Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

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lightnoise
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Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by lightnoise »

I've lived in large apartment buildings my whole life where all plumbing, electrical, and all other maintenance issues were handled directly by the building management. So I've never had to learn any home maintenance. Now in my early 40s, I'll be purchasing a single family home for the 1st time.

I've got a good handle on the financial bits of this but I need some help figuring out what it is I should be looking out for when purchasing a house, meaning things like roof condition, plumbing, electrical, sewer, water issues, trees on the property, etc. When I am looking at homes with my realtor, what questions should I be asking about the condition of the home and the property? What should I be making sure of in terms of the home inspection? What things should I get checked out before making an offer? This may seem trivial to people who have lived in houses most of their lives, but for me, this is a huge learning process. I've of course done google searches and gathered as much information as possible but I would really appreciate some personal insights.

Also, there seem to be many in-person and online workshops about purchasing your 1st home when it comes to things like getting a mortgage but is anyone aware of similar workshops that inform people of what to look out for when purchasing a property?

Thank you all.
Last edited by lightnoise on Thu Jun 08, 2017 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
rebellovw
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by rebellovw »

Typically when your offer is accepted - you then go the route of inspections. You have a general inspection by someone who routinely does that and is known to be good at it - they might come back and say there are termites possibly - you then go on to pay for a pest inspection or likewise roof inspection. A good inspector should be able to identify potential issues that will lead to further inspections. You should also let the inspector know if you see something that looks odd - ex a stain in the ceiling sheetrock or mold.

Then you do the final negotiation based on all inspection results - some back and forth offers until the price is settled on.

Also - as far as pricing goes - you do your best to look at tons of houses in the area you are looking to buy - then you get a gauge of what your $$ can buy and what price to offer. It doesn't hurt to go in low- as they can always reject and counter your offer. That is typically what I do - my last house was something like 280 - we offered 240 cash (which gave us some power- that plus the house was on the market a long time) then after inspections we found the patio concrete needed to be repoured - so we requested credit for that - and some back and forth and in the end we were all happy.

My last comment - I think to get the best price - you have to be able to look through issues - if you buy a completely flipped house - you are buying at a high - whereas if you can look past some ugly portions of the house (ex in our case - the house was completely boring from looking at it from the street - but the back yard was a beautiful forest - tons of privacy - so we could look past the bland nature of the house - and look to correcting that later.)
Last edited by rebellovw on Thu Jun 08, 2017 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
SrGrumpy
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by SrGrumpy »

Nothing trivial at all. Everything you list is key. Don't forget termites/vermin/snakes, etc.

From the school of hard knocks, I would look at the roof as the No. 1 priority. Go up there with a roofing professional. My home inspector did not go up, and I was too naive/lazy to investigate.

BTW, home inspectors can be a shady lot. They are often in cahoots with the Realtor, whose No. 1 priority is to close the deal. The seller, though, must disclose any problems, though that has its limitations.

Just realize that no matter how much due diligence you do, there will be annoyances - hopefully minor - once you move in.
mhalley
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by mhalley »

Make sure everything works. Turn on all sinks and showers. Look hard for any evidence of leaks, both from the plumbing system and the weather. Visit the neighborhood at several times of day and day of the week. Walk around the neighborhood. Get the mortgage preapproved. Look at the dates on the hvac system to see how old it is.
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Hockey10
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by Hockey10 »

The last time I bought a house, I looked at 50 on-line, saw 10 of them in person, then narrowed it down to the top 2. We visited each several times, then finally made an offer.

When you are close to making an offer, spend some quality time in the house looking for signs of problems (leaks, missing / cracked floor tiles, doors that don't close properly, windows that don't open easily, etc...). Ask questions such as how old is the roof, how old is the heater, AC, hot water heater etc... Take a pair of binoculars and look at the roof from all sides of the house looking for things like curled edges on the shingles and missing shingles. Also look for a sagging roof, which could indicate serious problems. If it is a 25 year old asphalt shingle roof, you may very well have to replace it soon. If the general condition of the house is poor (dirty carpet, worn out hardwood floors, peeling paint), then I can guarantee you that the important systems in the house (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) will also have problems. If the house looks good cosmetically, you still may have problems with the systems if the current owner simply painted and re-carpeted before listing for sale. A good home inspector will alert you to potential problems with the various systems.

