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What do home buyers need to know before buying?

With the current slump in prices for the housing market, there are a lot of great deals out there. It’s a good time for people with the funds to invest in a new home. But, when buying a home, you need to know a lot more than what makes a good deal.

So what are the other things that home buyers should know before they make their decision? We’re turning to our Blog-Off experts to find out.

Why We’re Asking:

There is an endless list of things to think about when buying a house; how the space will fit with your needs, the community it’s in, what the upkeep will be, and so on. Those concerns are common, and easily addressed. But what are the considerations that get overlooked by the inexperienced?

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What do home buyers need to know before buying?

What suggestions do you have for home buyers, especially first timers?
Any mistakes you’ve witnessed?
What do smart home buyers keep an eye out for?
Any insider tips on things often overlooked?

We’re looking for information from all angles, including design, architecture, plumbing, electrical, energy efficiency and so forth.

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Reggie Marston @ REM Home Inspection 08/19/11

    The first task a home purchaser, whether a beginner or a seasoned home purchaser should do is assemble a team of professionals. The team should consist of a Realtor, a mortgage lender, an insurance agent and a qualified home inspector. The team should be assembled prior to beginning the process to find that dream home. In every profession there are the great, the good, and the awful and it’s no different in the real estate arena.

    All of the team members should be interviewed and vetted completely and carefully because between all of them they hold your financial future in their hands. To walk into an open house, fall in love with the house and use the first real estate agent that happens by may not be the wisest decision, they may not have you best interest in mind. The same holds true for home inspectors, not all home inspectors are created equal. If you wait until you find the home of your dreams, sign the contract and then try to find a home inspector to fit into the home inspection contingency time frame of five to ten days you may not get the most qualified home inspector. You may just get the only inspector that was available because all the other qualified inspectors were booked.

    All real estate transactions have bumps and hurdles in the process, with a professional, qualified team in place it, looking out for your interests along the way it will help in leveling out the home buying process so it flows smoothly and you get through the process with the least amount of bumps and bruises.

  • Jim Gates @ Quality Filters 08/19/11

    Be sure your air conditioning or furnace systems are in good order. The HVAC (Heating Ventilating Air Conditioning) system is the most expensive appliance in your house, typically more expensive than all of your kitchen and laundry appliances combined. As Melissa Galt suggested, get yourself a good home inspector and ask them to take a close look at the HVAC system.

    Things you should know:

    The life expectancy of central air conditioning or heat pump systems is about 10 years, a central furnace lasts about 15 years.

    Musty smells in a home may be caused by the presence of mold or mildew, which are health risks. Once present, remediation can be very expensive.

    Replacing older systems may pay for themselves in electrical cost savings.

    Proper filtration is the least expensive most effective way to protect your HVAC system and clean the air that you breathe.

    Some good resources:

    Energy Star: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_checklist_consumers
    My ever so competent HVAC contractor has a good page on heating and cooling: http://www.tbatchelorandson.com/bryant_faq_heatingandcooling101
    http://www.cleanfreshairindoors.com

  • Mary Kennedy Thompson @ Mr. Rooter Plumbing 08/19/11

    The most common problem we see with new homeowners is an unforeseen plumbing stoppage in the home. Many sellers are unaware of the problem, and it doesn’t surface until the new family moves in. While that is the No. 1 complaint, we also hear there is not enough hot water.

    When buying a home it is important to check the plumbing, so you don’t regret buying it down the road. I recommend you have a plumber video inspect the sewer line as well as check the main cleanout of the home to ensure all plumbing fixtures are working properly.

    Mr. Rooter Plumbing also has some DIY tips to get you started:

    1. Check the age of the water heater, because their life expectancy is about 10 years. Be sure to check for signs of water or moisture around and under the heater as well as rust on the outside of the unit.

    2. Check under the sinks for possible water or drainage leaks.

    3. Inspect the floor around the toilets to ensure it is even and there is no water or moisture around the base.

    4. You should test faucets for drips and leaks. When the faucet is off or when you attempt to turn the water on, be sure there is no water around the handles or spout.

    5. Check to see if the shower and tub valves turn on and off with ease. Look for leaks around the trim and faceplate of the tub and shower valves as well.

    6. Fill the garbage disposal with ice, run the water and turn the unit on to ensure it operates smoothly and actually functions as designed.

    7. Locate and ensure the main water shut off valve operates properly.

    8. Do a pressure test on the plumbing system. (A standard residence should have a minimum pressure of 40 PSI and it should not exceed 80 PSI.)

    If this sounds overwhelming, ask your local plumber if he would be willing to do a plumbing safety check-up for you.

  • Bess Wyrick @ Celadon & Celery designs 08/19/11

    For the first time in 3 years I have moved out of my showroom and into a “fixer uper”/dump in Williamsburg. My first mistake was overlooking the electricity as I was mostly concerned with the cosmetics of the apartment. After doing a small demo, a wall removal and then an extensive paint job I was ready for the the chandeliers and the “wow”. So I hired an electrician who quickly discovered that the wire in the ceiling fan was burned which he then needed to see how far it had burned. Which means he is chopping holes into the ceiling and debris is falling everywhere! Turns out the entire place had to be rewired more or less and that the wires had most likely not been checked in close to 30 years! So my advice is get an electrician in the place First to avoid patching walls and ceilings that did not need patching in the first place. This was a $4k mistake, not one I was prepared to pay.

  • Rhonda Haran, Atlanta Fine Homes 08/19/11

    The home buying process has become increasingly complex over the last few years.

    Short sales, foreclosures, and other types of distress properties, while appealing for the perceived “value” they may offer potential buyers, frequently cause those same buyers to walk away frustrated by the process.

