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Advice for First-Time Home Buyers
The experience is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. For most of us, the purchase of our first home is a blind leap into the unknown. It's a huge financial commitment that has the potential to ruin us financially, and at least on some level, we have no idea what we're doing.
Take a breath. It's worth it.
Owning your own home is a huge responsibility,
but it's also incredibly rewarding.
Your home builds wealth. Instead of paying rent and having nothing to show for it, you'll accumulate equity in your home that you get back when you sell. And when tax time comes around, you might be surprised at how much that mortgage interest deduction is worth.
Being a homeowner will make you more confident and decisive. There's something about managing a large asset that changes the way you see the world, and makes you stronger.
Owning your home provides a kind of freedom that you've never had before. You're no longer at the mercy of your landlord coming into your space to "inspect" the property. You can alter your home however you like. You can put in nicer fixtures and appliances. You can plant a garden. Your home will truly be yours.
There's very little anyone can do to make your home buying experience any less nerve-wracking, but if you take it one step at a time, you will do fine. Here are five tips to avoid the most common pitfalls of first time home buyers.
1. LOOK PAST THE THE SURFACE
Paint and carpet are easily replaced. If they're bad now, you might be able to get a good deal on a home and then have them replaced before you move in. If they're fresh, that's great, but be sure to look past the surface to the bones of the house. Freshened up surfaces can distract from the overall condition of a home. Your home inspector is trained to look past the surface condition of the home and assess the condition of the things that are more difficult to replace.
2. CONSIDER YOUR LONG-TERM PLANS FOR THE HOUSE
Are you getting married? Starting a family? In-laws moving in? If you're planning on any renovations or changes to the home, let your inspector know. He can point out things that might become an issue when knocking down walls or building an addition.
3. THOROUGHLY INSPECT THE PROPERTY AND FOLLOW UP
Just because the roof is new or the HVAC system was recently replaced does not mean the work was done well. Your home inspector will assess the condition of all new work, same as the old work. In addition to the inspection, asking the seller for documentation of any repairs or renovations . Ensuring that work was done by a reputable contractor, and that permits were pulled and inspections completed, can help avoid problems down the road. Issues that turn up during the inspection can be a point of negotiation to help ensure you get a fair price for the home in its current condition. Worst case, if a large problem is found that the seller won't fix, you can walk away from the home.
4. KEEP SOME CASH ON HAND
You don't have to spend every dollar you qualify for. You'll want to have some cash left over for repairs and extras after you move in. Your inspector can help you identify parts of your new home that are likely to need repair or replacement soon, but it's not possible to catch every future problem from a visual inspection. Repairs and maintenance are part of home-ownership, so you should be sure to budget for them. In addition to keeping some savings on hand for repairs, don't forget to budget for things like furnishings, tools, or a lawn mower.
5. TALK TO YOUR INSPECTOR IN ADVANCE
If your inspector takes the time to get to know you and your plans for the property, he'll be better able to provide recommendations that fit your needs and future plans. Click the button below to get started.
How much does a home inspection cost?
A basic home inspection generally costs between $300 and $600 depending on the size, age, and location of the home. This is a tiny fraction of your overall investment in a home, so it's not worth skipping to save a few dollars. Additional inspection services can significantly increase the cost of a basic inspection, so it's worthwhile to select only the services that make sense for your situation.
As a general rule, it's only worthwhile to test for items that are immediately relevant to your purchase of a home. If you're not going to get an issue fixed before you move in, you probably don't need to bother testing for it during your home inspection. Also remember that if you find a problem during your inspection and don't fix it, you'll need to disclose it to subsequent buyers when you sell your home in the future.
Here are some of the most common extra inspections that can be performed in addition to a basic home inspection, and ballpark costs.
RADON - $150 - $200 - RECOMMENDED FOR HOMES WITH BASEMENTS
Radon is a radioactive gas that is common to find leaking into basements in Maryland. If the home has a basement, a radon test can be performed to determine whether corrective measures need to be taken. The cost of the radon test is around $150 to $200. The potential health effects of radon exposure are serious, and the fix is relatively inexpensive, so a radon test is usually performed for homes with basements. Radon reduction systems typically cost around $800 to $1,500 for a typical basement, so corrective action can often be negotiated into the selling price of the home.
LEAD PAINT - $300-$500 - NOT USUALLY NECESSARY
Homes built before 1978 may have lead paint, and homes built before 1950 almost always do. Lead has serious health effects if it's ingested or inhaled, especially in small children. But because exposure requires ingesting or inhaling the paint, lead paint is generally considered safe if it's in good condition. Corrective action for lead paint in good condition usually just involves covering it up. Unless you have paint that is chipping, or you're planning on remodeling, it's usually not necessary to do a lead test. Testing for lead typically costs $300 to $500 for a typical home. Lead paint removal can cost $10,000 to $30,000 or more, but removing the paint is not usually necessary. Lead encapsulation (without removal) is much more cost effective, at around $500 to $2,000 for a typical Maryland home.
ASBESTOS - $400-$800 - NOT USUALLY NECESSARY
Asbestos is commonly found in homes built between the 1940s and 1970s, though it can occasionally be found outside of those years. The EPA banned asbestos in several steps during the 70s, but it didn't mandate asbestos removal from existing construction, so it can be found used as insulation, fireproofing, and as a component in plaster in many Maryland homes. Since asbestos needs to be inhaled to be dangerous, it's generally considered safe as long as the material is in good condition. Unless there's visible damage or you're planning on renovations, there's usually no reason to do any asbestos testing. If you are planning to knock down walls, you might want to have popcorn ceilings or plaster tested for asbestos before you start work. An asbestos test typically costs around $400 to $800, but since your home inspector won't likely be permitted to dig into walls prior to your purchase, the amount of asbestos testing that can be done during a home inspection is limited. Be sure to engage the services of a reputable contractor for any renovation, and leave some extra room in your budget for asbestos remediation if it's necessary. Costs of asbestos remediation can vary widely depending on how extensive the project is, from around $1,500 to $30,000 or more.
WATER TESTING - $150-$250 - REQUIRED FOR PRIVATE WELLS, OTHERWISE OPTIONAL
Most lenders require a water potability test of a well along with a septic inspection. Homes with city water sources don't generally require water testing, though it could be valuable if your inspector finds evidence of a problem. Water testing typically costs around $150 to $250 depending on the testing required. If a problem is found, it can generally be addressed with water conditioning equipment. Depending on the type and severity of the problem, water conditioning equipment can cost $500 to $5,000 or more.
OTHER INSPECTIONS - CASE BY CASE BASIS
If your inspector finds evidence of a problem, he may recommend a more thorough follow-up inspection by a specialist. For instance, termite inspections and sewer inspections typically fall outside of the scope of a normal home inspection. Your inspector can advise you on whether these are worthwhile services to add based on the condition of the property.
WHAT SERVICES DO I NEED?
Everyone's needs are different, so your inspector should take some time to get to know you and your plans for your new home. Get started by clicking the button below.