When touring homes with your real estate agent, you'll likely be paying a lot of attention to the home's layout, aesthetics, and yard to determine if it's a good fit for you. However, you should be looking at things that could be a big warning sign of a potential problem. While you will have the opportunity to have a home inspection, it's possible to not even move forward with the buying the home if you spot these problems.
You're not going to be able to climb on their roof with a ladder, but there are some problems that you can spot with your feet on the ground. Missing shingles, curling shingles, and mold growth are all signs that the roof has been neglected over the years. If you see these problems on the outside of the home, just imagine what is happening in the attic. There could be water damage inside the home that needs to be fixed once you purchase it.
It's possible to spot damage from basement flooding well after the damaged happened. If the basement is finished it is a bit harder, but you should look for a section that is unfinished where you can see the exterior wall. Does it look like there is a line with discoloration near the exterior walls of the basement? If so, this means that there was enough pooling water in the space at one time to cause a water ring in the spot where the water went up to. If the home has a sump pump, this may have been the solution to the problem. If not, then there is a risk that you could deal with flooding after you move in.
While you're in the basement, look for parts of the foundation that are made of wood, and if there are any signs of wood shavings around it. This is an indication that the home has a termite problem, which could cause some big problems when you need to have the damage repaired. There are costs related to removing the termites as well that you'll have to deal with once you move in.
Maybe the owner is trying to mask the odor with some fresh baked goods, making it harder to identify those odd odors. However, you need to pay attention to odors around the home that could smell like mold growth or mildew. It could be an indication of water in the basement, or a leaking pipe behind a wall.
Ask the real estate agents about more things you should be looking for when touring a home.