    The first and most important thing a savvy homebuyer should look for is an experienced and knowledgeable Realtor(R) to hire.

    Here are some additional tips:

    Compare recent market sales data before submitting an offer to determine value

    Also, are there “Pre-Foreclosure” properties in the neighborhood that could negatively affect values in the coming months?

    Request a Seller’s Disclosure which will often reveal items that may need further exploration before submitting an offer

    Make your offer contingent upon the property appraising for the contract price

    Request a home warranty paid by the seller

    Hire a reputable home inspector

    Purchase title insurance

    If attempting to purchase a foreclosure or short sale, be sure you hire a Realtor(R) _with experience in this area_ .

  • Glenn Waldorf, Bell Environmental Services 08/19/11

    Has the previous owner ever had bed bugs? Has there been a bed bug inspection performed recently in the home? If the home is located in a major city or in the suburbs of a major city, the chances of having a bed bug infestation are increased. Over the last several years, bed bugs has gone from an issue in major cities only to one that can crop up just about anywhere. Google “bed bugs” and “Madison, Wisconsin” and you’ll see what I mean. In Northern New Jersey, we know of at least one real estate attorney who has included bed bug-related questions in the disclosure forms that are part of the home buying contract.

  • Christina Sopko 08/19/11

    Home buyers should not buy a recently foreclosed property, nor should they buy a short sale. The reasons for each of these being disastrous is due to the chain of title being clouded due to the securitization process, and the rampant fraud which has crippled the global economy derived from the structuring, and selling of these securitized mortgages. Many title insurance companies are refusing, that is completely refusing, to issue title policies to homebuyers on homes which were foreclosed. They are all of a sudden issuing ‘special warranty deeds’ which basically give the homebuyer zero protection when it turns out that the entity that foreclosed on the house had no legal standing to do so. Remember that less than 2% of homeowners foreclosed upon or forced into a short sale of deed-in-lieu have an atty, or even show up in court. So the loan servicer, or the foreclosure law firm or other intermediary does whatever they want with no opposition from anyone including the judge. This is how people are ‘losing’ their homes. And clouding all the titles, and corrupting the land office records in every county in the US. NY AG Schneiderman’s lawsuit is just one of over 110 lawsuits, whereby investors who bought the toxic waste which sunk the global economy are suing because, simply put, what they received for their purchase, didn’t match what they were told they were going to receive. Reading thru these lawsuits, the amount of fraud is unthinkable, and seems totally counter to what is being repeated by the MSM day after day, week after week, year in, year out, on and on and on. Recap- don’t buy any foreclosed, short sale, deed-in-lieu homes, especially anything owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, what these two govt.sponsored entities are doing boggles the imagination. There is a reason why these two entities, run by imbeciles, and staffed by morons, have collectively managed to lose trillions of dollars with the full faith and guarantees of the American taxpayer.

  • Shuki Haiminis, Lofts.com 08/19/11

    The best advice I would give home buyers is to be prepared for the transaction both mentally and financially. Arm yourself with the most knowledgeable person you can to help you with the home buying process. Often a local real estate agent that is very familiar with comps and the specific area you are searching in. Second make sure that persons goals are aligned with you (the home buyers) goals. There are tons of unscrupulous agents that will say whatever they need to get a deal done and you the home buyer will suffer in the long run. If you are working with a person that comes highly recommended and is in the business to form long term relationships and not the quick commission you will get great advice and an ally in the buying process. They will work extremely hard on your behalf to make sure all aspects are thoroughly covered.

    What suggestions do you have for home buyers? Especially first timers?

    An easy first step that will save time and stress is to be properly approved for a mortgage prior to beginning your home search. It will help you save time later down the road if you are unable to get the financing you need to purchase as well as give you the most accurate picture and umber that you should be shopping for in terms of a dollar amount.

    Any mistakes you’ve witnessed?

    One big mistake I witnessed recently was with a first time home buyer. We always recommend working with an attorney in real estate transactions because it is too large and important a purchase to not be protected. In this case the buyer did not take our advice and decided to decline working with an attorney. The deal ended up falling apart and she wasn’t properly protected because she did not understand the documents she was signing. An attorney would have made adjustment s to these docs that would have favored her and protected her from such an event. We can’t stress it enoughalways get an attorney involved to protect yourself.

    Any insider tips on things often overlooked?

    For a lot of first time home buyers a place that is often overlooked is what the costs are to heat and cool a particular house or condo. We had one such family that was on a tight budget and when we ran all the numbers including average utility costs that particular house was not appropriate. Had we not made them aware of these other costs they may have gone forward with the purchase and put themselves into a very uncomfortable situation. Another agent or Real Estate firm would not care or bother to go the extra mile however we do.

  • Lynn Schrage, The KOHLER Store 08/19/11

    My suggestions for first time home buyers is to focus less on the upgrades and amenities and more on the overall floor plan for the home, location and neighborhood, and storage. With that said, custom built-ins that replace the need for furniture pieces, plenty of natural light and outdoor landscaping are a plus.

    Think about where you see you and your family in five and ten years – is formal entertaining important where a large dining room should be considered, do you work out of your home and require a private office space, or does casual entertaining best describe your lifestyle and therefore the need for a generous open floor plan with a large island and casual seating.

    New home buyers will frequently have estimated utility expenditures provided for the home, so it is important to focus on features that offer energy and water savings and green building standards that are tested and verified by third party agencies. Here are a few to consider: Energy Star standards, EPA WaterSense labeled products and Greenguard certified products.

  • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 08/18/11

    Buying a home is such a personal decision with many so many factors. For me it has always been location. You can buy a good home or a poorly constructed or maintained home anywhere so invest in a very good home inspection from a licensed and qualified individual. Have the sewer scoped too for problems. In Seattle we have hills and rockeries. To do a new sewer line with a home thirty feet above the street with a sixty year old rockery might cost as much as %30,000 or more. Always replace the water line at the same time.
    Do you want to be the most expensive or the least expensive home on the block probably depends on your time horizon, needs and financial situation. If you are the least expensive home, are you prepared to invest more money to update/remodel /repair the home? If you are buying the most expensive home on the block I think you have to ask yourself why. There are some good reasons to buy the most expensive; a water view or access, a historically significant home, or LEED certified construction eliminating most of your future energy costs.
    For some people new construction is important enough to be the most expensive, but personally I wouldn’t consider a top dollar new home unless it had a solar or thermal energy component to offset my energy and mortgage costs.

  • Kris Bickell, HouseBuying-Tips.com 08/18/11

    First time home buyers should carefully select anyone they work with – realtors, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, etc. If possible, ask your friends and colleagues to recommend professionals they had a positive experience working with.

    Also, these professionals may recommend others to work with, but that doesn’t mean you should hire them. For example, your realtor might recommend a home inspector, but just because it is convenient don’t assume this is the right inspector for you, and don’t assume this means they are good at their job. Interview each professional separately, it will be well worth the time and effort, and you’ll learn a lot that will help you with the home buying process.

    Becoming an educated homebuyer takes a little work, but you’ll be less likely to be disappointed, and less likely to get “ripped off”.

  • Alexis Moore, Town Center Realty Group 08/18/11

    Don’t wait for the final home inspection to inquire about potential home defects. Our brokerage had a situation recently where the sellers agent failed to disclose the home’s heating and air condition unit was not working and the problem was not discovered until the final home inspection. This could have sunk the deal and since the deal was a short sale and the bank on a tight-deadline. Buyers have to ask out-right for written verification of potential problem’s. Don’t depend upon the sellers or sellers agent to disclose material defects.

    Do your homework! Buyers go to the county in which you are buying the home and find out about zoning, future development and tax information. With the net there are simple checks the buyers can do before hand searching Megan’s law database, sheriff/police call logs and other records as well that could be very valuable.

  • Isaac Perlstein, Quality Bath 08/18/11

    1)Try to get a look at the plumbing pipes. Look under the sinks, check behind the toilets. You should be able find the some piping in the basement, take a look at that see if there are any leaks. Sometimes the leaks might be very small, even a drip or two every 10 minutes, but that can turn into a big problem. Make sure the pipes are not damaged by rust or other corrosion. If it is you may find that after one year living in your new “dream home” you will need to shell out thousands of dollars to repair the plumbing.

    2) While looking at a house you may have ideas of how to remodel or add extensions. Many new home buyers will want to add a guest room in the basement or add an extension with a guest room. You are going to need a bathroom there as well. But if the bathrooms are on the other side of the house it will be costly to run a pipe from one side of the house to the other. Most house have the bathrooms next to each other. This way the piping runs from the top of the house in a straight line down to the basement. If you are going to want to add a bathroom to the other side of the house the pipes will need to be extended. It can be a major job.

  • Cindy*Staged4more 08/18/11

    The buyers really need to have a clear focus on what they want and where they want to live. They also should consider what would happen if they want to resale this house. Location is very key in the resale process. Good locations will appreciate well. Also choosing the remodeling schemes carefully. Many times I have seen home sellers having a hard time selling the place because a) location is not ideal or b) over-remodeled or c) have unrealistic expectation on what their home’s worth. All these issues can be circumvented if you choose your home wisely!

  • Neal Walsh - Aeroseal 08/18/11

    Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This is a term most often thought of in conjunction with buying a product like a new car or a computer printer, but it’s even more critical when buying a house. While new home owners may haggle over a couple hundred dollars a month on mortgage terms, they are less likely to consider monthly utility costs, which can easily vary hundreds of dollars a month, depending upon the energy efficiency of the house.

    Are the walls well insulated? Is the furnace and air conditioner energy star rated? What about the windows? And here’s one I bet you haven’t thought of – air duct leakage. It’s estimated that the typical U.S. home loses an average of 20% to 30% of heating and cooling air through air duct leaks. That’s both new and existing homes. What if your gas tank had a hole in it. You certainly wouldn’t stand for losing 25 percent of the gasoline you just pumped into your car, would you?

    It’s estimated that properly sealed air ducts can save the average American home owner somewhere between $600 and $850 a year in heating and cooling costs. Now, that’s something to haggle over.

  • Sohail Hassan @ One Stop Green 08/18/11

    Perhaps one of the most important factors one should look into before purchasing a home is how ‘green’ or energy efficient it is. With energy costs steadily rising, the more efficient a home uses energy, the more likely you are protecting yourself against a bad investment in a down economy.

    It is recommended that in addition to a full inspection of the home, that a comprehensive energy audit is also administered. An energy audit will tell you how energy efficient your home currently is, or how energy efficient it could potentially be by implementing various inexpensive solutions.