If the house has a crawlspace, go down there and look for yourself. This can be a dirty and nasty place to go, but you don't want to find out about a problem (such as a flooded crawlspace) after you buy. Also go into the attic. Look for how much insulation is in the attic. Look for signs of roof leaks in the attic.

Look at the electrical panel. If it looks like a mess, it might be a fire hazard. (We had a new one put in a few years ago and it looks great).

Choose a home inspector yourself, not the one that is recommended by the realtor. You may think the realtor is working for you, but they get paid commission by the seller. An honest realtor will recommend a good home inspector, but don't take the chance, find one yourself. Accompany the inspection when he inspects. A good inspection will take several hours.

In many parts of the country today it is a sellers market. This will make it more difficult for the buyer when you find the right house, but it has some issues. You will not have as much leverage when negotiating the price.
FraggleRock
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inspections

Post by FraggleRock »

After you make an offer (contingent upon inspections), you do inspections:
roof
sewer scoping or septic
general
radon test (this is only one I would consider optional depending on location)
termites/ants/insects

Ask your buyer's agent for recommendations.
Check the inspectors our on Yelp and BBB before hiring them.
You pay for the inspections and you are the only recipient of the reports. If you share them with the seller, then the seller must disclose problems to future possible buyers if you walk away.
You should be there for each inspection and talk with the inspector.
bloom2708
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by bloom2708 »

If the house has double pane windows, check for condensation between the panes. This can look like fog or condensation. It means the seal is gone between the panes. Windows are very expensive to replace.

When we were looking at our first house, we loved it, but almost every window was in need of replacing. Even the patio door windows had leaks.

We made an offer contingent on fixing the windows. It was rejected and some other family wound up with a house with expensive repairs ahead.

As others mentioned. The roof, look under sinks for signs of leaks/moisture. Around tubs and showers.

If you are looking at 20 years or newer, some of those things may not be an issue. It really depends on the build quality. Older homes, you can expect more issues unless the previous owners have done updates.
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High Income Parent
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by High Income Parent »

Everything listed already is great. I also wanted to add a foundation inspection depending on where you buy.
If the foundation is not level, that could be a big problem for resale.
If you get the seller to throw in foundation leveling in a sale, be sure to pressure test the plumbing for leaks after the foundation is fixed, especially if the plumbing goes through the foundation.
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Hockey10
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by Hockey10 »

I forgot to mention my 3 rules of real estate in my prior post:

- never buy a house on a busy street
- never buy a house in a bad neighborhood
- never buy a house at the bottom of a hill, as you will have flooding issues
Harobed
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by Harobed »

We purchased last year, had a full inspection done but I wish I had asked or at least paid more attention to the age of appliances and the AC units. In less than 3 months we had to replace one of the AC units and we have also replaced many of the appliances as they didn't work great which set us back several thousand dollars.

We discovered one of the appliances to be faulty when we moved in so if you can't at least test them perhaps the vendor to confirm that everything is fully working.

Also, as someone else mentioned, make sure you pick the right neighborhood. We ended up selling our previous house at a loss as the area was in decline, and the neighborhood was not what we originally bought into.

Good luck with your house hunting.
bluebolt
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by bluebolt »

Google & Youtube have been an immense help when it comes to DIY. I have fixed a couple of appliances myself for just the price of the parts. Saved hundreds of dollars.
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tadamsmar
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Re: inspections

Post by tadamsmar »

FraggleRock wrote: radon test (this is only one I would consider optional depending on location)
The expert advice is to not consider it optional, probably because it is cheap and the location maps are probabilistic.
Texanbybirth
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by Texanbybirth »

As someone else said, LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION.

I like the Mortgage Professor for his calculators. I haven't paid much attention to his advice, but this seems appropriate.

https://www.mtgprofessor.com/ArticleLis ... uyers.html
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jharkin
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by jharkin »

Whole books could be written on this. And have been.


This book is handed out to clients by home inspectors sometimes. Rather than us trying to rattle off everything, you might want to pick up a copy and skim through it.
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Xpe
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Re: inspections

Post by Xpe »

tadamsmar wrote:
FraggleRock wrote: radon test (this is only one I would consider optional depending on location)
The expert advice is to not consider it optional, probably because it is cheap and the location maps are probabilistic.
Yeah, we got the radon test. Found elevated levels and got the seller to install a mitigation system. Saved us thousands.
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by 123 »

All other things being equal I might favor a house that has not been freshly painted. A house that is freshly painted throughout can hide a lot of water leak stains as well as wall cracks/foundation settling issues when the walls have been patched and painted.

