few key items to quickly review as you look at houses should make the process easier.

So that’s it. My handy little list of red flags.