Whether you're a first-time homeowner or moving on up the property ladder, home buying can be tricky. How do you draw the line between a money pit and a diamond in the rough? Here are three things to keep in mind. Depending on the circumstances, these might be reasons not to buy.
Neighborhood. Unlike the rental world, where neighbors last a year, a house is a long-term commitment. Your neighbors when you move in may very well be your neighbors for some time to come, and that's something to keep in mind when looking at a potential new home. Also consider proximity of the house to things like schools, stores, and major roads. If there's a highway nearby, some questionable properties, an unfriendly feeling, or anything else that feels uncertain, it might be wise to give that house a pass. After all, you might be able to fix your house, but you can't fix your neighborhood.
Major repairs. Many inexperienced home buyers make the mistake of not checking out every aspect of the property thoroughly. Getting a great deal on a house with a roof that needs replacing is not that great of a deal. Check out the furnace, central air, and the plumbing and electrical systems. Major problems don't necessarily mean you shouldn't buy the property, but they should be included in the price negotiations. A good realtor or seller will factor in such considerations, and you may be able to buy the house for less if it's understood that you're responsible for replacing the roof. Just don't get duped. Don't take anyone's word that the furnace is new- make sure of it.
Water Damage. Check this one out- thoroughly. Is the house located in a high-flood area? Is something important (like the roof or basement) leaking? If water damage occurred once it's not likely to stop unless the problem- aka the flow of water- is corrected. This could lead to expensive irrigation systems and internal repairs. I heard a horror story of a house that began with a water spot on a wall, and led to removing the floor and vacuuming out two feet of water. Water damage is often a sign of a bigger problem. Unless you can trace it to its source and identify how to stop it, it might be best to steer away from water-damaged property altogether. Why sign up for trouble?
Keeping your eyes open going into a real estate negotiation is the most important thing. If something doesn't feel right, trace it backwards until you figure out why, and then decide if it's worth it to go ahead with the purchase. Sometimes you'll find it's easy to walk away from a great house in a bad neighborhood. Other times, you can get your purchase price substantially reduced if you can point out exactly what repairs are needed. The trick is to catch those needed fixes- because the seller may not point them out for you.
Paul Evans is a managing partner for Covenant Mortgage Company in Montgomery, Alabama. They help people purchase or refinance their homes at the lowest rates, while contributing 50% of their profits to mission work. http://wwww.covenant-mortgage.org