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The first thing to remember when buying a house is do not rush into it. A house is, in most cases, the most expensive purchase you will make in your lifetime and a purchase that should be approached with care. Prior to even looking for a house you should think about your present and future needs. This will help you to find a house that will fill those needs. Consider exactly how much space you will need both inside and outside to live comfortably. If your family has any special needs, consider these as well. You will also want to consider such things as: Do you want a one or two story structure, must you have a downstairs bathroom, should you buy a new or old house, do you need special entry conditions and what kind of dollar figures will fit into your budget. Remember when buying a house that there are many expenses you might not have had if you were an apartment dweller, such as homeowner's insurance, additional utilities, taxes and major or minor repairs.
When you first decide you want to buy a house, even before you are ready to buy, begin checking the real estate section of your local newspaper to see what is available. When you are ready to get serious it may help to use a broker. With a broker you can quickly learn what is or might soon be available. They can give you an up-to-date idea of local mortgage lending activities. But since brokers are paid by the seller, they may not reveal every fault of the property. In fact, they may fluff the property to some degree, but downright falsehoods are actionable as fraud. Begin by shopping for your house in a neighborhood where you feel you will be comfortable in terms of people, lifestyle and prices. Do your best to determine if the neighborhood is stable and improving or if it is declining. Check to be sure it is free of industrial waste problems and odors. Make sure there are no noisy roads or continuous air traffic. Ask about such problems as frequent flooding, poor television reception and other possible irritants. Always be suspicious of areas with many houses for sale or rent. Another thing to check is what major developments are in the works for the area you have chosen. If the area has one or more new developments going on, check to see if street lights, sewers and sidewalks have been paid for or will be assessed later. Ask the owners of the property you are looking at if the development owners have been willing to fix problems. It is wise not to buy a house that is larger or more expensive than any around it. In this case the higher price could make resale difficult. You may be better off to buy a slightly rundown home in a higher priced area and fix it up. This will give you the opportunity to raise the resale value.
After you have found a house you like, check its price against the prices of similar houses on the market in the same area. It is wise to get an appraisal of the true value of the house to guide you in making an offer for the property. Find an engineer and have them inspect the entire house to be sure the structure is sound and has adequate heating, wiring, plumbing and insulation. In most areas your local service companies will do this for you but each will only check their specialty. Be sure to get a written report on the inspector's findings before you make your bid. Then get an estimate of what it would cost to correct all or any problems. In this case the seller will be obliged to reduce the asking price or can be asked to share the expenses.
While looking at the property, make your own inspection. Inside the house check the water pressure and the fit of all doors and windows. Check for any rust on plumbing pipes and look at the hot water heater for the same. Turn on all the lights to be sure all the fixtures work and it does not hurt to bring a small plug in item that you can use to check the plugs. Look for any cracks in the floors, walls or ceiling. Also, switch on the heating and air conditioning units to be sure they are working properly. Check to see what is under the carpet. Outside the house check to be sure the rain gutters carry water away from the house. Check for cracks in the foundation and any areas where standing water is possible. If there is a basement check for stains that might indicate water seepage and when possible look at the property right after a rain for basement problems. If the owner cannot produce a recent termite inspection certificate, have a professional check it before you sign any papers.
You will want to ask how close the house is to schools, public transportation, shopping, recreation centers, hospitals and fire or police departments as well. Find out what the local zoning ordinances and tax rates are and get the dates of the most recent assessment. If this is not provided you can get this information at your local courthouse. Always use an escrow company or experienced real estate attorney when buying a house, even if you have used a broker. They will charge you a fee of approximately one percent of the price of the house to draw up the contract for sale or purchase agreement. They will also arrange for a title search, execute the closing and record the deed of sale. Prior to the purchase agreement being drawn up you might be asked to put up earnest money as a binder to secure your right to purchase the property at the agreed upon terms for a limited time. If the agreement does not specifically say this money must be returned to you, when the deal does not go through, it can be forfeited. Never sign a binder without getting advice from your attorney. A contract for sale will usually require a 10 percent down payment and is drawn up by the seller's attorney. This agreement should always be reviewed by your attorney prior to signing or exchange of any monies. Always make sure this contract is made conditional to your being able to obtain the mortgage financing for the home you are buying.