Buying

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Ask Questions About the Condition of the Home Before Buying

If you know in advance that the home has structural issues or deferred maintenance, you might want to take those problems into consideration before choosing an offering price.

  • How old is the roof? Newer roofs have a life expectancy of anywhere from 15 to 50 years or more, depending on its materials.
  • What is the type of foundation? Raised foundations allow access under the home to reach plumbing and electrical, as do homes with basements. Slab foundations are more common in newer construction.
  • Does the home have insulation in the walls and attic? In colder climates, insulation is more important, and each locale sets standards for the R factor.
  • Have any appliances or systems been replaced and, if so, when? It's a plus factor if older plumbing and electrical have been updated. Moreover, some older appliances can't be repaired because parts are no longer available.

Ask Questions About the Location of the Home

In real estate, one routinely hears it's all about location, location, location. Homes in desirable areas are worth more than similar homes in locations not so desirable.

  • What types of other properties are located nearby?
  • What are the neighborhood demographics? Usually title companies can supply this information, but your best bet is to talk to the neighbors, followed by asking the agent about the area and doing research at the library.
  • Where are the schools? Schools are a huge concern to parents with small children.
  • Are there nuisance factors? Traffic from nearby restaurants or stores may be an irritant. With freeways in the distance, you might not hear the noise during the day, but as night falls, the clatter and constant hum may get louder. Even barking dogs can drive a person nuts.

Have Your Agent Go Over The Disclosure Form

Here is a summary of the things you could expect to see in a disclosure form:

  • Safety features such as burglar and fire alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, security gate, window screens and intercom.
  • The presence of a TV antenna or satellite dish, rain gutters, sump pump.
  • Type of heating, condition of electrical wiring, gas supply and presence of any external power source, such as solar panels.
  • The type of water heater, water supply, sewer system also should be disclosed.
  • Sellers also are required to indicate any significant defects or malfunctions existing in the home's major systems.
  • The form also asks sellers to note the presence of environmental hazards, walls or fences shared with adjoining landowners, any encroachments or easements, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations, citations against the property and lawsuits against the seller affecting the property.
  • Also look for, or ask about, flooding or drainage problems.
  • People buying a condominium must be told about covenants, codes and restrictions or other deed restrictions.

It's important to note that the simple idea of disclosing defects has broadened significantly in recent years. Many jurisdictions have their own mandated disclosure forms as do many brokers and agents. Also, the home inspection and home warranty industries have grown significantly to accommodate increased demand from cautious buyers. Be sure to ask questions about anything that remains unclear or does not seem to be properly addressed by the forms provided to you.