Check For These 5 Dealbreakers Before You Buy A House
There are few financial endeavors more exciting — or frightening — than buying your first house. You’re making what will likely be the biggest purchase of your life, handing over your life’s savings and committing yourself to monthly payments for the next 30 years or so. You’re putting down roots.
You’re doing something more adult than moving out on your own, graduating college or buying your first vehicle. You’re entering the ranks of landowners and buying all the status and respect that comes along naturally with the endeavor. But along with your home and yard come a host of other problems of which you’ll take ownership.
Many of these issues will be addressed in the mountains of paperwork lenders shove in front of you as you close on your deal. If you’ve waited until then to ponder potential home pitfalls, though, you’ll already be stuck with them.
Disputes spawning from such property problems as divorce, inheritance and foreclosures can cause people to sell homes they don’t actually own. This is bad news for you, as the buyer. Potential uncertainty of title integrity is why your lender will require you to get title insurance. But that insurance isn’t a save-all.
A title dispute could end up locking you down in court for months or even being thrown out of your newly-bought place. To avoid such messes, do your homework and investigate your home’s title history at your county assessor’s office.
Homes infested with pests tend to stay that way, especially if service contracts with exterminators have lapsed. Termites, bedbugs, scorpions and ants tend to pop up chronically, potentially adding thousands to your annual bills. Also, they add an “ew” factor to the house that may make you want to back out of the purchase and look elsewhere.
Sellers are required to tell you about any pest problems, as well as pest control history. They may try to be sneaky and bury any disclosures under a load of paperwork, so be proactive and ask the seller’s real estate agent to put the pest history in writing for you.
Like pest history, the seller will be forced to disclose certain crimes that were committed at your residence. The nature of the crimes they’re forced to dish about depend on your local laws, but in general you can be expected to hear about it if there were violent crimes or drug-related offenses under the roof you’re about to move in under.
Superstitions about hauntings or bad juju from murders or suicides aside, there are practical reasons why you should think twice about whether a crime should deter you from living in a place. For instance, you could live in a home that could be targeted by criminals who think previous residents still live there.
Location, location, location are the three most important factors about property value, and you’ll want to vet that location for factors other than commute times, neighborhood reputation and crime rates. Particularly if your home is new, visit the FEMA site to see what natural disasters your home may be at risk for.
If your home, for instance, falls into a floodplain, that could mean hundreds of dollars a year in insurance premiums you’ll be required to pay. Also, there’s the worry that you’ll need to insure your possessions, knowing you’ll be at a higher risk of losing them.
Low-grade materials, faulty workmanship and unchecked issues involving mold, water damage and any number of brick-and-mortar maladies could undermine your home at the foundation — speaking both metaphorically and literally — making your home a house of cards that could fall apart the day you move in. Like crime and pest problems, the seller is required to let you know of any lingering known issues. But keep that “known” part in mind.
If a homeowner has ignored routine maintenance and let part of his house he never visits fester over the years, you won’t learn about it unless you pay up for your own inspection. The fee could run $500 or more, but is well worth the investment if it rescues you from buying a decayed house or settles any concerns you have about your major purchase.
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