12 Red Flags to Consider when Buying a Home
Indeed, more than 40 percent of the previously owned homes on the market have at least one serious defect.
“Virtually every ‘used’ home needs some repair or improvement,” said Kathleen Kuhn, CEO and president of a major home inspection company. “That’s to be expected. But with today’s high prices, you want to make sure that you are aware of any major problems in a house you are considering purchasing, and what it will take to remedy the situation.”
The most serious home defects to be on the lookout for are:
1) Cracked heater exchange
2) Failing air-conditioning compressor
3) Environmental hazards including radon, water contamination, asbestos, lead paint, and underground storage tanks
4) Moisture in the basement
5) Defective roofing and/or flashings
6) Insect infestation — termites or carpenter ants
7) Mixed plumbing
8) Aluminum wiring
9) Horizontal foundation cracks
10) Major house settlement
11) Undersized electrical system
12) Chimney settling or separation
Most of these problems can be repaired. However, depending on the specific problem, the cost can be substantial, particularly if the defect involves one of the major systems. The cost could become a factor in whether you ultimately buy the house.
For example, a new air conditioning compressor could cost you up to $1,200. A new roof or repairs can cost at least several thousand dollars. A wet basement could cost up to $5,000 to remedy.
If you enter negotiations to buy a particular house, your agent should advise you to provide a provision for renegotiating or backing out of the contract if a home inspector finds major problems.
“If the property inspectors find that little or no corrective work is required, you have little or nothing to negotiate,” say Eric Tyson and Ray Brown in their book, Homebuying for Dummies. “Suppose, however, that your inspectors discover the $200,000 house you want to buy needs $20,000 of corrective work for termite and dry-rot damage, foundation repairs, and a new roof. Big corrective work bills can be deal killers.”
If repairs are needed, there are several ways to proceed if you still want to buy the house, the Dummies book advises.
The sellers can leave enough money in escrow to cover the cost of repairs, with instructions for the escrow officer to pay the contractors as the work is completed
The lender can withhold part of the full loan amount in a passbook savings account until the work has been done.
The sellers may give a credit for the work. Lenders may disapprove of this last alternative because there aren’t assurances that the repairs will be made.
Hire a qualified inspector. Look for affiliations with organizations like the American Association of Home Inspectors, which requires its members to be certified, meet professional qualifications, and adhere to specific business ethics.
Once you make an appointment with a home inspector, it’s important to be there.
Your investment of spending these few hours with the inspector could prevent headaches and save time in the future. As the home inspector examines the various systems and components of your home, ask him or her to explain what problems may be encountered down the road, what signs to look for, and how to prevent them. Try to learn how things work and how to maintain them. The inspector may also point out little flaws or oddities that don’t measure up to being mentioned in the report, but may warrant keeping an eye on.
Source: Elizabeth Chase, Realtor, ABR Harbourtowne Real Estate; free to use as per Creative Commons.
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