Purchasing a house for the first time can be a daunting task. Having a real estate agent to help you through the process will put you at ease, but there are going to be a few things you wish you'd known before purchasing a house.
What Items Are Included
When Was the Roof Replaced
Power of Negotiation
Declaration of Homestead
Signs of Flooding
Utilize the expertise of a reputable real estate agent to help you make the best decisions when buying a house. Get tips and advice from friends and family who have purchased homes. When my husband and I were looking for our first house, I was very unsure of what I was doing. I was thankful that my husband had experience buying a house. These home-buying tips can save you big money and improve your buying confidence.
1. What Items Are Included
Without a doubt, there will be a few things you'd wish you'd known before purchasing your first home, like what comes with the house you're buying. Never assume that the fixtures or appliances, for example, come with the home purchase.
You may be surprised to learn that the home seller wants to keep an antique light fixture or a new refrigerator. Talk to your real estate agent to make sure you know which items are included with the house sale and check to see that they're outlined in the contract.
2. When Was the Roof Replaced
When deciding on a home to buy, consider the age of the roof. A home inspector may say that the roof doesn't need to be replaced any time soon, but there are a few questions you'll want to get answered.
When was the roof replaced?
Is the manufacturer's warranty still in effect?
How long are the shingles designed to last?
Who installed the roof?
Have any repairs been made?
Depending on the quality and type of shingles, they can last anywhere from 15-30 years. The climate and harsh weather conditions can shorten the life of roof shingles. Before making a purchase, you could save yourself a lot of money a few years down the road by getting answers about the roof now.
3. Power of Negotiation
As you consider making an offer on a home, talk to your real estate agent about negotiating the price. Just because a home seller thinks their home is worth a specific price doesn't mean that's what you should pay. Your agent can show you what similar homes have sold for in the neighborhood to give you a better idea of the amount you should offer. As mentioned earlier, you can even negotiate which appliances or other items you want to include in the sale price.
4. Declaration of Homestead
I had never heard of the Declaration of Homestead until I had owned my home for many years, but I wish I had known about it much earlier. It's an inexpensive (typically under $20) way to protect your home from being seized and sold if a money judgment is entered against you. Montanans, for example, can protect up to $350,000 of the value of their home against the majority of creditors' claims. For example, if you had a gambling debt, up to $350,000, the value of the home would be protected against creditors trying to collect on the debt. Talk to your agent to see if the Declaration of Homestead is an option in your state.
5. Signs of Flooding
If you're interested in purchasing a house, but you suspect it's in a flood zone, express your concern to your real estate agent. Your agent can look at flood plain maps to help you understand your risk and how it will affect the price of flood insurance.
Watermarks on the basement walls could result in bigger problems.
If the home you're interested in has a basement, look for signs of previous flooding. Due to previous water damage, there may be watermarks on the basement walls, a musty smell, and boxes elevated off of the floor. If water issues have been present over a long period of time, mold could exist and lead to health issues. If you see signs of water damage not disclosed by the current homeowner, discuss it with your agent. A licensed inspector will be able to identify mold issues and can offer remediation solutions.
6. Unexpected Repairs
When you buy a house, you'll run into unexpected issues not reported by the homeowner. My husband and I bought our house in late fall, so we didn't have any way of knowing we would have issues with water in our basement. The following spring, after a rainstorm, we discovered water was coming in through an old basement window, running down the concrete wall. We fixed the issue by replacing the window with an egress window, creating a drainage system, and sloping the soil away from the house.
Be prepared with a minimum $5,000 emergency repair fund.
Since you will most likely face unexpected repairs in your new home, be prepared by having an emergency repair fund. A minimum of $5,000 set aside for unexpected repairs is a good starting point, although more is better. Consider negotiating the house price down, as mentioned earlier, so you have money left over for future repairs.
To learn more about what to look out for before purchasing a house, refer to our home buyers guide: