Buying your first home is very exciting – no more renting, you are now paying and investing in yourself by paying your mortgage. But these first time home buyer tips can help you from getting too carried away and forgetting some important issues in the home buying process.
A Home Inspection Checklist
First of all, you should have a home inspection checklist. You can’t just look at the house and buy it just because it looks great. Remember the movie “The Money Pit?”
You don’t want to buy your first home and then realize you’ve just bought your own money pit. There are more things to look at than just the location of the house, the neighborhood, the design and layout of the house.
Sure, it might look perfect if you’re only looking at the walls. But what about what’s behind those walls and below the floors?
You don’t even want your first home buying experience to turn from excitement to total regret because you failed to do a proper home inspection.
So the most important of first time home buyer tips is – look beneath the surface. What lurks behind those walls?
The Electrical System
Horrors if you go to use the dishwasher or oven and you end up with an electrical fire!
Check to see if the electrical system is newer with circuit breakers and good wiring. And check to make sure no one circuit is overloaded.
In our house, we have one circuit that trips once in a while if the vacuum cleaner is plugged into a particular outlet. This is a minor inconvenience; we just learned which outlet we can’t use.
We knew the electrical system overall was in excellent condition, so one quirky outlet hasn’t bother us.
I used to live in a house where you couldn’t use the toaster and coffee machine at the same time if they were plugged into the same outlet. I was renting though, so there wasn’t much I could do about it.
Inspecting the electrical system of the house you want to buy is one of the critical items on a home inspection checklist. Let’s look at some others.
The Plumbing System
Toilets, tubs, showers, sinks, pipes. And that’s not all.
What type of hot water system do you have? What type of furnace do you have? If your furnace heats water for oil or gas hot water heat, you need to inspect the furnace.
If you have a separate water heater to supply your hot water, you need to check that heater too.
Since all of these things run through the plumbing system, it all has to be checked.
What type of waste disposal system does the house have? Is it connected to public water and sewer or is it a well and septic system?
When we inspected our home, we found some leaky pipes and a backed up septic system. We still bought the home; we just had to negotiate with the seller to replace the septic system and dig a new well.
The Roof: Are there any torn or missing roofing tiles? Are there any visible holes?
Replacing an old roof can be very expensive, even if you’re doing it yourself. So be sure to look for any signs of a leaky roof as you walk through the house. Check for pealing ceiling paint and water marks or water marks running down the walls.
Flooring: Creaky floors are one thing. But falling through them is quite another! And sometimes carpeting can cover some serious damage.
You need to look up at the underside of the flooring from the basement. Check for any termite or water damage to the floorboards and load-bearing walls.
Walls and Insulation: Are there gaps between the window panes that will let cold air in and hot air out? How insulated is the house overall?
We rented a house where every time it was windy, all of the curtains blew in the living room, even with the windows shut. The wind actually came through the walls, not just the old windows!
It might sound trivial, but if you’re in a cold climate area like Pennsylvania and other states up north, high winds can really bite into your heating bill if you’re losing heat through a poorly insulated house.
Signs of Termite Damage
This is also a major structural concern since termites can eat into the main structure of the house. Upon initial inspection, if you have even the slightest hint of a possible termite problem, be sure to have a professional come out to inspect the home.
Other First Time Home Buyer Tips
Aside from the overall structural soundness and condition of the plumbing, heating and electrical system, here are some other things you should absolutely check when you’re going through the house.
Faucets: As you’re doing your walk-through, turn the faucets on and off to make sure they work properly.
Light switches: If the electricity is still on in the house, flip the switches to make sure they’re secure but not stuck.
Electrical outlets: First, you want to make sure there are enough outlets in each room. You also want to make sure they’re secure with no loose wires.
Door hinges: Open and close the doors as you walk through to make sure they’re secure and that they open and close properly. Sometimes doors may stick, and that could just be due to the weather.
We have a couple of doors in our house that are a bit hard to open and close during the summer when the wood tends to expand a bit.
Windows: How old are the windows? Will they need to be replaced? Do they have screens in them for the warmer weather? Do the locks work? Do the windows stay up or do they immediately fall down after you open them?
How Old is the House?
If you’re looking to buy an older home, one that was built in the 60s or even older, you may have some home renovations and repairs after you buy the house, unless the previous owners were really on top of things.
Just keep in mind, no house is absolutely perfect, even if you’re having a brand new house built to your specifications. There will always be tweaks and adjustments to any house.
But if you take your time and follow these first time home buyer tips, you could save yourself a lot of heartache and money by doing a thorough inspection first.
Don’t buy a Money Pit. Buy a solid house that you can turn into your Dream Home with as little major repair costs as possible.