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Thread: Buying a House

  1. #1
    malarkey oxyjen's Avatar
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    Buying a House

    So, we're looking to buy a house soon. I feel a bit out of my league. Any personal stories, advice, things you wish you had known before you bought your first place, etc., are greatly appreciated.

    We already ran some financials and have a price point in mind based on money down, mortgage terms, probable taxes, and cost of homeowner's insurance. We are just waiting on the bank to tell us if we are approved up to our personal max limit.

    My main concern is knowing how to spot potential problems or money pits when we are looking at houses. Granted, we'll have an inspector come and look at a house if we're serious, but I would like to be as knowledgeable as I can before we bring in an expert.

    Hell, even book recommendations on buying a house welcome.

  2. #2
    凸(ಠ_ರೃ )凸 stuck's Avatar
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    read the book and then get an agent too.

  3. #3
    malarkey oxyjen's Avatar
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    I have heard conflicting advice on getting an agent as a buyer. Maybe it depends on the quality of the agent?

    Pros: help guide you through the process, steer you with choices you want based on preferences, has the ability to get keys to look inside houses basically (their main function??)

    Cons: supposedly is not incentivized to get you a good deal because they are paid by the seller (??? I have no idea if this is true, like I should really have even googled shit before starting this thread, I'm that clueless), and basically combs MLS listings for you which we've already been doing.

    But it's probably unheard of to NOT have an agent so we will probably get one.

  4. #4
    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Hmm. Do you know anyone who is selling a house? Older friends or relatives would be the people to talk to. That's where you'd likely get the best deal and not need an agent. Otherwise, look at lots of places and learn as much as you can about neighborhoods, developers, materials, etc. Also be wary of homeowners associations. Their fees can add hundreds of dollars a month to your cost of ownership.
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  5. #5
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    A lot depends where you're buying, and what type of house you're buying. So, if you're getting a basement, for example, then you'll want to be very thorough checking out the drainage on the property. You'll want good drain tile that is separate from the drainage for your roof water.

    In places where it's cold, insulation can make a huge difference in energy costs and in the general comfort of the home.

    Definitely take a look in the attic...look for mold up there, and note the amount of insulation (it's easy to add more insulation to the attic, but if there's very little in the attic, you've probably got insufficient amounts in the walls).

    Also, make sure the electrical is up to snuff. In some old homes it's really easy to overload circuits and blow fuses or breakers...and a lot of old construction isn't grounded properly as well.

    Any indications of water damage anywhere warrant investigation.

    Other things to take note of are:
    Hot water--if it's a tank and not on-demand, make sure the tank is a sufficient size for your needs(a small tank won't cut it for a family of 4 who all shower first thing in the morning).
    Furnace--Is it old? can be a hefty sum to replace.
    Roof--how old is it and how soon is it likely to need replacing?

    Plumbing...how new is it? In houses that are 50+ years old, original copper plumbing is at an age where it is reaching the end of its lifespan. You might get another 10 or 20 years out of it, but it's going to fail at some point.

    Vaulted ceilings can look nice, but you compromise having attic space where you can pile up insulation...

    ..ooh, ventilation...that's important. My house didn't even have a fan in the bathroom when we bought. It's not just for post-#2s...keeping moisture out of your house will keep it healthy and structurally sound.
    Old houses often have a fan in the kitchen that doesn't actually blow air outside...it just circulates the air inside the house through a filter...which is kinda pointless.

    A lot of stuff can be updated at a minimal cost if you're at all handy, too....so that makes a difference, too.
    I bought a house with good bones, and an updated electrical panel, and with new windows and a new furnace....but the rest of the house was very dated...so I got it at a great price...and I've renovated nearly every room, systematically updating the electrical wiring and insulation and vapor barriers as I go...which was not very expensive since the panel was new, and the structure was already quite passable.

    Other things that are nice to have...lots of windows on the southern exposure of the house...you get free heat from the sun that way, and if you have deciduous trees on the southern face, they'll shade the house in summer, and allow the sun to heat the home during the day in winter. Alternately, it's good to have coniferous trees on the northern exposure of the house, to block wind and other weather.

    Also, make sure that the window dressings are included in the purchase...they can be really expensive to update.

    If I think of anything else I'll be sure to add...

