How do I know I'm getting the best value for my money?
A professional appraisal is the best way to tell if a home is priced fairly. A real estate appraisal is an unbiased opinion of a property's value based on its style and appearance, construction quality, usefulness, and other factors, including the value of comparable properties nearby.
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will have a professional real estate appraiser perform an appraisal of the property.
I'd like to have a professional look at the home before I buy it. What does a home inspector do?
For your own safety, and to make sure you're getting your money's worth in the home you choose, using a professional home inspector is highly recommended. A home inspector will check a variety of things such as your home's plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical systems, and look for structural problems like a damp or leaky basement, etc.
Usually, you call an inspector immediately after you've made an offer on a home. However, before you sign any written offer, make sure (or have your attorney make sure) that it includes an inspection clause, which says that your purchase obligation is contingent on the findings of a professional home inspector.
Your inspector will not tell you whether he or she thinks the home is worth the money you are offering. Rather, the inspector's job is to make you aware of repairs that are recommended or necessary. A seller may be willing to renegotiate a price to accommodate needed repairs, or you may decide that the home will take too much work and money. A professional inspection will help you make an informed decision.
In choosing a home inspector, consider one who has been certified as a qualified and experienced member by a trade association. Your real estate professional can refer you to qualified inspectors in your area.
Review the Home Inspection Checklist.
Should I be present during the inspection?
Yes. It's not required, but it is very much to your advantage. You'll be able to clearly understand the inspection report and know exactly which areas need attention. Plus, you can get answers to many questions, tips for maintenance, and a lot of general information that will help you when you move into your new home. Most importantly, you'll see the home through the eyes of an objective third party.
Are there any other inspections I need to have done?
In addition to the overall inspection, you may wish to have separate tests conducted to check for insects, the presence of radon gas, and the quality of drinking water, to name a few. Talk to your real estate professional for information about these tests and companies in the area that perform them.
Do I need to use a lawyer to buy a home?
Because the legal contracts and other paperwork involved in buying a home are complex and can be confusing to the general public, many people prefer to work with an attorney.
Your attorney will review contracts and make you aware of special considerations and potential problems, and can accompany you to the closing to help make everything go as smoothly as possible.
If you don't know a real estate attorney, ask your real estate professional for help. Sales professionals work with many legal professionals every month and can provide you with the names of several attorneys in the community.
Do I need to talk to my insurance agent?
Yes, and the sooner the better. Your real estate professional can help you with this, but most insurance professionals have a lot of experience in working with homeowners and can offer useful tips about homeownership, particularly regarding home safety and keeping your premiums low.
Once you've found a home, work with your insurance agent to develop a homeowner's policy that meets your individual needs. You'll need to bring evidence of a fully-paid policy for your mortgage lender when you come to closing. Make sure you take this step with your insurance provider as early as possible; in many locations you'll have trouble assuming title if you don't have proper insurance in place.