    There are usually five parts to this audit, beginning with the attic to check for insulation, then a lighting analysis to check how much energy is being consumed when the lights are on in the home, then the audit moves to concentrate on windows and doors – to identify how much air is escaping. The analysis then proceeds to review the home’s HVAC system (as more recent HVAC units use energy more efficiently), and finally, the home’s energy and atmosphere which includes the overall condition of the home and its structure. Within these categories, auditors check a number of factors that will not only tell you its energy consumption, but will also tell you to how the house was treated under previous owners. The last thing anyone wants is to be surprised when they receive their first month’s energy bill, so it is best to invest in a comprehensive energy audit for your home before you buy – just so you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

  • Nettie Owens @ Sappari Solutions 08/18/11

    There have been many wonderful contributions made on this topic. Thinking outside of the box of normal considerations and putting on my ‘organizer’s hat,’ leads me to the topic of functionality and purpose in the new home you are considering. What is your lifestyle? What will you be doing in the home? Obviously, sleeping and storing your belongings… however will you entertain? Do you like to cook? Do you have hobbies you need space for? Are you outdoorsy? Would a smaller house and larger garage make more sense? Consider thoughtfully your lifestyle and the purpose of the home you are buying. Is this home a stepping stone or will you plan to spend many years? Do you foresee changes in your family in the next 5-10 years? Be sure to make accommodations for these changes. Often we think of adding to a family through children but forget to becoming an empty nester (if that time is soon) or space for parents. Do you need a large yard or is there a nice park nearby that will suffice? How much time and energy do you have for upkeep and maintenance of the home? You may love the idea of a ‘fixer upper’ and the price may be great but without the skills and time it takes to embark on this type of project it may not be a good choice.

    Start a journal of a typical day, see how you use your time and space. Jot down where you see yourself in your life 5-10 years from now. What are three highlights you look forward to every year? Spend a week to a month on this journal and then reread and see if you can pick out your top three priorities in your living space. Use these priorities to guide your new home choice.

  • Ed Del Grande - triple master plumber, licensed contractor and LEED Green Associate, 08/18/11

    One issue that I see that new homeowners overlook, is that they fail to pull the proper permits for any remodeling jobs needed. It doesn’t matter if a homeowner or a contractor is doing the work, permits are there to protect the homeowner with professional inspections, and approval of all work completed.

    This is not only important for the homeowners insurance company to know that all work was done to local codes, but down the road owners may get better resale value on a home if they can produce the official paperwork for all remodeling jobs.

    Before you buy, if you plan to do any projects outside of painting and wallpapering, I recommend you check with the local building inspector to see what permits will be required. Bottom line: When fixing up your “dream home,” hire licensed and insured contractors; and make sure the proper permits are in place, or you just might find yourself living in a “nightmare”!

  • Peter L. Mosca, Green Realtor 08/18/11

    Real estate, if purchased well, is the single best investment one can make. It is also the largest investment most will make in a lifetime. Lastly, it is where most Americans have their wealth. That said, today’s home buyer must think like an investor when buying real estate. The investor thinks IDEAL — Income, Depreciation, Equity, Appreciation and Leverage. The investor thinks location, price/terms and condition. The investor thinks real estate is a business and a strategy, knowing not only when to buy but when to exit and move on to the next best investment. Our Society has changed in many ways, and when it comes to how long people stay in their homes, statistics show the number of years people stay in their homes is on the decline. We are moving more. It is reported that about 40 million people move annually in the US and approximately 75% of Americans move on average once every 5 years, even if it is from county to county. Think about: economic shifts, age changes, divorce rates, corporate relocations, job openings, retirements, etc., all are reasons for the movement of America. A successful real estate investor knows this and understands that markets within markets, or submarkets, vary significantly as to their location, price/terms and condition. Ultimately, my advice to the home buyer is understand that while you may have other considerations, the most important to you are location, price/terms and condition.

  • Terry Peterman @ Electrical Online 08/18/11

    Many here have mentioned getting a good, reputable home inspector to look over the house as a condition of sale. This is good advice for sure, but be aware that they take a broad approach to the inspection, and all have different areas of expertise where they may focus attention. In most cases, the inspectors are not tradespeople, but have been trained on what to look for to spot potential issues that trigger a recommendation for a more in-depth opinion in a particular system within the home. Don’t ignore these recommendations.

    I’ll keep my comments focused on the electrical system in older homes. Obviously older homes will have electrical systems that aren’t compliant with the latest electrical code rules. If the home passed the inspection of the day, they are “grandfathered” and usually are considered functional and safe. However, any renovations or new work must meet the latest standards.

    One of the triggers for a more detailed look at the electrical system will be the service entrance. Some older homes may have only a 60A service. While that service may be grandfathered, with the electrical conveniences that most consider essential today, these 60A services are way too small. Most insurance companies will require a service upgrade as a condition for providing adequate coverage. This can get very expensive, and usually if you are going to upgrade the service then you should add circuits where required, and in most cases an entire replacement of the electrical system is prudent. The cost of replacing the entire electrical system can easily be twice as much as wiring a new home.

    If the home inspector suggests a closer look at the electrical system, take that extra step or it could cost you a substantial amount of money before you are done writing checks!

  • Dina Goldentayer - The DST Team, realty 08/17/11

    KEEP YOUR MONEY IN ONE PLACE

    Lenders need to feel assured that they are making a safe investment in you. They will look closely at the source for your down payment and closing costs. You will be asked to provide statements from checking, savings and money market accounts, as well as any cd’s, stocks, mutual funds, or 401Ks you have. Moving money between these accounts will make that paper trail longer and harder to follow.

    WHY YOU SHOULD NOT WAIT

    Attempting to “time the market” usually works best for first-time buyers. Homeowners commonly need to sell their current home in order to purchase a new one. If a “move-up” buyer wants to buy a home during a depressed market, that means they usually have to sell one during the slow market, too. If a seller wants to sell his home to take advantage of a “hot” market when prices are fairly high, they generally have to buy their next home during that same hot market.

    Things tend to equal out.

    Finally, the business cycle can change over time. Since 1983, we have had two fairly long expansions with only a slight recession in between each. You would not want to wait nine years to buy a home, would you? You could miss out on a substantial amount of appreciation by waiting, and end up paying much higher prices.

