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What if They Accept the Offer?

Congratulations, your offer has been accepted!

Over the next 30 to 60 days, your purchase will be pending and you will begin the escrow process. Typically, an offer will have several contingencies. Contingencies are terms and conditions written into a contract by the buyer or the seller, which must be met within specified timelines in order for the sale to be completed. Know this, contingencies are a homebuyer s best friend. When contingencies are not met, the sale is cancelled and your deposit money may be refunded.

Some common contingencies include proper financing being in place and conducting a home inspection. Without proper financing in place, you ll have a tough time paying for your new house! In addition, conducting a home inspection can re-open negotiations to pay for hidden problems the house may have  or terminate the sale entirely if truly serious problems are found.

There are many other contingencies that can be attached to the sale of a particular piece of property depending on the different needs of buyers and sellers. Again, a good real estate agent will suggest the contingencies that you should make as part of the offer.

During the sale pending period, you will also be provided with a number of disclosures relative to the sale of your new home. These disclosures run the gamut from information about the business relationships between your real estate agent and your lender, to natural hazards that may exist in and around your new home.

Two of the most important disclosures you will receive include:
Real Property Transfer Disclosure Statement This disclosure is completed by the seller. It tells you the physical condition of the property and potential hazards or defects that may be associated with it. While the seller is principally responsible for the disclosures presented in this document, the agent is also responsible for conducting a visual inspection of the property and disclosing any readily observable defects detected in the process. This document also discloses any special taxes, assessments and other factors that may have a material effect on the value or desirability of the property.

Agency Relationship Disclosure Your real estate agent is required to provide you with a written disclosure stating whom he or she represents in the transaction. The agent may represent you as the buyer exclusively, or the seller exclusively, or be a dual agent representing both you and the seller. You should carefully review and understand this disclosure as it has a material effect on the level of responsibilities that your agent owes to you.

Attaching excessive contingencies to an offer or sale in a hot real estate market can easily kill a deal. There may be several other buyers waiting in line with a shorter list of needs.

Home Buyer Hint
Depending on the location, age and other factors involved with the residential property that you are purchasing, additional disclosures may be required. If you have questions about disclosures, ask your real estate agent.

What a Home Inspection Should Cover

Home inspections will vary depending on the type of property you are purchasing. A large historic home, for example, will require a more specialized inspection than a small condominium. However, the following are the basic elements that a home inspector will check. You can also use this list to help you evaluate properties you might purchase.

For more information, try the virtual home inspection at www.ASHI.org, the Web site of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

Structure: A home s skeleton impacts how the property stands up to weather, gravity, and the earth. Structural components, including the foundation and the framing, should be inspected.

Exterior: The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, and doors. A home s siding, trim, and surface drainage also are part of an exterior inspection.

  • Doors and windows
  • Siding (brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, wood, etc.)
  • Driveways/sidewalks
  • Attached porches, decks, and balconies

Roofing: A well-maintained roof protects you from rain, snow, and other forces of nature. Take note of the roof s age, conditions of flashing, roof draining systems (pooling water), buckled shingles, loose gutters and downspouts, skylight, and chimneys.

Plumbing: Thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate problems.

Electrical: Safe electrical wiring is essential. Look for the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating: The home s heating system, vent system, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. Look for age of water heater, whether the size is adequate for the house, speed of recovery, and energy rating.

Air Conditioning: Your inspector should describe your home cooling system, its energy source, and inspect the central and through-wall cooling equipment. Consider the age and energy rating of the system.

Interiors: An inspection of the inside of the home can reveal plumbing leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and other issues. An inspector should take a close look at:

  • Walls, ceilings and floors
  • Steps, stairways, and railings
  • Countertops and cabinets
  • Garage doors and garage door systems

Ventilation/insulation: To prevent energy loss, check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawlspaces. Also look for proper, secured insulation in walls. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and water damage.

Fireplaces: They re charming, but they could be dangerous if not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the system, including the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel burning appliances.

