Better: Many houses on the market come with a lovely deal-breaker or two

As some of you may know (because I can't stop talking about it), Doug and I are in the process of downsizing. We've put our house on the market and are searching for a new place to call our own.

I won't say we've been shocked by some of the things we've encountered when touring a house that looked great online; but after shopping around for several months, we've come recognize certain conditions as absolute deal-breakers the instant we set foot on the property.


Of course, some features might seem like negatives at first, but are really more a matter of taste. Like the enormous master bathroom with walls that didn't reach the ceiling and a sliding rice-paper, non-locking shoji-screen for a door. The back half of the bathroom was the shower, with hidden drains in the floor, a rain-style shower head descending straight from the ceiling on a bamboo pipe, and floor-to-ceiling windows all around.

I'm sure some buyers would love that bathroom. I loved that bathroom for its aesthetic appeal. But it definitely wasn't for us: I value bathroom privacy second only to life itself, and believe it's the cornerstone of a long and happy marriage.


On the other hand, some attributes we've encountered in houses for sale are instant deal-breakers, things with "red flag" written all over them. We mark those houses with a giant "X" and move on to next prospect on our list. Following are our Top 10 Home-buying Deal-breakers.

Deal-breaker 1: After remarking on the condition of the next-door neighbors' fence — which has obvious teeth marks and missing boards in numerous places — the real estate agent admits that they run a small, road-side petting zoo featuring, among other exotic creatures, a mongoose, two alligators, a pair of honey badgers and a house cat with a really bad attitude.

Deal-breaker 2: Airport landing lights on the roof.

Deal-breaker 3: A road sign near the house that warns, "CAUTION: TANK CROSSING."

Deal-breaker 4: A family of cute little bunnies in the yard (fine, until you realize they all have canine teeth like tiny saber-tooth tigers).

Deal-breaker 5: What you initially thought was thunder from an impending storm turns out to be testing at a nearby explosives factory.

Deal-breaker 6: Speed-bumps … in the driveway.

Deal-breaker 7: The listing agent tells you this used to be Lindsay Lohan's house, adding, soto voce, that occasionally Lindsay still wanders in at all hours of the night, having forgotten that she moved.


Deal-breaker 8: The only heating source is methane gas from the landfill over the next rise. (Point in its favor: it's free.)

Deal-breaker 9: The house was owned by a serial killer back in the 1970s and the listing agent is legally obligated to inform you that "the police think there may still be a few bodies buried somewhere in the basement."

Deal-breaker 10: There's a halfway house for recovering hippies across the street, and sometimes they roam the neighborhood in search of Grateful Dead concerts; stage sit-ins in the middle of the street, but forget why; and hold drum circles and folk-song sing-alongs in local folks' back yards.

"They're harmless," the agent assured us, "and they bake something delicious they call 'special' brownies. They always bring some over when I'm having an open house, and everybody who has one says they've never felt more mellow."

Come to think of it, that last one sounds more like a perk than a deal breaker.

Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at