    **type of heating...gas, fire, or electric...can have a big impact on your costs, depending on different factors.
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
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  6. #6
    malarkey oxyjen's Avatar
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    Right now we are basing our neighborhood choices off of school districts. However sometimes we are wooed by a few houses in a less nice school district, because they have the wonderful old woodwork and we can get more sq feet for our money. They have open enrollment here though. Providing transportation to/from school (one of the requirements if you enroll outside your assigned district) is not a problem, but I cannot find statistics for application rejection rates. Unsure how much risk to tolerate in that area.

    @Osito Polar, fortunately many of the places we're looking at don't have HOA's, thank goodness. Plus it seems like condos/townhouses don't appreciate that well when you look at selling the property yourself later on (or so I've been told, for this area).

  7. #7
    Shiny and Eww Charde's Avatar
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    Well, if your agent wants to make ANY money, they need to make sure you get the house even if they are paid a commission from money paid by the seller to the agent's company; and normally if the property is any good and in a decent area, there will be competing bids. A percentage of a higher price that doesn't go through nets them exactly $0 and wastes all the time they could have spent arranging a better/another deal. IOW They want you to buy the house and they want the seller to sell it to you. Soooo....

    Anyway:
    http://homebuying.about.com/od/reale...sBuyerAgts.htm

    Robcore lists a lot of good stuff. There's a lot to think about, and you have to make sure the building passes snuff so that you can find an insurance company to cover it; and/or you need to recognize potential problems that either you or the seller (before you buy it) will need to fix. Usually the seller gets the house inspected themselves; and it's common for a buyer to bring their own inspector, just to make sure it's up to snuff and so you can determine the True Cost to you compared to the purchase price and whether it can be insured.

    My first house actually had cloth insulation on the wiring (the older wiring -- it was a very old brick house), and we had to get a special local insurance agency to provide the policy; some agencies wouldn't touch it.

  8. #8
    malarkey oxyjen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    Stuff.
    Thanks for the info, I need to create a little bullet list to carry around on tours so I make sure to take note of everything.

    Furnaces last what, 15-20 years?

    And I've pretty much eliminated any houses that have fuse boxes instead of circuit breakers (mr oxy likes the idea of a fixer upper, even though he hasn't come to grips that we aren't the type of people who fix much of anything).

    I can't even imagine when I get past the "choosing a house" and to the "negotiating an offer" stage. Ughhhh.

  9. #9
    Shiny and Eww Charde's Avatar
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    Yeah, furnaces last 15-20, I think.
    Roofs... depends on the material used.
    Also, decks are popular, but depending on what was used to construct them (the type of wood treatement, if wooden, etc.), they can go to rot quickly.

    Also think about heating costs in the winter, whether your windows might need to be replaced / insulated somehow.

    At some point, there's almost too much detail, so you just jump in... once you can at least confirm there are no huge dealbreakers that would cost you way too much money to fix / deal with.

    For example, in that first house, we actually had a septic tank due to the age of the house. We didn't realize that it needed to be drained, because neither of us ever had had a septic tank. So when we went to sell the house five years later, we were told the septic tank was shot and needed to be replaced. That was going to run $2200 or so. My in-laws were nice enough to cover it (they had a lot of savings, and they knew we couldnt' afford to fix it), but... again, there's one of those things we didn't know because no one had ever told us and we had never had one. So ... just good to get outside assessments from people with experience on homes.

    And fixing up a house is a great idea -- if you know what you are doing, and also are committed to do it and know you can make time. That first house, I actually did do a lot of fixing stuff for the first year or two. (I learned how to wire a room with lathe-and-plaster, I even put in a three-way circuit or two; I stripped old wallpaper and learned how to paint; I built some closets, etc.) But I don't encourage it unless you are either committed to it or are capable of focusing on it + setting deadlines. If you don't enjoy it, it's common for stuff to stay half-completed for a long time. My parents actually had stuff in their house that they never finished (half-built closets, wall plastering, etc.) in the last thirty years since they lived there, and the house was finally sold when my dad died without ever being completed.

  10. #10
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    For the offer parts, it depends what the market is like there. Our agent told us that houses were selling on average for about 9% below asking when we bought. Our first offer was 60,000 on a house listed at 89,000...which we could do because the house had been on the market for several months with little interest. We ended up getting it for 73,000...but the seller was motivated to sell.
    We actually went back and forth probably 5 times...
    You can use stuff from the inspection, too...say, 'replace the furnace, or knock off 6000 from asking price'.

    Also, shop around online for the best interest rates. We got a ridiculous deal at 2.2% by threatening our bank to go with some random broker from another province that we'd found online...and originally the bank had proposed something in the 5% range iirc.
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
    "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ~Carl Jung

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