real estate

7 deal-breakers that can sink a home sale

7 deal-breakers in a home sale
1 of 8
7 deal-breakers in a home sale | moodboard/Cultura/Getty Images

7 deal-breakers in a home sale

In the huge capital outlay that is a home purchase, you can never be too meticulous about the things that matter. Dozens of little potential deal-breakers can wreck even the most well-constructed deal.

So holster that checkbook or cashier's check for a moment and ponder these deal-breakers before you go home-shopping.

1 of 8

Here's a flash: Flooding! | Greg Vote/Getty Images

Here's a flash: Flooding!

Buying near an ocean, lake, river or creek is a fanciful notion. But check the home's address with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood-map database. By the way, homeowners insurance typically won't cover most flooding; only flood insurance will.

"People are finding with the FEMA updates that a home is suddenly in the flood plain -- and that flood-insurance premiums have nearly doubled," said Jim Maibach, a 30-year general certified real estate appraiser with Arlington, Texas-based Peyco Southwest Realty. Moreover, prospective homeowners are discovering that even if a small portion of a residential property is in a flood plain, lenders require flood insurance, he said.

Flash flooding is a different force majeure: Even if a home is set at high elevation, have your inspector (or even a surveyor) determine how its slope (grade) directs water to or from the place. Then there are drainage easements. Many homeowners don't even realize there's one on their properties until a title search by the buyer reveals it, Maibach said. "The result?" he said. "A deal-breaker.

RATE SEARCH: Ready to shop for a mortgage? Find the best deal today .

Sex offender as a neighbor | Nathan Jones/E+/Getty Images

Sex offender as a neighbor

This lands on nearly everyone's no-deal list, especially if an offender lives next door or across the street from the seller. But know that the burden of researching this typically falls on the buyer, because sellers rarely must disclose it.

The U.S. Justice Department operates the National Sex Offender Public Website, which allows users to search by name or by radius around an address.

Typically, an offender lives within a few blocks of most addresses in highly populated areas, even in well-to-do neighborhoods, where parents may be harboring a troubled adult child. Know the differences between Tier 1 offenders and the more serious Tier 2 and Tier 3 types (some states use threat levels of "low," "medium" and "high" instead). Read the nature of the offense and victim's age(s) before you back out. And verify. Sometimes, listings are outdated or inaccurate.

RATE SEARCH: Selling your house and buying another. Find the best mortgage deal today.

Nearby highways and power lines | fotog/Getty Images

Nearby highways and power lines

This is a should-be deal-breaker. Repeat exposure to nearby vehicle emissions or power plants and other too-close sources of fine chemical particles cause lung and cardiovascular disease. Early symptoms are sometimes confused with allergies or other ailments. And those high-voltage power lines overhead are dicey at best. Studies show more cancer in adults and children who endure long-term exposure to them. Why risk it?

RATE SEARCH: Get prequalified for a mortgage today.

Kids and pools and schools, oh my! | Trevor Smith/E+/Getty Images

Kids and pools and schools, oh my!

Depending on buyer tastes, wants and needs, both the absence or inclusion of these below features can create impasses:


  • Splash! Great for parties and late-night relaxation.
  • No pool, please: I have toddlers and like low water bills.

Big garage:

  • Perfect for all 3 of our SUVs!
  • You mean obtrusive garage! Why should this airplane hangar be the dominant architectural feature?

No carpeting:

  • Easy to clean up after my pets and kids, good for allergies.
  • No carpeting? Nothing to sink my toes in. Seems kind of barren and sterile.

Many neighborhood children:

  • Feels just like a neighborhood should.
  • So many kids! Let's go look at restricted seniors-only housing.

School down the block:

  • Hey, the kids can walk to school!
  • Delinquents loitering near the house every day? No, thanks.

RATE SEARCH: Shop today for a mortgage.

Appraisal comes in low! | Imagesbybarbara/E+/Getty Images

Appraisal comes in low

These have become the nouveau deal-breakers. Buyers think they've lined up a fair, market-priced purchase and ... boom! The lender's appraiser, sometimes a novice, values the place at $40,000 less than the agreed-upon price. The seller's response: "Tough." The buyer then scrambles around looking for other lenders.

RATE SEARCH: Find a low-down payment mortgage today.

The vicinity is noisy or smelly | kozmoat98/E+/Getty Images

The vicinity is noisy or smelly

It looks great, feels right, it's got everything I want, you say. But it sure seems, well, loud. And what's that smell? Visits to the neighborhood at varying hours may unveil some unwelcome realities: drag racers, airport landing pattern, loose or barking dogs, loud parties, 1 a.m. train whistles. Or maybe there's landfill or feedlot in the area or persistent smells from nearby manufacturing or waste-processing plants.

RATE SEARCH: Shop FHA-approved lenders today.

Really big deal-breakers | Ekspansio/E+/Getty Images

Really big deal-breakers

While some deal-breakers are relative calls, buyers are far more prone to walk away if they discover:

  • Mold.
  • Shoddy roof.
  • Unpermitted modifications.
  • Lack of central air.
  • Outdoor laundry rooms.
  • Termite infestations.
  • Poor or no insulation.
  • High-crime stats.
  • Ancient plumbing.
  • Old septic tanks or old sewer lines.
  • Acoustic popcorn ceilings.
  • Marketing misrepresentation.
  • Outdated or inferior wiring.

Other less onerous but potentially irreconcilable issues include excessive grime, clutter, strong pet odors, looming water towers, low neighborhood homeownership rates, long commutes, small/outmoded kitchens (or even kitchens without windows over the sink) and trashy neighbors.

Then there's always poor curb appeal, lack of natural light, illogical floor plan, mediocre or bad school districts, and a low "walkability" factor such as no sidewalks. Older buyers may back out if a home's design is not age- or handicap-friendly.

RATE SEARCH: Get prequalified for a mortgage today.


Connect with us