Source: American Society of Home Inspectors (www.AHSI.org)

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

What is Escrow Anyway

Once an offer has been accepted by a seller and both parties have signed all of the pertinent dotted lines on the offer this document becomes the sales contract (or agreement). Next, the contract and all necessary paperwork and/or funds are collected and delivered to a neutral third party called an escrow holder.

During the escrow process, this neutral third party will carry out the provisions of the agreement between buyer and seller. An escrow holder is typically an escrow firm or title company. As with the other parts of your transaction, a good real estate agent can help you find an escrow holder in your area. Check the fees charged by the various escrow holders in the area. These fees may be negotiable.

The escrow officer carries out instructions from the buyer and seller, and ensures that ownership of the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer.

The escrow officer will also collect all of the odds and ends in the purchase process.

This includes proof of insurance, the preliminary title report, inspection reports, loan information and the like. The escrow officer will also prepare the final closing statement. The final closing statement is much like a bank statement, in that it lists all of the credits and debits associated with the purchase of the home. Compare the closing costs to those listed on the Good Faith Estimate received from your broker/lender.

You will typically meet with the escrow officer to sign a lot of documents. READ EVERYTHING! Take your time and ask questions about things you don t understand.

Hints on Closing

  • Keep in close communication with your lender. Are there any problems with documentation on the loan Has everything been verified
  • Keep in close communication with your real estate agent. Are there any problems with the home inspection Pest report
  • Always be available for any questions from your real estate agent, escrow officer, loan officer, or anyone else involved in the buying process. Make sure you re  in the loop with any issues that may arise.
  • When it comes time to close escrow — that is, take possession of the house — clear some time. Figure out WHEN you d like to close, and then look at when you HAVE TO close. Are you moving at the end of the month from a rental to your new place Don t let delays leave you out in the street!

Ask your escrow officer for an estimate of closing costs. You won t know exactly how much you ll pay until escrow closes, but it is good to know these figures ahead of time.

8 Tips to Guide for Your Home Search

1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you d be willing to spend each month for housing.

2. Be realistic. It s OK to be picky, but don t be unrealistic with your expectations. There s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.

3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can t afford.

4. Don t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.

5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up Are you allowed to sublet How tight is the rental market in your area All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.

6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period This decision may dictate what type of home you ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.

7. Insist on a home inspection. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.

8. Get help from a REALTOR . Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer s representative is working only for you. Buyer s reps are usually paid out of the seller s commission payment.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Q-A Series – CLOSING

Q. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I’VE APPLIED FOR MY LOAN

It usually takes a lender between 1-6 weeks to complete the evaluation of your application. Its not unusual for the lender to ask for more information once the application has been submitted. The sooner you can provide the information, the faster your application will be processed. Once all the information has been verified the lender will call you to let you know the outcome of your application. If the loan is approved, a closing date is set up and the lender will review the closing with you. And after closing, you’ll be able to move into your new home.

Q. WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR DURING THE FINAL WALK-THROUGH

This will likely be the first opportunity to examine the house without furniture, giving you a clear view of everything. Check the walls and ceilings carefully, as well as any work the seller agreed to do in response to the inspection. Any problems discovered previously that you find uncorrected should be brought up prior to closing. It is the seller’s responsibility to fix them.

Q. WHAT MAKES UP CLOSING COST

There may be closing cost customary or unique to a certain locality, but closing cost are usually made up of the following:
– Attorney’s or escrow fees (Yours and your lender’s if applicable)
– Property taxes (to cover tax period to date)
– Interest (paid from date of closing to 30 days before first monthly payment)
– Loan Origination fee (covers lenders administrative cost)
– Recording fees
– Survey fee
– First premium of mortgage Insurance (if applicable)
– Title Insurance (yours and lender’s)
– Loan discount points
– First payment to escrow account for future real estate taxes and insurance
– Paid receipt for homeowner’s insurance policy (and fire and flood insurance if applicable)
– Any documentation preparation fees

Q. WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO HAPPEN ON CLOSING DAY

You’ll present your paid homeowner’s insurance policy or a binder and receipt showing that the premium has been paid. The closing agent will then list the money you owe the seller (remainder of down payment, prepaid taxes, etc.) and then the money the seller owes you (unpaid taxes and prepaid rent, if applicable). The seller will provide proofs of any inspection, warranties, etc.

