If one of your kids has the itch to join the ranks of first-time homebuyers, share this advice from Larry Legler.
“Water goes to gravity,” he said.
Legler was among the readers who responded to my recent column on how first-time homebuyers can avoid purchasing a money pit. Based on the feedback I received, it’s fair to say many readers were offering advice based on firsthand experience.
Take Legler, whose insights come from having bought and built several homes over the years.
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“Always look at the lay of the land and surrounding yard to see where rain will run,” Legler said. “It’s one way to limit the risk of flooded foundations and significant resulting damage cost. And if the home is adjacent to a body of water, remember that water levels can rise.”
Here are more considerations from readers on how to avoid homebuying mistakes.
▪ When you see a house you like, visit it at different times of the day. Get a sense of the neighborhood. Are there barking dogs next door? Traffic noise? Lots of cars parked on the street that make getting to the driveway an obstacle course?
As one reader said, “Show up late at night, sit in your car and just watch and listen.”
▪ Use a real estate lawyer. “In most places, the Realtor is working for the seller, or at most is a transaction broker with no fiduciary duty to anything but the transaction,” said Chuck Kovaleski. “A lawyer retained by the buyer has a duty only to the interest of the buyer.”
▪ Read the neighborhood covenants. Are there rules in place supposedly designed to maintain property values that might instead cause friction with the neighbors? For example, rules against basketball goals on the driveway or even on the curb. Another common clause: making sure a privacy fence is stained.
▪ Be careful about buying a “flip house,” in which the seller has bought the property with the intent of fixing it up and selling it quickly.
“It is my opinion that a flipper makes the house look very nice but may not purchase quality products or even hide flaws,” said Rich Parkes, who said he has purchased, rehabbed and then rented homes for more than 30 years.
But don’t necessarily dismiss them either, noted David Cruse, who spent 40 years in the housing construction industry.
“I have appraised many over the years, with as many done properly and a good investment as those completed with the Band-Aid approach,” he said.
▪ Focus on the guts. Cruse recommends a four-point inspection — plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, and roofing — and hire a company on your insurance firm’s approved list to do the work.
“Where the typical home inspector has completed a correspondence course, maybe some actual construction experience and obtained a basic business license, an insurance-approved four-point inspector must have a contractor’s license in the four areas they inspect,” Cruse said.
▪ Don’t lose sight of your budget. This advice came from my oldest son, who bought his first house a couple of years ago.
“I think it is really easy when you start looking at houses to gravitate toward the higher end of your price range,” he said. “You start thinking about how nice things are and pretty soon you end up spending more than maybe you would have otherwise.”
His advice: Use common sense when house hunting, and don’t get too emotionally attached to a particular home.
Steve Rosen: 816-234-4879