When looking to buy a home, there are some warning signs that the experts look out for that suggest a property is a lemon. But there are also signs many buyers believe are indicative of something serious but may have you overlooking a bargain.

Five buyer’s agents told Domain their top concerns and false alarms that are top of mind when they browse homes.

Warning sign: Wooden retaining walls

Properties with visible wooden retaining walls in their gardens are on the list of warning signs for wHeregroup buyer’s agent Todd Hunter, who buys primarily sub-$400,000 established houses in lower-priced areas. If the home you are considering has this feature, take a close look.

‘If the house is on a hill and you have neighbours one side that are above you and the other side is below you then you need to thoroughly inspect all the walls, even if the retaining walls are not on your land,’ Mr Hunter said.

‘You still may be liable for half if you are deemed to be advantaged by the wall being there,’ he said.

This tends to make him walk away. However, if you are still interested in buying be sure to have a building inspector thoroughly examine the walls. False alarm: ‘Hoarder’ homes

Many investors and home buyers are put off by ‘hoarder homes’ but they can sometimes be the ‘best deals’, Mr Hunter said.

‘I purchased a house on the Gold Coast two years ago that was only five years old,’ Mr Hunter said.

‘The home had a hoarder in it and no one was interested in buying it because you had to walk down the hallway sideways and could barely walk in any room,’ he said.

As he bought the home as vacant possession, all the belongings had been removed and the house was ‘almost brand new’.

Do not write a home off just because it is filled with possessions.

Warning sign: No money in the sinking fund

To ensure you’re buying a healthy apartment, you should be looking carefully at the sinking fund, Good Deeds principal Veronica Morgan said.

The sinking fund is in place to pay for future repairs and maintenance, so an empty sinking fund often suggests the owners corporation has not adequately budgeted or has recently had to undertake some significant repairs using the money. As a buyer, you’ll want to know which of these scenarios is true.

Since January 2005 owners corporations of all strata schemes have been required to have 10-year plans in place, to help avoid having to ask owners for a large, once-off levy to pay for unexpected repairs.

Sinking funds are used to pay for the painting of the building, replacement of fencing, driveway refurbishment, replacement of common property items, lift overhauls and other expenses, according to NSW Fair Trading. False alarm: High strata levies

While some buyers will baulk at high strata levies, this isn’t always a deal breaker for Ms Morgan.

‘Sometimes these are only temporary or indicate that there are new people on the owner’s corp and lots of positive changes are about to happen,’ Ms Morgan said.

What counts as ‘high’ is largely in the eye of the beholder – some apartment blocks have facilities ranging from swimming pools and gyms to cinema rooms and concierge services. These will come at a cost to the owners of the apartments and are not always unacceptable to buyers who want these features.

Warning sign: Odd sales history

???????????????>>????????Looking at the history of a property and when it was last sold is a crucial part of the due diligence process for any investor or home buyer.

Undertaking this research can quickly pull up some interesting information. A critical warning sign is the home being sold multiple times in just a short time period, such as four sales in two to three years, House Search Australia’s Jacque Parker said.

Homes that are on the market for longer than the standard days for that location and homes with ‘multiple agents trying to sell same property over a long period’ should also raise red flags, Ms Parker warned.

If you do notice these irregular features, you should be asking questions of the real estate agent and trying to determine the reasons behind it. False alarm: A bad ad

Many home buyers are turned off a property they have seen because there’s a lack of photos or a poor description attached to the home, Ms Parker said.

But these poorly marketed properties shouldn’t be written off.

In many of these situations it ‘could just be lazy advertisement or tenant not providing access’, she said.

Without seeing the property yourself, you could be missing out on a dream home that may even have less competition as a result of the bad advertisement.

Warning sign: Vacant lot next door

When buying a property, do not look just within the boundaries of the property itself – the adjacent properties are also critical, associate director of Wakelin Property Advisory Jarrod McCabe said.

This includes properties to each side, opposite and behind.

‘Apartment blocks, shops and industrial neighbours can detract from the value of houses due to noise, overlooking issues and poor aesthetic,’ Mr McCabe said.

‘A vacant lot is often a worrying sign as it may mean that a large-scale development is imminent.’

If you do notice a vacant lot, a call to council may be able to reveal any development applications nearby and the zoning of the property. False alarm: Poor presentation

Homes that do not present well at an open for inspection might not always inspire home buyers to open their wallets, but this is usually a small issue that shouldn’t put off motivated purchasers.

‘A lot of inexperienced buyers misjudge minor cosmetic issues that can be easily fixed for deal breakers,’ Mr McCabe said.

‘They get turned off by a property that isn’t presented well, not seeing its hidden potential,’ he said.

‘It is important for them to distinguish between small issues such as outdated renovations or poor presentation by the tenants or sellers from costly structural issues.’

Warning sign: Bad street appeal

While much of a property can be rectified, one feature that is non-negotiable is the street appeal, WBP Property Group chairman Greville Pabst said.

‘If the location stacks up on the map then I will drive by to get a feel for the location. First impressions are everything,’ Mr Pabst said.

‘If a property does not have street appeal it is a major warning sign and when I pull up the front I know straightaway,’ he said.

Much of this is less to do with how it affects the property right now, but to do with its resale value to owner-occupiers when you later look to sell the home.

The difficult to change features, such as orientation, layout flow and natural light should also be considered carefully. False alarm: A bad ‘feel’ in a property

Many buyers go into an open home looking for something that ‘feels’ like home. But your emotions really have little to do with whether it’s a good purchase, Mr Pabst warns.

‘Many buyers mistake this feeling or mood a property creates with the potential of the property,’ he said.

Provided the property has the right foundation, fixable attributes should not be a concern.

‘Such things like a brightly coloured feature wall can turn some buyers running but if it could be looked past and not trick the eye of the buyer they may find themselves a great investment,’ he said.

Posted by Jennifer Duke – Domain (Fairfax) on 12th February, 2016