Once you’re sure you understand all the documentation, you’ll sign the mortgage, agreeing that if you don’t make payments the lender is entitled to sell your property and apply the sale price against the amount you owe plus expenses. You’ll also sign a mortgage note, promising to repay the loan. The seller will give you the title to the house in the form of a signed deed.

You’ll pay the lender’s agent all closing costs and, in turn,he or she will provide you with a settlement statement of all the items for which you have paid. The deed and mortgage will then be recorded in the state Registry of Deeds, and you will be a homeowner.

Q. WHAT DO I GET AT CLOSING

– Settlement Statement, HUD-1 Form (itemizes services provided and the fees charged; it is filled out by the closing agent and must be given to you at or before closing)
– Truth-in-Lending Statement
– Mortgage Note
– Mortgage or Deed of Trust
– Binding Sales Contract (prepared by the seller; your lawyer should review it)
– Keys to your new home

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

By: G. M. Filisko

Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn’t be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.
1. Get prequalified for a mortgage
Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you’re serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they’ll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

2. Ask questions
Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers’ financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed Have there been other offers If so, why did they fall through The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer
Know in advance the most you’re willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.
Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers’ motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

4. Avoid contingencies
Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

5. Remain unemotional
Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.
Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won’t budge, make it clear you’re willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

6. Don’t let competition change your plan
Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don’t let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions-such as waiving an inspection-that aren’t in your best interest.

More from HouseLogic
Determine how much mortgage you can afford (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/4-tips-determine-how-much-mortgage-you-can-afford/)

Keep your home purchase on track (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/keep-your-home-purchase-track/)

Plan for a stress-free home closing (http://buyandsell.houselogic.com/articles/7-steps-stress-free-home-closing/)

Other web resources
More negotiating tips (http://www.freddiemac.com/corporate/buyown/english/purchasing/offer/negotiate.html)

Develop a homebuying strategy (http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/article-29746.html)

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has to remind herself to remain unemotional during negotiations. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

5 Things to do Before Putting Your Home on the Market

1. Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you ll be able to make repairs before open houses begin.

2. Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.

3. Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn our or will need to be replaced soon, such your roof or carpeting Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.

4. Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house.

5. Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you re a buyer and stand outside of your home. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured Is the address clearly visible Are pretty flowers or plants framing the entrance Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Make Your House FHA-Loan Friendly

By: Terry Sheridan

Know the basics of FHA loan rules and you stand a better chance of selling your house or condo.

Make your house FHA-friendly, and it will appeal to more homebuyers. Why Because the Federal Housing Administration is insuring the mortgage loans used by about 30% of today’s homebuyers.

If your house passes the FHA rules, it will appeal to buyers who plan to use an FHA-insured mortgage. If your house doesn’t qualify for an FHA loan, you’re cutting out 30% of potential buyers.

FHA is especially important to first-time homebuyers and those with small downpayments because it allows borrowers with good credit to make a downpayment as low as 3.5% of the purchase price.

Here’s how to make your home appealing to FHA borrowers:

Know the FHA loan limits in your area
Start by checking to see if your home’s listed price falls within FHA lending limits for your area (https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/hicostlook.cfm). FHA mortgage limits vary a lot. In San Francisco, FHA will insure a mortgage of up to $729,750 on a single-family home. In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the loan limit is $271,050.

Home inspections
Most buyers will ask for a home inspection, whether or not they’re using an FHA loan to buy the home. You must give FHA buyers a form (

http://www.ncradon.org/docs/foryourprotection.pdf) explaining what home inspections can reveal, and how inspections differ from appraisals.