    HOME IMPROVEMENTS
    Note whether the current owners have made any substantial improvements. Cosmetic changes should not be given much consideration as they rarely add value to the home equal to their costs. Items like a pool, jacuzzi or expensive floor tiles would fall into this category. Major improvements are what we are looking for. Most notably the addition of new rooms, especially bedrooms and bathrooms.

    WHAT IS INVOLVED?
    The offer is much more complicated than simply coming up with a price and saying, “This is what I’ll pay.” Because of the huge dollar amounts involved, both you and the seller want to build in protections and contingencies to protect your investment and limit your risk.

    In the offer, you include not only the price you are willing to pay, but also any other details of the purchase. This includes how you intend to finance the home, your down payment, who pays what closing costs, what inspections are performed, timetables, whether personal property is included in the purchase, terms of cancellation, any repairs you want performed, which professional services will be used, when you get physical possession of the property, and how to settle disputes should they occur.

    Buying a home is a major event for both parties. It will affect your finances more than any other previous purchase or investment. The seller makes plans based on your offer that affect his or her finances, too. In the time it takes to write the offer, both you and the seller are making decision that will affect the rest of your lives.

  • Dawn Ohnstad - Coldwell Banker Burnet of Wayzata, MN 08/17/11

    1) The most important tip of all is not about the houses but about choosing a lender. Be sure to compare 2 different large reputable lenders for products available to you and obtain approval before looking at any homes. Nothing kills the fun faster than finding out you have been looking at houses beyond your reach, as the ones you can afford will not look good after shopping higher up.

    2) Neighborhood: In Minnesota agents are not permitted to tell you any given neighborhood is “good” or “bad”. To understand an area it is advisable to call the local police precinct or look online to see how many 911 calls have been made in the area. In terms of real estate value, it is important that the surrounding homes be of like or greater value as the one you are considering. it is also critical that the neighbors appear to be maintaining their homes well.

    3). Roofing: Does the roof look good? does the roof have 2 layers of shingles visible to you? If there are two layers this means the homeowner has overlaid new over old to do a cheaper fix to the aging roof…not terrible, but not as good as a true “newer roof”. Be aware that it is possible that a questionable roof may not be approved for homeowners insurance so if you are not sure, talk to the insurance company while you still have the option of backing out during the inspection period, or, make the sale contingent upon the insurability of the property as is.

    4.). Foundation: Beware of basements with newly painted block….I would rather see bare walls and peeling, than new and covered surface of block walls…suspicious they could be hiding moisture stains. The mere presence of a dehumidifier in an older home is okay…they can be damp..but still not have water issues. However, a wet or mildew smell is something to pay attention to. Often it is as simple as raising the grade against the house, but your inspector will tell you more.

    5). Professional help: ALWAYS have a private inspection even if the house has already been inspected by the seller. Work with an experienced Realtor you trust.

  • Anthony Kuo @ Smart Home Autamation Guide 08/17/11

    Buying a home is often one of the largest and major purchases you will make in your lifetime.

    Of course it is critical that you do your due diligence: get a good inspector, assess the marketplace, etc. so you know exactly what you are getting into. However, while important, this step will only ensure that you don’t over-pay, or end up buying a lemon that needs extensive repair.

    In order to be truly happy with your new home, the most important thing you need to know is WHY you want to buy a new home in the first place.

    Buying a home, as with any major purchase, is a highly emotional process and involves a lot of compromise that may lead to buyers remorse. However, if you are absolutely clear on why you want a new home and what attributes are important, you’ll be in a much better position to make decisions.

    Spend some time asking yourself what your top 10 priorities are, and rank-order them in terms of how willing you are to compromise on it. For example, you may be willing to give up a big backyard in exchange for being in a top school district. Or, you may discover that resale value is the most important factor because you only plan to be in the home for a couple of years. Knowing what you consider to be valuable will help you immensely when you come to the negotiation table.

    Once you know what you want, stick to it. Don’t let real estate agents and salespeople dictate what you want: let them know what YOU want, and make them show you what you want.

  • Jennifer @ Yourhome.ca 08/17/11

    Before buying a home, there are two key things homeowners need to know: What they can afford and the history/background of the place they’re buying.

    First, the numbers: Before even beginning a home hunt, buyers should look at their current financial situation and find out how much they can afford to pay each month for a home — including not only the mortgage costs, but also the monthly expenses such as insurance, heating, electricity and upkeep. This is also the time to consider how much money they have saved for a downpayment and to research how much would be needed for closing costs – such as any land transfer taxes, lawyer fees, utility deposits, and so on. With these numbers in hand, they can help save themselves from becoming “house poor” or “underwater” by buying only as much as they can afford.

    After finding a dream property in your price range comes the second key piece of knowledge: the property’s basics. While a renovated kitchen is great, homebuyers need to delve deeper into the property’s structure and mechanics to save them from buying a lemon. Get a certified home inspector to look at the property, request details about the history, verify any construction work has been done with the proper permits and even canvas neighbours for a history of the home and the area – does it have termites? Was there ever a fire? What’s it like living there?

    Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make not only a wise investment, but also get a home you can afford and enjoy.

  • Steve Crossland, Austin Realtor 08/17/11

    The main thing we try to impart to our buyers is to not get hung up on minor stuff that really doesn’t matter. It still comes down to Location, Price and Physical Attributes. Decide what is most important and stay focused on that. Often, buyers look for the worst in a home and improperly rule homes out over small curable issues, such as paint color or flooring. Those things are easy to cure. If the location, price and size are right, cosmetics shouldn’t stop you from getting the home you want.

    On the flip side, don’t fall in love with the wrong home. The pickier, or more narrow you criteria, the fewer options and negotiating power you have. We’ve seen buyers fall in love with an overpriced home and go into distress when the seller won’t budge on price and we tell them it’s too much to pay. If you are flexible enough to allow yourself to have a solid 2nd and 3rd choice, it’s easier to walk away from an overpriced 1st choice and move on.

  • Kerry Ann Dame @ Posh Surfside 08/17/11

    From a decorating and interior design standpoint, my advice would be: Don’t overbuy. It is so common to see clients who have purchased their dream mansion only to realize they can’t furnish it. Even if they don’t have expensive taste, a large house means a large furniture purchase; those big, sunny custom windows must have custom draperies or motorized blinds; stone or wood floors need to have area rugs to protect them and muffle sound, and large rugs are very expensive. One of the biggest furniture investments in a home is the dining room, and it is such a shame to see cheap imported fake-carved dining room furniture in a grand home because the real thing is far out of reach. All of this effort is often for a retirement home, where the dining room is used twice a year. It is best to be realistic about a furniture budget; hire a designer for a few hours to discuss the home’s needs and potential budget before buying, and factor those numbers into the equation. Consider keeping some of your existing furniture and having it recovered. Make sure large pieces such as cupboards will fit in the new home – many open plan homes have very little wall space for furnishings and art. Long term, be sure to get information about potential upkeep – stone surfaces must be periodically sealed, carpets and tile floors professionally cleaned. These expenses can really add up. It is less wasteful to have a smaller home and be able to furnish it with quality pieces and maintain it beautifully.

  • Jason Crook @ The PHAG Shop 08/17/11

    Home buyers are often encouraged to ignore superficial or aesthetic features of a home, and focus on the items that are more structural, you know, the ones on the standard checklist of a home inspector. Obviously, these are important, but, as a designer, I would like to “shed some light” on one aesthetic note that’s worthy of consideration for all buyers- that’s the lighting!

    Lighting is, without a doubt, the most fundamental element in creating any living or work space. Whether it’s natural light or decorative lighting that’s brought to a space, it’s a necessary component of functional living. Because licensed electrical work can be expensive, unfortunately, many builders and developers focus on what’s required, rather than what’s needed when it comes to lighting a home. This results in the absence of permanent lighting fixtures or recessed lighting in dining areas, bedrooms, even halls and stairwells.

    Often, in lieu of wiring a permanent fixture, builders will choose the more economic route of connecting one or more outlets in a room to a switch, allowing floor and table lamps to be controlled from a wall switch. While this may be a good counter “argument” for a buyer concerned with the amount of light in a home, when you end up living in a dark dreary space, you quickly realize this quality of light is simply not functional in many spaces. Worst of all, you become responsible, not only for the cost of the expensive licensed electrical work (mentioned earlier), but also the mess associated with ripping up walls and ceilings to install the functional light needed to make the most of your living space.

    My advice is to absolutely focus on the foundation, structure, safety, etc., but don’t make a hasty purchase decision in the dark!

  • Wayne Caswell @ Modern Health Talk 08/17/11

    In a buyer’s market, sellers are more willing to add value with lower prices or improved quality & features, but some builders still get into financial trouble, cut corners, and hide behind laws that shield them from accountability. Those laws, which mostly related to tort reform and were enacted over the last 10-15 years, unfortunately led to a large number of shoddy homes built by unscrupulous builders who have given the entire industry a bad name. So even existing homes have hidden dangers, and here are three things to watch out for.

    CONTRACTS. Know that contracts “always” favor those who write them. They often include binding arbitration clauses such as, “Any dispute that arises between the builder/seller and the purchaser will be decided in binding arbitration.” Even if the seller refuses to negotiate contract terms, as many do, you should still hire your own legal counsel to help you understand the rights you have retained or have relinquished. Have ALL legal documents reviewed by your attorney BEFORE signing and be prepared for new ones to appear on closing day when the pressure mounts. You may want to delay closing if need be so your attorney can review the new documents too, because a common practice is for sellers to present buyers with a “gift” of a pre-paid home warranty. But that warranty may also force disputes into arbitration, and it may be better to buy your own home warranty with terms you’ve already agreed to.

    INSPECTION. No home is perfect, but you need to learn about major defects and have them fixed before the sale. So hire your own inspector, and if you’re building a new home, have them check each stage of construction to make sure they comply with local building codes and rules. City building inspectors are often overworked and “rubber-stamp” inspection reports or are beholden to builders. You need someone representing you. Inspectors are trained to look beyond what consumers see, such as rounded corners, crown molding, granite counters, and high-end hardware and appliances that imply quality. You want someone who can point out structural problems or things you can’t see, such as improper land grading or foundation engineering. Ask about wind proofing, energy efficiency, and universal design features. Such features serve people of all abilities and include zero-edge entries & showers, doorways wide enough for wheelchair access, and lever-style door handles instead of doorknobs. They’ll make it easier for grandma to visit when she’s older and using a walker, or for you as you get older or injured.

    RESEARCH. Use the Internet to search for complaints about the home builder, especially those related to structural integrity, because it’s hard for inspectors to notice problems hidden behind walls. Also check out some of the consumer sites representing home buyer issues, such as HADD.org and HomeownersOfTexas.org. They’ll have additional advice, including “10 Things Contractors Won’t Tell You” (www.homeownersoftexas.org/What-Contractors-Wont-Tell-You.html/).

  • Jason Todd @ GreenHomes America 08/16/11

    We’ve all heard the phrase “more than meets the eye” and it sure can apply to houses. The decisions we make in choosing a home can be very personal if we intend to spend any time there which is what a home is supposed to be after all. Those outside influences such as neighborhood and community are important but we are often rudderless when it comes to those things that are not easily seen such as the “health of the home”.

