You have found “The One” but before you leap, be sure you look behind the scenes of your dream home. Here are 7 tips to make sure you know what your are getting into with your home purchase.
- Hire an Inspector. The only safe way to avoid buying a property lemon is to get a home inspection that’s conducted by a qualified specialist. Depending on age and location of the home, you may want a foundation, roof, plumbing, pool, pest, or other inspection done after the general inspection. In the meantime, pay close attention to the areas listed below and discuss any areas of concern with your inspector or other specialist.
- Look For Water Damage. When water gets into a property over a sustained period, you can expect major structural damage. Rust on the roof or gutters, sagging gutters, and wall paint that’s bubbling or peeling away from the walls usually indicate a leaking roof. Other signs of water damage include damp patches, discoloration, rotten skirting boards, peeling wallpaper, and the pervasive smell of mold.
- Look for Foundation Problems. If there is an obvious slope in any of the rooms, there may be a problem. Other red flags include cracks in interior walls or ceilings, doors that stick, and cracks in the exterior siding. Many foundation companies offer lifetime warranties, so be sure to check with the sellers if any work has been done in the past and if the warranties can be transferred to you.
- Get a Home Warranty. No house is perfect, even new construction homes. So ask the seller to buy a home warranty and write this into the purchase contract. A home warranty pays out if your mechanical or electrical systems malfunction. Typically, it also covers the air conditioning, furnace, water heater, ductwork, telephone wires, plumbing, and electrical systems. If the home also has a pool, it’s worth asking the seller to buy coverage for that too.
- Check out the Neighbors. A property in good shape can still be a lemon if the neighbors drive you bananas. Check out the neighbors before you buy. Cruise the neighborhood at night and see what the people on the street are doing. Listen out for barking dogs and late night parties. Local store owners are good for gossip, so ask what they know about the street and the people who live there.
- Check Permits. Building permits are required for just about every type of home improvement, from remodeling the garage, to adding a deck. Permits obtained over the life of the property indicates that the work was done by a legitimate contractor in compliance with local building codes. Conversely, a property that displays clear signs of improvement, such as new windows, but has no permit, is a red flag. There’s a risk that the work is substandard and will end up costing you money to fix or bring up to code.
- Verify, Don’t Assume. If you’re moving into an area because you’ve heard it’s peaceful, has great schools, low taxes, low crime rates and so on, verify these assumptions. Otherwise, you may end up with freeway construction at the end of your street or find that your “low” tax bill is topped up heavily by special assessments. Let your real estate agent know your needs and concerns and have her check out crime statistics, county records, and key community information. After all, you can fix up a rundown property, but you’re stuck with its location.
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