How much do you have to repair
If the home inspection reveals problems, FHA will not give the okay to buy the home until you repair serious defects (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/05-48ml.pdf) like roof leaks, mold, structural damage, and pre-1978 interior or exterior paint that could contain lead.

Dealing with FHA appraisers
Help the lender’s appraiser by providing easy access to attics and crawl spaces, which usually must be photographed, says appraiser Frank Gregoire in St. Petersburg, Fla. Your buyer can hire his own appraiser to evaluate your home. But FHA only relies on reports by its approved appraisers. If the two appraisals conflict, the FHA appraisal preempts the buyer’s appraisal.

Help with FHA closing costs
Most FHA buyers need help with closing costs, says mortgage banker Susan Herman of First Equity Mortgage Bankers in Miami. So a prime way to make your house FHA-friendly is to help with those costs. FHA currently allows sellers to pay up to 6% of the sales price to help cover closing costs, but is considering lowering that limit to 3% in the fall of 2010.

If you’re selling a condo
FHA also has to approve your condo before a buyer uses an FHA loan to purchase your unit. Be sure your condo is FHA-approved for mortgages (

https://entp.hud.gov/idapp/html/condlook.cfm). The list has been updated, so if your association was approved a year ago, check again to make sure it’s still on the approved list.

FHA generally won’t insure loans in condo associations if more than 15% percent of the unit owners are late on association fees. Ask your property manager or board of directors for your association’s delinquency rate.

Other rules cover insurances, cash reserves and how many units are owner-occupied (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46aml.pdf) and the types of condos that can be purchased with an FHA mortgage

(http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46bml.pdf).

FHA sometimes issues waivers for healthy condominiums that don’t meet the regular rules. If your condo isn’t FHA-approved, it doesn’t necessarily have to meet every single rule to gain approval. Ask your REALTOR® to consult with local lenders about getting an FHA waiver for your condo if it doesn’t meet all the requirements.
FHA also limits its mortgage exposure in homeowners associations. With some limited exceptions, no more than 50% of the units in an association can be FHA-insured (

http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/letters/mortgagee/files/09-46aml.pdf).

FHA loans for planned-unit developments
FHA no longer requires lenders to review budgets and legal documents for planned-unit developments.

More from HouseLogic
Show Your Support for FHA (http://www.houselogic.com/articles/show-your-support-for-FHA/)

Other web resources
Why Ask for an FHA Loan (http://www.hud.gov/fha/choosefha.cfm)
Find a State Program to Help Homebuyers Afford Your Home (http://www.hud.gov/buying/localbuying.cfm)

Terry Sheridan is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered real estate for 20 years, and has owned and sold three homes.

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Q-A Series – YOU’VE FOUND IT

Q. WHAT DOES A HOME INSPECTOR DO, AND HOW DOES AN INSPECTION FIGURE IN THE PURCHASE OF A HOME

An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home. Home Inspectors focus especially on the structure, construction, and mechanical systems of the house and will make you aware of only repairs,that are needed.

The Inspector does not evaluate whether or not you’re getting good value for your money. Generally, an inspector checks (and gives prices for repairs on): the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and Ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors, and roof. Be sure to hire a home inspector that is qualified and experienced.

It’s a good idea to have an inspection before you sign a written offer since, once the deal is closed, you’ve bought the house as is.” Or, you may want to include an inspection clause in the offer when negotiating for a home. An inspection t clause gives you an ‘out” on buying the house if serious problems are found,or gives you the ability to renegotiate the purchase price if repairs are needed. An inspection clause can also specify that the seller must fix the problem(s) before you purchase the house.

Q. DO I NEED TO BE THERE FOR THE INSPECTION

It’s not required, but it’s a good idea. Following the inspection, the home inspector will be able to answer questions about the report and any problem areas. This is also an opportunity to hear an objective opinion on the home you’d I like to purchase and it is a good time to ask general, maintenance questions.