    Home inspectors can tell us a lot but not everything about a home. They are trained to look at many of the components and identify problems. I think of this like getting a basic physical from a doctor. This is an excellent idea and it’s a quick overview of a complicated system, your body. A builder is a specialist, so is a plumber so is a heating technician as are most of the trades they can each see what is right or wrong within their specialty. Sometimes we see specialists for particular problems.

    Do the components of the home work together in unison or fight each other? How do you see comfort? That’s right, you can’t it is something you feel. Trained GreenHomes America advisors have the ability to assess and describe comfort. The tools and knowledge they bring to a Comprehensive Home Assessment paints a picture of how it all comes together. This is exactly what is not always seen but is definitely felt.

    I recommend a Comprehensive Home Assessment for every home. Certainly Its about efficiency but just as important it is about your health and safety as well as comfort whether it be hot day or cold night. This kind of assessment really does works for any home because newly built doesn’t automatically mean trouble free. Before you commit to a place called home, get a look into your future there and really get a sense of what it might feel like to live there as well as whether or not it might break the bank just trying to stay comfortable.

  • Christine Schwalm Design 08/15/11

    I think some of the other experts made some excellent points about working with an experienced home inspector so no need for me to repeat those. I think it’s important to carefully evaluate your lifestyle and give some thought to how you want to live your day to day life. Where are you at this point in your life and where do you hope to be in the next 5-10 years? Are you thinking about a career or lifestyle (marriage, kids)? Then location/budget/maintenence not just for now but down the line will be just as important. Even if you’re not planning to stay beyond a couple of years, you then have to think about an “exit strategy”, even before you get in.

  • Rob Jones @ BuildDirect 08/15/11

    There are a lot of things to know before buying a home, ranging from finances, to choosing home inspectors, and beyond. I think the thing that is most important is the very personal “why do I want to buy?” There are some obvious answers to this, of course. But, I think when the answer is “because that’s what I am supposed to do as a grown-up”, it might be time to re-evaluate.

    I think the best starting point to being a homeowner is making sure that you will own your home, and your home won’t own you. After all, buying a home is a means to an end. And that end is happiness and a sense of personal fulfillment. Some people find that in owning a home – spending their time doing renovations, envisioning and affecting the design changes they love, entertaining friends and family in their own space, and so on.

    But, others don’t like to be bound to one place, and find happiness and fulfillment elsewhere. Maybe they like to travel frequently. Or maybe they are more at peace with the world while engaged in other pursuits that take up the lion’s share of their time and resources. To me, buying a home is like deciding to become a parent; it’s not something to do just because there is societal pressure to do it. It’s a serious commitment. In my view, the best reasons for making that commitment are the ones that are personal, honest, and not driven by external forces.

    Rob Jones
    BuildDirect

  • Skaie Knox @DiggersList.com 08/15/11

    When we’re “ticking the boxes” off our list of real estate buying considerations, must-haves, and deal-breakers, we’re often thinking about that first place or dream home. My mom just turned 82 this past year and we are so thankful she bought the house she is in now. The home buying list for seniors is quite unique, with some very important things to note before signing on the dotted line:

    • Location, location, location is quite probably the most important thing to consider for seniors like proximity to shops and services (grocery, doctor, dentist, hair salon, etc.), nearby family and support groups (churches, clubs, senior center), and their ability to be accessible to “getting out of the house” and not being isolated.
    • Mobile services if unable to drive: (bus/shuttle services) the freedom to continue being independent is vital to an elderly person’s vitality and overall happiness.
    • Community: (retirement/assisted living/regular neighborhoods) my mom loves living in a neighborhood with kids playing outside and in the park, whereas my aunt loves the rules, safety and security of a retirement community.
    • Cost and maintenance: fixed incomes are fixed, so mortgages, taxes and maintenance fees must be strictly examined and budgeted.
    • Home owners association: it’s important to ask if HMO fees cover the care of homeowners’ lawns and/or areas outside their property.

  • Lindsey @ Unique Home Solutions 08/15/11

    Going into this you probably have an idea of how long you plan to stay in the home. Are you staying for five or more years? If the answer is no then you want to make sure what you do while you are in the home will only make a substantial difference to the selling price of the home. If you are involved in a fixer-upper, be careful not to invest in products that are over-priced, because you want to make a profit off of your investment. But do not invest in something that is cheaply manufactured. Buyers can tell when something is going to need to be replaced again soon, and in this market any reason not to buy is a good enough reason.

    If you plan to sell the home within five years, think about this:

    1. Obviously use a trusted home inspector and follow his advice on what needs to be fixed. (Do what is necessary)
    2. Buying a home with great curb-appeal in a neighborhood of homes with great curb-appeal. (You will want to enhance the home, but don’t buy a home that already needs a lot of work)
    3. Updating your home with a quality product that has a warranty that will transfer to the next homeowner. (If updates are going to happen, make sure the next owner is aware of the value of what you put into the home).

  • Jill Valeri@The Welcome Home 08/15/11

    There are a few important things to keep in mind:

    1. Always, always get a home inspection and realize that even great home inspectors can miss problems. So be aware of the problems they catch and be prepared for problems that they don’t catch. I once bought a house that passed inspection only to discover problems with the septic system in the first 3 months.

    2. Buying a home is always a matter of compromise. You are choosing a home based on the flaws you can fix or accept. You can never move the house to a better neighborhood, school system or lot. Also realize that the flaws YOU can live with may hurt you on resale if other people think they are deal breakers.

    3. Know the comps! You need to understand not what houses are being listed for but what are they SELLING for. You need this information so you can make an appropriate offer. Some sellers have not adjusted their asking price to reflect the current market. Don’t pay more than the house is worth in today’s market.

    It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of buying a home. It is great when you fall in love with a house. You still need to look at it as a business transaction and an enormous (potentially risky) investment.

