Your due diligence inspections should include more than hiring a home inspector to look at the home and reviewing a current termite inspection. And your due diligence should start as soon as you have serious interest in a listing.
Making an offer to purchase a home consumes a lot of time and emotional energy. Before your real estate agent or attorney puts pen to paper, find out as much about the property as you can. In particular, you want to know if there’s any reason you shouldn’t try to buy the house.
Seller disclosure requirements vary from state to state, as does real estate practice and protocol. Find out if there are any seller disclosure statements and presale inspection reports. If there are, ask to see copies before you write an offer.
In some areas, it is standard procedure for listing agents to provide a disclosure package that includes any existing reports and disclosures to interested buyers before they make an offer. In other areas, reports are made available only after the buyer and sellers have negotiated the purchase agreement. Get ahold of as much information as you can about the physical condition of the property as soon as possible.
After you review the seller’s documents on the property, you may discover that the home you find so appealing requires a far bigger investment in repair work than you can handle or afford financially. In this case, move on to the next property with no remorse. You’ve saved yourself from hassle and heartbreak.
On the other hand, if the reports and disclosures fall within your expectations, move on to investigating the local neighborhood. On closer look, you may discover that there are several large apartment buildings that back up to the house you’re interested in buying. This might create a noise factor. If you’re sensitive to noise, you might not be happy living in the property you’re considering.
Buyers sensitive to crime should check with the local police department to see if the neighborhood is being hit by waves of break-ins. Drive by the property several times during daylight and evening hours to see if the complexion of the neighborhood changes in anyway that is disadvantageous to you.
Commuters should drive from the property to work and back during rush hour, and check into all the public transportation options that are available in close proximity. If you’re intent on buying within walking distance to shops and cafés, find out how long it takes to get from the house you think you want to the nearest commercial area.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: It’s wise to include an inspection contingency in your purchase offer so that you have a time period to complete whatever inspections of the property you deem necessary before committing to move forward with the purchase. This is recommended even if the seller has completed presale inspections.
Some buyers who have confidence in the seller’s home inspector hire that inspector to do a walk-through inspection with them so that the inspector can explain his report and answer any questions. The fee for this sort of inspection will usually be less than what the seller paid for the initial inspection and written report.
Don’t skip inspections to save money. It could cost you plenty in the long run if uninspected items turn out to be faulty and you have to pay to repair them.
Order a home inspection as soon as possible after your offer is accepted by the sellers. Most home inspections include recommendations for further inspections. If you don’t have the home inspection done early, you may not have enough time to complete all the further recommendations recommended, like roof or drainage inspections.
THE CLOSING: If you run out of time, ask the sellers for an extension.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."
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