Q. ARE OTHER TYPES OF INSPECTIONS REQUIRED

If your home inspector discovers a serious problem a more specific Inspection may be recommended. It’s a good idea to consider having your home inspected for the presence of a variety of health-related risks like radon gas asbestos, or possible problems with the water or waste disposal system.

Q. HOW CAN I PROTECT MY FAMILY FROM LEAD IN THE HOME

If the house you’re considering was built before 1978 and you have children under the age of seven, you will want to have an inspection for lead-based point. It’s important to know that lead flakes from paint can be present in both the home and in the soil surrounding the house. The problem can be fixed temporarily by repairing damaged paint surfaces or planting grass over effected soil. Hiring a lead abatement contractor to remove paint chips and seal damaged areas will fix the problem permanently.

Q. ARE POWER LINES A HEALTH HAZARD

There are no definitive research findings that indicate exposure to power lines results in greater instances of disease or illness.

Q. DO I NEED A LAWYER TO BUY A HOME

Laws vary by state. Some states require a lawyer to assist in several aspects of the home buying process while other states do not, as long as a qualified real estate professional is involved. Even if your state doesn’t require one, you may want to hire a lawyer to help with the complex paperwork and legal contracts. A lawyer can review contracts, make you aware of special considerations, and assist you with the closing process. Your real estate agent may be able to recommend a lawyer. If not, shop around. Find out what services are provided for what fee, and whether the attorney is experienced at representing homebuyers.

Q. DO I REALLY NEED HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE

Yes. A paid homeowner’s insurance policy (or a paid receipt for one) is required at closing, so arrangements will have to be made prior to that day. Plus, involving the insurance agent early in the home buying process can save you money. Insurance agents are a great resource for information on home safety and they can give tips on how to keep insurance premiums low.

Q. WHAT STEPS COULD I TAKE TO LOWER MY HOMEOWNER’S INSURANCE COSTS

Be sure to shop around among several insurance companies. Also, consider the cost of insurance when you look at homes. Newer homes and homes constructed with materials like brick tend to have lower premiums. Think about avoiding areas prone to natural disasters, like flooding. Choose a home with a fire hydrant or a fire department nearby.

Q. IS THE HOME LOCATED IN A FLOOD PLAIN

Your real estate agent or lender can help you answer this question. If you live in a flood plain, the lender will require that you have flood insurance before lending any money to you. But if you live near a flood plain, you may choose whether or not to get flood insurance coverage for your home. Work with an insurance agent to construct a policy that fits your needs.

Q. WHAT OTHER ISSUES SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE I BUY MY HOME

Always check to see if the house is in a low-lying area, in a high-risk area for natural disasters (like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.), or in a hazardous materials area. Be sure the house meets building codes. Also consider local zoning laws, which could affect remodeling or making an addition in the future. Your real estate agent should be able to help you with these questions.

Q. HOW DO I MAKE AN OFFER

Your real estate agent will assist you in making an offer, which will include the following information:
– Complete legal description of the property
– Amount of earnest money
– Down payment and financing details
– Proposed move-in date
– Price you are offering
– Proposed closing date
– Length of time the offer is valid
– Details of the deal

Remember that a sale commitment depends on negotiating a satisfactory contract with the seller, not just Making an offer.

Other ways to lower ins-insurance costs include insuring your home and car(s) with the same company, increasing home security, and seeking group coverage through alumni or business associations. Insurance costs are always lowered by raising your deductibles, but this exposes you to a higher out-of-pocket cost if you have to file a claim.

Q. HOW DO I DETERMINE THE INITIAL OFFER

Unless you have a buyer’s agent, remember that the agent works for the seller. Make a point of asking him or her to keep your discussions and information confidential. Listen to your real estate agent’s advice, but follow your own instincts on deciding a fair price. Calculating your offer should involve several factors: what homes sell for in the area, the home’s condition, how long it’s been on the market, financing terms, and the seller’s situation. By the time you’re ready to make an offer, you should have a good idea of what the home is worth and what you can afford. And, be prepared for give-and-take negotiation, which is very common when buying a home. The buyer and seller may often go back and forth until they can agree on a price.

