Buying Your 1st House: Protect Yourself
Buying your first house can be a complex and daunting process, one laden with inherent financial risk. So how can you best protect yourself as you seek that first home? Here are some ways:
As you start shopping for your first house, it is best to be wide-eyed and well-informed. Spend time talking to friends, family and acquaintances to pick their brains for information, tips, advice, and — yes — horror stories, too. Visit your local library and investigate topics from home purchase to financing to finding a realtor to evaluating a community. Go online to view house listings and house particulars, and to find out more about possible neighborhoods and developments. Tour as many homes as possible before narrowing your search. Quite often the 15th or 20th house you see will end up being a far more suitable purchase than the 3rd or 4th. (And, after seeing 15 or 20 houses, and thus becoming more knowledgeable, you are much more likely to be comfortable and satisfied with your final choice.) Keep a journal of your evolving thoughts and all the factors that will affect your eventual purchase decision.
You can also look to others for various layers of protection:
1. Library and internet sources can provide you with dos, don’ts and checklists, or with home inspection advice.
2. City building departments, town halls and village offices can provide valuable information about a community, its housing stock, and range of price options. Civic officials can also advise if there are any local point-of-sale inspection requirements or mandated home sale disclosures or certifications.
3. If you will be buying a home within a development or directly from a builder, you can request detailed information on all materials, components, appliances, fixtures and finishes in the home, along with any guarantees, warranties and maintenance manuals that pass to a new owner. Make sure any new home has a properly issued Certificate of Occupancy, and that all requirements and fees of the local building authority have been met and paid. Also make sure any utility service, tie-in or ‘tap’ fees have been paid, and that no contractors or subcontractors remain unpaid.
4. It is likely that any purchase or mortgage lender you will be using will have its own particular processes of appraisal, certification, insurance and lien release, etc. You may therefore be provided with various assurances and certifications as a normal part of the lending and purchase process.
5. You can further assure yourself of the particulars of your first home and its value vs. price by undertaking a thorough home inspection. If you do not feel up to the task, you can certainly enlist a qualified and knowledgeable builder or architect (or perhaps even realtor) to undertake the inspection for you and provide you with sound advice on their findings.
Above all, if you do not fully understand or are unclear as to any provisions of your first home purchase agreement, real estate contract, mortgage, loan, Certificate of Occupancy, inspection, appraisal, etc., take whatever time you need to feel completely comfortable to move forward. A new home purchase entails one of the largest expenditures you are ever likely to make, and it therefore deserves sufficient time for analysis, rumination and reflection.