I have been a home inspection specialist for 35 years. Even with the housing market in as bad a shape that it is, there is still hope. Right now mortgage rates are the lowest they have ever been and this just might be the time for you to buy that home of your dreams.
Don't let the surprise of expensive repairs catch you. Every mortgage carrier requires an Inspection/condition report on any property they finance. Since they pass this cost on to you and the realtor know this, your realtor should provide you a list of 2-3 companies or businesses that do this. If not, ask around and look at the want ads.
This is when you need to start taking control of your situation. Remember you are the buyer here. If you don't like something, stop the process until you get the answer that you need to like it. Your purchase had best be a on a condition report contingency. That is so you can back out or change your mind after you get the report and have time to review it.
If you have one of those pushy realtors that say "We take care of that for you" and roll the cost in at the end, put your hand up and say stop. Tell them you want the person's credentials and business name and the cost, so you can check them out. Remember the realtor listing the property is always in a hurry to sell, and if you were to switch to another realtor to find and to buy, you can bet they will be in a hurry too.
Don't let anyone speed you along by saying "the sooner you apply and qualify the better the rate", it just ain't so. Get the picture yet? Most realtors are honest and fair, they have to be, but some will work you instead of for you. Don't be afraid to research for this inspection and get it on your own, you can and should. You can provide a copy to the mortgage carrier.
Now go over your condition/inspection report and read all of it. Use a separate sheet of paper and list all the good stuff on one side and all the bad stuff on the other, or just do 2 lists and room for notes. Here are a couple of the key points you should consider carefully. They can be costly repairs to make right after you have bought your new home.
The roof section: This should tell you the condition/age/life expectancy of the roof and anything on it like gutters, vents, chimney, etc. Use this information to calculate your repair needs and cost and list this also.
Now your furnace and water heater: Each of these should have an installation sticker with a date on it and of course a manufacturer name and model number. You can go to your local library or online to Consumers Reports to compare life expectancy of what your inspector has written in his report. Now Furnaces have filters that need to be changed and or cleaned. All furnaces should be cleaned every 3-5 years, depending on the environment, by a trustworthy furnace technician. Please watch what he does and how he does it so you will know he is doing a good job. If they don't pull the blower out and clean it, don't pay him. I personally have charged $50.00 and up for a cleaning and if I found that the furnace did not need a cleaning I don't charge for it.
Look at the model and serial numbers on your water heater label, a date is usually incorporated in the number. Look at the label for a warranty period. It's best to be ready to replace it ahead of time rather than not and shop around for an installer, always ask and record what you get for your buck so you can compare for yourself.
Depending on whom you hire for your inspection, use your report as a guide for the first 5 years or more years. Let it pay you back for what it cost. I often put extra sheets of paper in some of mine just for the notes by the customer. A good Inspector opens every door, window, and valve in the house. He will test your water pressure, test for gas and carbon monoxide, and check your garbage disposal and every switch and outlet. I have seen thermograph cameras crews come out and jack the heat up so far to get a good picture that I had to stop putting in a sink and faucet and take a lunch just to cool off.
You need to hire someone with experience. A company that employs college trained technicians and that has great credentials and has been in business for a while. Don't be afraid to ask for references and check them out with the Better Business Bureau .A good through report should cost $300.00 to 600.00 but the report will tell you everything you need to know.
Don't be afraid to call someone like me in for a second opinion on 2-3 items. It might well be worth it and you will have a good reason to make a seller cover a repair before you sign the final paper work.
Thanks for Reading,
Leo the Repair Guy