Q. WHAT IS EARNEST MONEY HOW MUCH SHOULD I SET ASIDE

Earnest money is money put down to demonstrate your seriousness about buying a home. It must be substantial enough to demonstrate good faith and is usually between 1-5% of the purchase price (though the amount can vary with local customs and conditions). If your offer is accepted, the earnest money becomes part of your down payment or closing costs. If the offer is rejected, your money is returned to you. If you back out of a deal, you may forfeit the entire amount.

Q. WHAT ARE “HOME WARRANTIES”, AND SHOULD I CONSIDER THEM

Home warranties offer you protection for a specific period of time (e.g., one year) against potentially costly problems, like unexpected repairs on appliances or home systems, which are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Warranties are becoming more popular because they offer protection during the time immediately following the purchase of a home, a time when many people find themselves cash-strapped.

10 Questions to Ask Home Inspectors

Before you make your final buying or selling decision, you should have the home inspected by a professional. An inspection can alert you to potential problems with a property and allow you to make an informed decision. Ask these questions to prospective home inspectors:

1. Will your inspection meet recognized standards Ask whether the inspection and the inspection report will meet all state requirements and comply with a well-recognized standard of practice and code of ethics, such as the one adopted by the American Society of Home Inspectors or the National Association of Home Inspectors. Customers can view each group s standards of practice and code of ethics online at www.ashi.org or www.nahi.org. ASHI s Web site also provides a database of state regulations.

2. Do you belong to a professional home inspector association There are many state and national associations for home inspectors, including the two groups mentioned in No. 1. Unfortunately, some groups confer questionable credentials or certifications in return for nothing more than a fee. Insist on members of reputable, nonprofit trade organizations; request to see a membership ID.

3. How experienced are you Ask how long inspectors have been in the profession and how many inspections they ve completed. They should provide customer referrals on request. New inspectors also may be highly qualified, but they should describe their training and let you know whether they plan to work with a more experienced partner.

4. How do you keep your expertise up to date Inspectors commitment to continuing education is a good measure of their professionalism and service. Advanced knowledge is especially important in cases in which a home is older or includes unique elements requiring additional or updated training.

5. Do you focus on residential inspection Make sure the inspector has training and experience in the unique discipline of home inspection, which is very different from inspecting commercial buildings or a construction site. If your customers are buying a unique property, such as a historic home, they may want to ask whether the inspector has experience with that type of property in particular.

6. Will you offer to do repairs or improvements Some state laws and trade associations allow the inspector to provide repair work on problems uncovered during the inspection. However, other states and associations forbid it as a conflict of interest. Contact your local ASHI chapter to learn about the rules in your state.

7. How long will the inspection take On average, an inspector working alone inspects a typical single-family house in two to three hours; anything significantly less may not be thorough. If your customers are purchasing an especially large property, they may want to ask whether additional inspectors will be brought in.

8. What s the cost Costs can vary dramatically, depending on your region, the size and age of the house, and the scope of services. The national average for single-family homes is about $320, but customers with large homes can expect to pay more. Customers should be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.

9. What type of inspection report do you provide Ask to see samples to determine whether you will understand the inspector’s reporting style. Also, most inspectors provide their full report within 24 hours of the inspection.

10. Will I be able to attend the inspection The answer should be yes. A home inspection is a valuable educational opportunity for the buyer. An inspector’s refusal to let the buyer attend should raise a red flag.

Source: Rob Paterkiewicz, executive director, American Society of Home Inspectors, Des Plaines, Ill., www.ashi.org.

Reprinted from REALTOR magazine (REALTOR.org/realtormag) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS .
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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