You really can buy your dream home!

Making Smart Choices as a First-Time Home Buyer, Part 2

In my last post I talked about finding out how much you can afford, what types of loans are available and a little bit about reality in the real estate market.  This post will give you some insight on whether to buy a new home or an existing home, as well as information on home inspections and disclosure laws.

Do I buy a new or an existing home?
Do I buy a new or an existing home?

Buying a new home is similar to buying a new car.  It has that special smell and no one else has ever driven/lived in it.  It comes as a clean slate with everything shiny and new.  Just as you pay a premium for that new car, you will usually pay a premium for a new home.  For some it is worth it, for others it isn’t.  If you decide you can’t or choose not to afford to pay that premium, there are some things to investigate on an existing home.  How old is the roof?  When was the heating and air conditioning system last replaced?  Has the home been re-wired or had the plumbing updated?  When were the appliances last replaced?  Have there been any inspections performed recently?  There is a long list of questions and one of the best places to start in getting those answers is with a home inspection.

Home inspectors come in all shapes, sizes, and costs.  There is no licensing body, at least in California, although

A home inspection is a step you should not skip.
A home inspection is a step you should not skip.

there are associations they can join.  How easy it it to become a home inspector?  It could be as easy as creating a website. With no test, no licensing body and no experience required, you should take extra care in finding a qualified home inspector to inspect the home you plan to purchase.  One of my favorite inspectors is a member of a home inspection trade group and has taken a test to prove competence to their certification standards.  He also holds a current California Contractor’s license.  When you are looking for a home inspector, ask around.  Your Realtor can help you find a competent home inspector , and if you have had friends or family who recently purchased a home, you can ask for their advice.  Whatever you do, don’t select a home inspector based on their fee.  The worst home inspection I ever saw cost next to nothing.  You literally can get what you pay for.  But don’t skip this step.  Getting a home inspection can help you understand the true condition of the home you are buying.  The report can suggest issues that should be addressed due to health and safety, and it can put your mind at ease about other potential issues.  If the inspector suggests you get another trade in for further inspection, it is wise to follow their advice.  Once you know everything you can about the property, you are in a position to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the purchase.  I cannot emphasize enough how important a home inspection is.  And I am talking about an inspection by a qualified inspector, not just your contractor friend.

Disclosure.  What exactly is it and who does it?  California law requires that sellers of residential property of 1-4 units must disclose any known issues regarding a home’s plumbing, electric system, foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, appliances and many other areas.  There is a questionnaire for a seller to complete that discloses if the home has had repairs recently, or if it has been painted or there are ongoing services such as pest control, or if there have been pets on the premises.  The seller must disclose if there have been lawsuits and even if someone has died on the property in the last three years.  When you receive copies of these disclosures review them carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions.  Your agent can help you get more details on any area where you need more information. This entire process is designed to give you adequate information to make a decision to purchase the home of your dreams and to feel good about it at the same time.

Buying a home is probably one of the largest financial transactions in which you will engage, and buying your first home can be practically overwhelming.  Find a good Realtor and let them help you through the process.  An experienced Realtor can help to lessen the stress, help you understand the huge amount of paperwork and information that will be presented to you, and they can help you overcome the hurdles that are likely to pop up.  As a first-time home buyer there is no reason to go it alone.  Working with the right Realtor, we really can make real estate simple, well almost!