If you dream of owning a home of your own one day, you're not alone. According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, 79 percent of people still consider a house an integral part of the so-called “American dream.” Investing in a property is a major financial commitment that you need to consider carefully. Before you make a down payment or sign any paperwork, ensure the structure is in good condition and that you’re getting your money’s worth. In some cases, depending on the possible repairs needed, you can even request the seller to make the repairs for you — or knock down the price of the house to allow you the added money to cover the expense. Find out how the process works below.
Identify Potential Problems Using Disclosure Documentation
There are laws in place designed to protect home buyers and ensure they get all the facts about a property before they buy it. These “disclosure laws” obligate the seller to share details of any issues related to the property, such as a crack in the foundation or leaky roof. To do so, they fill out paperwork answering a series of questions on topics like past structural defects, and rodent or termite infestations. Some states even have rules that require the seller to reveal a recent death on the property. Check out the disclosure laws in your state to find out what points the paperwork is supposed to cover.
In addition to disclosure paperwork, check any city building and zoning reports related to the property. For instance, if the previous owner completed renovations without the proper building permit, the alterations may not be in accordance with local safety codes. Finally, check the details of the property title to ensure the person selling it is the rightful owner.
Schedule and Pay for a Professional Home Inspection
A home inspection involves bringing in a neutral third party to examine diverse aspects of the property, from the roof to the furnace to the plumbing to the foundation. After their inspection, they write a detailed report pinpointing issues that could be dangerous or decrease the home’s value, such as a leaky roof or a compromised HVAC system. You as the buyer carry the obligation of hiring and paying the home inspection company. According to HomeAdvisor, these inspections can range from $278 to $391, though condos and homes under 1,000 square feet can run closer to $200. However, keep in mind that this is just for the report and doesn’t cover the cost of repairs.
If the home inspection reveals substantial issues, tally up the costs of repairs before buying. Smaller fixes that are cosmetic aren’t worth addressing with the buyer. For example, if the kitchen tiles or cracked or paint is peeling, expect to have to pay these extras yourself. The same is true for landscaping issues. That said, there are certain repair issues you should not pay for — but should ask the seller to cover instead. Discover what they are below.
Discuss Necessary Repairs with the Seller
Any type of home inspection issue that raises safety concerns or makes day-to-day life in the house difficult should always be broached with the seller. Examples include pests, elevated radon levels, a leaky roof, lead paint, and faulty plumbing, among others. If these issues turn up, you are well within your rights to ask the seller to cover them. If they agree, get this confirmation in writing; don’t rely on an oral contract
Another option is that you undertake the repairs yourself but ask the seller to reduce the home's sales price in an amount roughly equal to the estimated cost of repairs. This gives you the benefit of choosing which professional does the job and overseeing the project from start to finish. Any larger issues that affect the house's overall safety, such as asbestos removal, should be a priority and addressed before you move in.
In some cases, a home inspection may reveal enough issues that you should pass on the property. This is preferable to investing in something faulty, however. Don’t get discouraged and keep looking. Your dream home is out there.