Check out a dream home as it actually is

You may be in love with the idea of buying a home: owning a place of your own that you can someday pass on to a family member or sell for a profit. While the home buying process varies depending on the type of property and its geographical location, overall, in the fast-paced real estate market it is wise to take a breath and thoroughly evaluate a purchase.

A general inspection can help identify issues and hazards. You are entitled to an inspection report in writing with photos of problem areas. You have the right to question and approve it.

You may need additional inspections — chimney, roofing, heat and air conditioning or septic. A mold test may be included in the general inspection, or, you can hire a specialist. Sewer-pipe scoping (sending a camera down the line) and drain inspections can reveal problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, many homes and condominiums built before 1978 have lead-based paint. Homebuyers have important rights to know about whether lead is present before signing a contract.

If there is any chance the ground might not be stable in an earthquake, flood or landslide have a geological inspection. The U.S. Geological Survey has information on natural hazards and provides data on current conditions and earth observations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has earthquake hazard and flood maps.

An architect or remodeling contractor can look at the house and see if it’s feasible and within your intended budget to do fix-ups or additions.

The American Society of Home Inspectors has information on state home inspection licensing requirements and provides referrals.

It is essential to have a competent team of inspectors, real estate professionals, lenders and attorneys guiding you in the home buying process to avoid pitfalls. Know the disclosure laws in your area. In addition to cross-checking a seller’s disclosures with inspections, check city building permit and zoning reports.

Selling jargon & sales hype

The enticing language in real estate ads aims to make a house sound like a dream before you even step foot in it. “One-of-a-kind,” “charming,” “beautiful,” “gem,” “stunning,” “rare” are all terms that can be used to describe any property even a “fixer-upper,” “needs some work,” or “just plain dump” at an escalated price.

Be aware of the signs of hidden sales hype when you attend an open house. If it is a sunny day and all of the lights are on inside, it might be because a home is dark like a dungeon. Ask how much the average utility bills are if the air conditioning is running on a chilly day because perhaps the windows are sealed shut due to auto soot from a nearby highway. Music can hide noise like airplanes passing over en route to a nearby airport. Incense or scented candles burning or the smell of cookies in the oven can cover up musty or unpleasant odors.

To get the real picture, tell the salesperson you want to see the house as it is. No lights on, no fresh cooking or scents, no music and the windows and doors open. That way you can concentrate on reality and not a camouflage.


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