There are probably as many home-buying tips as there have been home-buyers, but having bought, remodeled, and fixed up several homes collectively, we here at Remodelaholic want to share our painfully learned tips from the perspective of the DIY home junkies that we are. We’d love to hear your home-buying tips in the comments!
7 Remodelaholic Tips to Help you Buy a Home
1) Whenever possible, start looking at homes in your target area early to get a feel for prices and what is available in the market. Start online and then make actual visits. (You may have to do this online if you are not local.) Having studied or seen ten or more homes will make you feel more confident if you need to jump on a property. You’ll know for yourself that the price and value are good.
2) Take your time looking at the houses before you offer. You may have to move fast to make an offer in a hot market, but slow yourself down when you are on site by bringing a list of questions to ask the seller or realtor. (Remember all the times you’ve had questions for your doctor and forgotten half of them when you were in the office?)
Many answers are on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS): number of bedrooms, age of house, sprinklers, etc. (Actually, don’t forget to verify the MLS information. It’s been wrong before!) But you’ll want to know several other things too. How old are the carpets, roof, appliances, cooling and heating systems, etc? Are there garage door openers? Is the fireplace functioning? What has been remodeled and by whom? Write it down! You may want to make your offer contingent on changes.
There are many sample lists online. Compile the questions you want answers to IN ADVANCE, bring it with you when you look at the house, and GET THE ANSWERS WHILE YOU ARE THERE, because you WILL forget if you don’t. You’ll get home and start writing up an offer and suddenly questions will pop up. Take your list to answer each question so you don’t assume amenities that don’t exist.
3) If possible take someone with you who has some experience buying and fixing up homes. Two heads are better than one, especially a really experienced head who isn’t blinded by love at first home-sight.
Look at the house AS IS. Can you live in it before you perform the cosmetic miracles you are imagining? And remember Murphy’s Law for Remodeling: your repairs will probably cost you 3X as much as you estimate, and take 3X as long. Be realistic. Are you prepared to live in a construction zone for a while? Will the value your changes add be worth the cost and time? Are they going to make your home more expensive than it’s likely to be able to resell for?
4) When you do make an offer, make your offer contingent on the results of a professional home inspection. This is a must. Some of the most expensive repairs are hard for an untrained eye to detect.
Ask your inspector specifically to check issues common to the age of the home. Is there asbestos, lead paint, settling, outdated electrical? Two of us on staff have had surprise asbestos discoveries, and one lead paint. Don’t let it happen to you! Paying someone to do this can save you thousands and will often help you negotiate repairs. Keep the report because you will need it for the next step…
5) Strongly consider a home warranty policy. Home warranties are different from home owners’ insurance. They cover large appliances and home systems that can be expensive to replace. What would happen if your stove went out in a week? What if something happens with the furnace or cooling? Buyers are often strapped for money initially and replacing big ticket items is a real pain.
Sellers will often offer a policy to encourage the house sale, but they usually offer the most basic/least expensive packages. If you want a no-questions asked policy, ask for that specifically. You may have to split the increased price for this with the seller, but make your choice consciously. All policies are different so you have to read carefully. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!
Ask questions such as: Which parts of your home do you want to cover? Plumbing system? kitchen appliances, pool, etc? Knowing your budget, do you want a higher upfront annual cost with a lower service call fee, or lower upfront contract cost with a higher service call fee? Once you pick a plan, ask the warranty salesperson to share an example of a repair or appliance replacement that wouldn’t be covered by the policy. And like I said in tip 4: find out if you need a professional home inspection at time of purchase for major systems (i.e., heating/HVAC) to be covered by a home warranty.
I have bought several homes over the years and I ALWAYS purchase a home warranty policy like those offered by American Home Shield. What is amazing is that I have actually used my policy to replace or repair something 4 out of 5 home purchases! I am always grateful for my policy when something surprises me.
Look for a company with a network of proven providers. Not only does this cut the stress out of picking a serviceperson, but if a breakdown is covered under the terms of your service contract, the service contractor will make the repair (or the replacement) for the cost of the service call! Your home warranty company pays the rest. Is this not awesome? It can speed up your process and save you a chunk of money.
6) If your seller agrees, setting money aside in escrow at the sale of the house is a great way to finance a large repair that needs to be done. This kind of arrangement is fairly common. But our tip is to make sure the language is very clear in the escrow agreement. Explain the purpose of the funds specifically. If you get money to fix a bad roof, replace a furnace, or remodel your kitchen, make sure that the seller can’t take you to court if he doesn’t agree that the work was done. Simply state that the money is to be spent on the furnace–don’t add other stipulations or conditions that could be questioned legally. Get a second opinion on the instructions from the title company that holds the escrow money, so that everything is as clear as you can make it.
7) If you are building or buying a new house, don’t assume nothing will be wrong. If you are building, know what your builder covers post-sale. What protections does he promise? Does he include a one year checkup? Get the details in writing and don’t assume anything.
This post is sponsored by American Home Shield–the largest home warranty company in the nation, with over 11,000 professional contractors, proven service people, and 24/7 phone support for home emergencies.
See the following infographics provided by American Home Shield for more information on the difference between homeowners insurance and home warranties.
What are your tips to buy a house?