If you're looking at new tract houses be aware that there can be a lot of costs associated with buying a new house such as appliances, window coverings/drapes, and finishing landscaping that may not be apparent to you when you look at the spiffy model homes.
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DoTheMath
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by DoTheMath »

Lots of good advice given above. You will invariably have to put money into the house, but if you can avoid an unpleasant surprise with the really big ticket items (roof, HVAC, foundation, sewer, etc.) then you will have a good start. House inspecting can be a shady business. Certainly the one we had was so-so at best. Try to find one which is accredited, independent of the real estate agents involved, and has good reviews on Angie's List. And follow them around making sure they do a thorough job and answer any questions you might have.

I'll reiterate the point about the location. It's worth driving thought the neighborhood at various times to see about traffic, noise, etc. And check it out on Google maps. Some friends unknowingly rented (thankfully!) a house a mile or so away from a sewage treatment plant. Everything was fine until the first warm day the wind blew in the right (or wrong!) direction.
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jabberwockOG
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by jabberwockOG »

Hockey10 wrote:I forgot to mention my 3 rules of real estate in my prior post:

- never buy a house on a busy street
- never buy a house in a bad neighborhood
- never buy a house at the bottom of a hill, as you will have flooding issues


This 100% agree. Over time you can fix almost anything about a house except for its location. Always buy neighborhood and location as a major priority over house. For me a less than ideal house in a great location in a wonderful convenient, safe, quiet neighborhood has always been much more desirable than a super wonderful house in a less than ideal location.
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lightnoise
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by lightnoise »

Wow! Thank you everyone for your detailed and thoughtful responses. There were some items I would have never even thought about keeping in mind.

A couple other questions if you don't mind...

I will be buying a home in the Midwest where the winters are very cold and snowy but most likely I will be looking at homes during the spring/summer time frame. What possible signs should I look out for in a home that would indicate whether the home has any "winter issues"?

Secondly, any specific advise on what to keep in mind re: sewage/septic system?

Thanks again
mega317
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by mega317 »

You can have someone put a camera through your main connection to the city system and see if the main needs replacement (root growing into it or something). THAT is a pain to replace, they have to dig up the whole yard. Not sure of the cost but it certainly looks expensive.
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ecotone
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by ecotone »

if you are looking in an area that receives normal amounts of rainfall, assess the potential for drainage issues in/around your yard.
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lthenderson
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Re: Buying a house for the 1st time - what should I look out for?

Post by lthenderson »

lightnoise wrote:A couple other questions if you don't mind...

I will be buying a home in the Midwest where the winters are very cold and snowy but most likely I will be looking at homes during the spring/summer time frame. What possible signs should I look out for in a home that would indicate whether the home has any "winter issues"?

Secondly, any specific advise on what to keep in mind re: sewage/septic system?

Thanks again
I live here in the Midwest and the best place to look to see how a house handles in winter is at the gutters. It they are straight and well connected, there are probably no ice damming issues but if they are sagging or loose, there could be ice damming issues. Not to worry though as ice damming is a fairly easy DIY project to fix in most houses.

As for septic systems, most states require an inspection on the seller's dime prior to selling the house to ensure that the system is up to code. Look for the age of the system and to some extent what type of system it is. Some systems require annual maintenance but last longer. Others require virtually no maintenance but may not last as long. Also look to see that it is sized for the number of bedrooms in your house. Many older systems are undersized compared to modern usage standards. All this should be detailed in the inspection report.

Personally, I don't get lost in the structural deficiencies of a house. Most can be fixed reasonably. What is harder to fix is the perfect location, the perfect layout inside, the perfect style of curb appeal, etc. If you find a house that meets those requirements but may have signs of a leaky roof, or aging siding, I don't let that dissuade me from buying it. Just know what the value of a fixer upper in that neighborhood is worth and know that it will take some time to get it back up into good shape. I have always bought the most rundown houses in nice neighborhoods and fixed them up while living in them. I have never regretted this strategy and the neighbors always love me.

One more piece of advice that I rarely see spoken about. Most people look for houses during daytime hours when everyone is at work. If you find a house that you are interested in, drive back in the evening and park your car in the area and just listen and observe. I've passed on a couple houses that seemed perfect during the daytime but at night, the blaring music, roaring motors, screaming kids (and adults) and barking dogs dissuaded me of the neighborhood.
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