  • Linda Benninger, Atlanta Plumbing Plus 08/15/11

    Everyone knows a good home inspection is a must. but an extra step needs to be taken when the inspector points out multiple flaws or one serious flaw in a particular system (plumbing, HVAC, or Electrical for example). If this happens, it’s a good idea to follow up with a more detailed inspection of that system by a person licensed in that trade. That way, you can uncover any deeper problems that the Home Inspector – who is a generalist – might have missed; and, you can get a fair estimate of the repair costs at the same time.

    Another thing to consider is the commute time from the new home to the place of work. Since most home buyers look for a new home on the weekend, they may be surprised to find out how long the commute is in busy weekday rush-hour traffic. An extra hour in traffic at the beginning and end of the work day can quickly spoil the pleasure of a new home.

  • Master Plumber Larry Rothman, Roto-Rooter 08/15/11

    A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and is regularly waived in the purchasing process. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line, leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Whatever the reason for skipping a sewer line inspection, buyers should reevaluate foregoing this important step in signing a deal.

    On average, a home’s plumbing system represents approximately 8 percent of the overall value, meaning that plumbing in a $200,000 home should be valued at $16,000. If a problem occurs, a sewer line replacement costs at least $4,500, but prices vary widely and costs increase dramatically by region, depending on depth and length of the underground pipes and if street repairs become part of the issue.

    Generally, a plumber can complete a sewer line camera inspection for $250 to $550, depending on the region. While not cheap, it’s a relatively small price to pay when buying a home, especially if it helps a buyer avoid thousands of dollars in unforeseen repair bills.

    To avoid unexpected and costly plumbing problems, the experts at Roto-Rooter recommend having a plumber conduct a video camera sewer line inspection, in addition to a standard home inspection, before agreeing to purchase a home.

    Inspections are especially important if:
    • The home is 20 years or older
    • There are mature trees around the property
    • The home has been vacant for a period of time
    • The concrete surrounding the home is cracked or raised
    • There is considerable visible root growth in the yard

  • Greg Chick @ DIY Plumbing Advice 08/15/11

    Hopefully you are not buying the “American Dream” that is the nightmare too often bought. In general, Faux applications are best limited to sponge painting. I have seen great grief and expense from Faux that is made its way into fixtures and structure.

    The big McMansion $$$Zero Refrigerators are power suckers, they will cost too much to operate. Swimming Pools with out a Pool Cover that is easy to use will cost you 1/2″ water a day in evaporation plus Chemicals loss. As Water and Chemicals cost more this will be driven home to unsuspecting buyers. Does the buyer know that Tank-less Water Heater Manufacturers require flushing maintenance be done yearly ($200 retail cost). Are those Designer Faucets identifiable for repair parts? if not what is done when the Master Bath Lavatory Faucet finish peels and the matching it is impossible so both Lav Faucets need replacing only to not match the Tub/Shower? Not many manufacturers have everything needed, or for that matter still in business.

    Houses that are “below Sewer grade” meaning a Sewage Ejector is needed to lift waste to City Sewer. This is an ugly expensive wake up call for almost every homeowner that owns such a house. How about the Tub and Shower enclosures that were put together with unapproved adhesives that start showing through the wall of the enclosure as much as 10 yrs. after installed!

    One of the worst is non-permitted additions that get caught on “your watch” or should I say wallet. A Solar Water Heater that has been delivering “free” hot water faithfully for 30 yrs. and has reached its life expectancy. “IT HAS WORKED PERFECTLY FOR 30 YRS. WHY ALL OF A SUDDEN?” All things must pass, as will home trends, so stay away from faux designs and products. Invest in a new Solar Water Heater if you can, but watch the aging cycle on all Fixtures. Massive Tree Roots on top of the building Sewer or Water Main is another issue as well as being beautiful and the reason you bought the house, because it reminded you of a tree when you were young or your kids could play under it. This Tree could be at the end of it’s useful life in that yard.

  • Pablo Solomon, Green Designer 08/15/11

    In my opinion there are too big components to buying a home–1.The dollars and sense of the home and property 2. The sociological components.
    I will boil both down as simply as I can.

    1. Dollars and sense boils down to value. You must separate the minor cosmetic problems from the real structural and mechanical big money problems. Value also includes things like taxes, insurance, ease of maintenance, etc. And of course, are so called “green” features worth the money or just hype.

    2. Sociological concerns include–schools, crime rates, cultural opportunities, etc.

    You can often get great buys in terrible neighborhoods and get taken to the cleaners in great neighborhoods. In the long run, the best buy is the best value in the best neighborhood. I have a cousin who has done exceptionally well buying and selling homes by buying the least expensive–both in price and problems–in the best neighborhood for the money. That really is a winning approach.

    Thanks,
    Pablo

  • Melissa Galt @ Melissa Galt Interiors 08/15/11

    It is less about what a home buyer needs to know and more about WHO they need to know:
    A good, qualified home inspector is a must have.

    Once they get the inspection, they need to have a quote or several from:
    A qualified, talented contractor (or several) for any areas that need fixing. (Yes, I know there are DIYers galore, I also know many who get in over their heads! Have a plan B.)

    It can be very helpful and save time and angst to have:
    A quality designer or decorator even for basics like paint colors, finishes, and furniture arrangements. Yes, you can implement yourself, but this can save expensive mistakes.

    The BIGGEST thing a home buyer needs to know is how long they are planning to stay, is this a flip or is this a keeper. What you do will depend a lot on that decision. Remember that changes fall into two categories, fixed improvements (that get sold with the house) and everything is moveable money and flexible dollars.

    Pay attention to school districts, tax districts, convenience of groceries, dry cleaners, etc. Get the history of the neighborhood.

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