After the acquisition: There is always something to fix; learn to do it yourself. If you are not a compete bozo begin to collect a library of 'how to' books and buy good quality tools as needed. Most repairs are not rocket science but do require experience, some common sense including knowing your limitations, and having the right tool. You can always try a repair, then go to plan B and call the contractor, trying not to do additional damage in the process. When you do hire a repair guy, ask to hang out while they work and politely ask questions. If you stay out of the way, most guys will like the company and even like to explain what they are doing.
With zillo and trulia you can do your own little appraisal to help with getting the right price and the agent should be showing you comp properties as well. I think you are on the right track already by asking questions - keep it up until you understand what is going on. See if you can get a sample HUD settlement statement so you can see the typical charges, - and congratulations on entering phase II of life.
DONT FREAK OUT!!!
Ask people you trust who have bought recently about who is a good home inspector, their mistakes/ fortune comings could save you a ton of money.
Most of the time a rule of thumb in the realty business is "you get what youre paying for".
Make damn sure the furnace and water heater work well. Theyre very expensive to replace, especially the furnace. Trust me your gf/wife wont like you if its cold when its supposed to be warm. Trust me.
Take the realtor out for a couple of drinks and feel him/ her out. Drunk people tend to spill the truth rather quickly.
Did I mention to pay for a good inspector? You obviously dont have too much expertice in the area...look for a well seasoned inspector, he works for you. He wants you to be happy. He'll tell you exactly what is a booboo, "a-ok", or something that will go on the "honey-do" list. In the end of the inspection you will get a printed out report of everything...a good inspector knows how much stuff costs and can advise you what works best.
Remember: youre winning. you got a chick you love and youre about to score a house. Dont get pushed around. Sleep on every big reply or signature you gotta make. Sharpen your knives and dont forget to oil the handles. Cheers!
Lots of good info has already been posted. Just couple thoughts having recently going through it.
Financing, look at what internet companies have to offer. Usually their rates are much better than the big name institutions. In some ways less painful than dealing with someone in person, easy to scan and send data. I used First Internet Bank, but there's several good companies out there.
Preapproval make sure you get it before shopping. Lending rules are pretty strict now, and most online calculators say you can afford much more than you can really qualify for. Unless you have significant excess savings don't buy at the very max of your range. There will always be unexpected expenses that come with owning a home, some very expensive
Inspection - get it done right like others have said. Would also strongly suggest hiring a plumber to check pipes with a camera usually $250. Inspectors regular checks won't necessarily catch breaks or leaks in the drain. I actually had rotted pipe under the slab, cost 3k to fix. So yeah - I'll be getting the pipes scanned next time.
Do your own homework - There are good realtors but tons of crappy ones. Through some research you arm yourself with knowledge to help yourself. City-Data is an awesome resource. Also if you know exactly what you're looking for you can use Redfin.com or similar sites to save money. Usually those online sites are partnering with newer realtors who will take a commission cut to start up their business.
Bonus thoughts - home warranty don't do it, waste of money. I had one they are worthless they send subpar labor. Just read online review of home warranty companies for fun. Get a fixed mortgage! I'm a finance guy by trade and this makes the most sense in the longrun. People always say variable make sense if you're going to trade up soon, but life can change your plans and put you in a pickle.
Find a trustworthy real estate agent. Obtaining referrals from former clients is one of the ways that helps them stay in business, so taking care of a buying client is in their best interest. Besides that how are you going to get in to inspect a house without a agent helping you? You'll have to work with the seller's agent to let you in and you definitely don't want to do that.
Originally Posted by toddnmd
Here's some of my advice:
Make sure the home is not in a flood plain. You can't buy enough insurance to cover flood losses so just walk away from any flood prone property.
Test for mold, lead paint or any other toxic substances that were once used in building. It wasn't that long ago that lead based paints were all that was used. Also asbestos floor tiles were used in 1000's of kitchens and bathrooms. As far as mold goes, IT'S BAD, BAD, BAD, BAD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If any is found you might want to walk away. Mold can be contained, but only get involved with this if you really love the place. Remember this though, for every home you really like there will be others you will like just as much.
Make sure the electrical system has been updated. You'd be surprised at how many homes still use fuses instead of circuit breakers.
Heating and A/C systems. Find out how old the current system is. If it is 10 years or older, figure about $15,000 for replacement.
Hot water heater. If it's old and it's natural gas look into replacing it with an on demand system. It will cost more to install but in the long run it will be cheaper to operate.
Make sure the house has modern double or triple pane windows. Triple pane windows are only necessary for really cold climates like Alaska, but there's a lot of really cold locations in the lower 48 too.
Man, some of you guys have it pretty good. In Toronto, if you include a condition like wanting a building inspection done you may as well not make an offer. Testing for lead paint and mould would be a total non-starter. When I got my place it was basically go look at it at 6 after work, present your offer the next day by 12 or don't bother. Decision by the next night at 8, after they send the top few back for more money.
Plus the average house price is like 600k for a semi-detached like I got. 850 for a detached.
Also don't forget cost to own a home. Gas, electric, water, internet, cable tv, hoa fees....they all add up fast. Your mortgage might be 1500, but add living expenses and u could be well over 2000 a month.
Don't become house poor and leave yourself room to have some spending money and savings too.
Also get a good home inspector. Mine was the president of the home inspectors association. He found just about everything wrong with the house. He gave me a spreadsheet of cost to fix things and priority in which I should fix first. It's worth paying a little extra for someone good.