Buying a home can be a frightening experience. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

 

Money is the driving force behind any transaction!
Money is the reason the seller wants you to purchase their property.
Money is the reason the real estate agent lists the house for the seller.
Money is the reason your real estate agent shows you houses and wants you to buy one.
Money is the reason the bank wants to loan you money.

All the above money comes from the sale of the property. If you buy, they get paid; if you don't, they don't make anything! Now, it is true the money comes from the seller's proceeds; but if you don't buy, there are no proceeds. Now you should ask yourself, "Who in the above list is looking out for your interests?" No matter how you slice it, the answer is none of them! This does not mean that they don't provide a needed service. It is very difficult to sell a property without a real estate agent, and they certainly make the buying process much less painful. Just be aware of the "driving force."

You might argue, "the bank is looking out for me when they require an appraisal and termite inspection." They are, in fact, looking out for themselves, making certain the property is good security for the loan.

So, who is on your team? The answer is your home inspector and your lawyer. The need for a lawyer is debatable. They can make you feel more comfortable and will watch out for your interests; however, they also duplicate some of the RealtorsŪ responsibilities. The need for an inspector is not debatable from my perspective. I can say that without bias because I am no longer in the inspection business. If you think you can't afford an inspector, then, YOU CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO HAVE ONE! But pick one very wisely and be certain they don't have ties to any of the other parties. Inspectors often get their business referrals from real estate agents and sometimes their loyalty is questionable. Take the list the real estate agent gives you and find someone not on their list. Word-of-mouth is the best reference you can get. This is NOT the time to go bargain shopping. You should expect to pay over $200 and depending on the market area, $500 might not be unusual.  There is a question of the need for Errors and Omissions Insurance. This is a double-edged sword. While it might appear the insurance protects you, actually, it protects the inspector and RealtorŪ from lawsuits. It is his/her safety net. Those inspectors who don't have it, need to be more careful and therefore might do a better job.

 

The House Doctor's
Home-Buying Tips

(Based on more than 25 years experience as a home inspector)

Neighborhood - You can make improvements to the home but you can't change the location. Pick a neighborhood that you find comfortable and then find a house you can afford. 

Land contour - Water runs downhill. It is very difficult to prevent water problems if your soil is often saturated. Foundation drainage might maintain a dry basement for awhile, but systems fail. Make certain water is not directed toward your house.

Style - Cold air falls, hot air rises. A sunken living room will normally be cold in winter without special heating systems. Second floors are hard to cool in the summer with an air-conditioning unit in the basement. Multiple levels are best kept comfortable with zoned heating/cooling.
Foundations - A home might have concrete slab construction, a crawl space, an excavated basement or any combination thereof.  Concrete is hard on your feet and often cold whether it is in a basement or  as a slab on grade. Crawl spaces are OK if there is good access and ventilation. If you are afraid to go into the crawl space, don't buy one. They are notorious for moisture problems. Poured concrete foundation walls are usually better than concrete block. Look for uneven cracks in both. Vertical cracks which are wider on top or bottom normally  indicate settling or heaving. Neither condition is good! Consult with a qualified inspector for an evaluation. Cracks in basement floors are normally not a major problem.
Roofs - The steeper a roof is, the better it drains. Flat or nearly flat roofs are often a major nuisance. Low-sloped roofs require special covering procedures and are prone to leakage at some time. 

Overhangs or eaves help protect the side walls from rain and water damage as well as shading the interior from the hot summer sun. Look carefully for water damage inside at roof edge if there are no overhanging eaves. Ice damming and water penetration are common on these structures.

Wood shingles and shakes, as well as slate roofing, should be inspected by a professional. Wood roofing when installed over solid decking does not dry evenly and often warps and cracks. Moss growing on wood roofing indicates lingering moisture and often deterioration.

It is difficult to see the condition of a roof without seeing it from the surface. A good inspector should bring a tall enough ladder to get to the roof edge. 

Click for a printable version of the House Doctor Tips

After more than 25 years inspecting homes, I have developed a checklist to help me evaluate a structure in an organized manner. The checklist is 17 pages and the descriptive key that goes with it is 22 pages. As I am no longer conducting inspections,  I am making this complete checklist package available to prospective home buyers to help them in their hunt for the right home. The descriptive key describes the various portions of the checklist. While this system in no way takes the place of a trained home inspector, it can give you an edge in knowing what to look for in an organized manner and enough basic information to help you converse with your inspector in an intelligent manner. 

All purchases below are paid through PayPal, a secure payment service. Clicking the "Buy Now" button will take you to the www.paypal.com website for payment by credit card or check. Hard copy kits will be mailed within 2 business days. Downloads will be e-mailed the next business day as a word document attachment. (The checklist file is 676 KB and the Key is 101 KB.) Those requesting the Deluxe package will receive a special e-mail address for sending picture files.

Standard
Home Buyer's
Kit
A home buyer's evaluation kit including 5 sets of the checklist and one copy of the descriptive key is available for only $14.95 +  $5 shipping and handling.   
SAVE
$5.00
Save shipping and handling. Order the downloadable files for only  $14.95 (presently, only available in Microsoft Word format)  
Deluxe
Home Buyer's
Kit
The deluxe home buyer's kit includes the downloadable checklist file and the descriptive key file. It also includes an evaluation of up to 5 pictures of  the structure. You will be able to e-mail the pictures to me, and I will evaluate them and answer questions you might have about conditions pictured. This package only costs $39.95. Additional pictures will be charged an additional $5.00 each. (Evaluations will be e-mailed back before 8pm the following work day. Pictures received on Friday will be evaluated by 8pm Monday.  

 

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