PA Homes for Sale
Buying Your Home
Like any other life changing experience, buying a home for the first time can seem like an incredible challenge. However, once first-time homebuyers are able to organize their priorities, conduct some useful research and interact with a trusted real estate agent, confusion can quickly turn into excitement. Keeping in mind some of the basic tips outlined below can help pave the way to a successful first-time home buying experience.
Prior to researching the real estate market and hunting for mortgages, you will need to analyze your family's goals and priorities. Take some time to reflect and determine if it is the right time to purchase your first home. You may also want to ask yourself where you want to be in the next few years and consider how purchasing a home for the first time fits into your family's long-term goals.
Once you determine you are ready to purchase your first home, you may want to research the details of the home buying process. Though you may not understand everything you read, any insight you gain will help you avoid unwanted headaches further along in the process.
The next important step in the home buying process may seem obvious but is often overlooked during the excitement of purchasing a first home. Very simply, as a first-time home buyer, you need to determine what you can afford. Too often, first-time home buyers underestimate or simply miscalculate the costs of owning a home. Before searching for your first home, ask yourself if your income is both adequate and reliable enough to afford mortgage payments.
There are also upfront costs to consider when buying a home. Though the amount required to cover a down payment and possible closing costs will vary, there are usually some out of pocket expenses to incur when closing on your first home. Being prepared for these expenses, as well as any unexpected costs that occur after you have moved in will help your transition into home ownership.
After determining what your family can comfortably afford, you should start shopping around – for both homes and mortgages. By this time, you should have a good idea of what types of amenities you are looking for in a first home and what neighborhoods best match your family's needs. As your search advances, you may want to attend some open houses in your neighborhoods of interest. Even if you don't find the perfect home right away, being active in the market will give you a better chance of finding the best fit for your family.
While looking at homes, you may also want to see what types of mortgages are available to your family. If you are able to determine what rates you qualify for and estimate your mortgage payment before actively bidding on a home, you can narrow down your price range and make a confident offer when the time comes.
Though following the previous steps can help a first-time home buyer find the right home, buyers never need to go it alone. After conducting your own research, it is a good idea to find an agent you can trust. Besides being able to assist you when searching for the right home, a reliable real estate agent can help guide you through the home buying process.
If you are patient with the home buying process and do your homework before purchasing your first home, your diligence will most likely lead you to the perfect home for your family.
Why Do I Need A Home Inspection?
The purchase of a home is one of the biggest investments people will make in their lifetimes. But it is also among the greatest sources of anxiety. A home inspection helps ensure homebuyers of the quality of their investment by making them aware of its condition and alerting them to any concerns. This can serve to relieve stress, increase confidence and even reduce the threat of legal action in the future.
Some of the benefits of a home inspection are:
- Knowledge: Understanding exactly what you're buying - old or new
- Peace of mind: Helps in making a sound buying decision
- Savings: The home inspection reveals the need for repairs or replacements before you buy
- Fewer surprises: The home inspection limits the number of problems you may discover after you move in
- Education: A good home inspection also gives you invaluable details about your new home in addition to information about the condition of the property. You'll learn where the main shutoff valves to the utilities are located, how the house operates and more!
How do I find a good home inspector?
Not all inspection companies are alike, and selecting the wrong company could cost you thousands of dollars in repair and replacement costs. Consider the following when shopping for home inspection companies.
- Experience: How much experience do the inspectors have and how long have they have been in the business? The best home inspectors have been in business for years and have seen thousands of homes.
- Home Inspection Training: Have the inspectors gone through any extensive home inspection training? In many states inspectors can simply call themselves home inspectors without any training or licensing.
- Association Membership: Is the inspector a member of a professional home inspection organization? Companies that are affiliated with professional organizations are serious about what they do, and know about all the new developments in their fields. Some well-known trade associations are: American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI). Inspectors in your area can be located through these associations.
- Liability Insurance: Does the inspector carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions Insurance)? If you ever need to collect on a legal judgment, an inspector without insurance my not be able to pay your claim.
What if I'm buying a newly constructed home?
An inspection on a new home is important for the buyer to level the playing field. As in any industry there are shortcuts and tricks of the trade in the construction business, and someone who is unfamiliar with them can easily miss them. A home inspector is better able to see nuances that may not be readily visible to an untrained eye. You also need an inspector to offset the builder's or contractor's interest. Much of the information about homes is either taken for granted by people, or remains unfound.
For newly constructed homes, an inspection of the house before the drywall is installed, otherwise known as a "preclosure inspection", provides a level of quality assurance for the buyer that many builders don't usually provide for their contractors. This inspection gives you a better chance of identifying and correcting potential problems when they are much easier and less expensive to fix, before they become physically or financially prohibitive. For example, this inspection may prevent the need for moving a wall so that kitchen cabinets don't protrude into a doorway opening, or moving electrical receptacles so they are placed where you need them.
What to Look for During Your Home Inspection
Before making an offer on a home, nearly all real estate experts recommend conducting extensive inspections. Home inspections are designed to protect you from unexpected repairs and costs after move-in. If any problems are found during a pre-sale inspection, the buyer can then negotiate with the seller to have the issues resolved before closing or incorporate the cost of repairs into the offer. By assuring the buyer that they are purchasing the best home for their money, home inspections are an invaluable resource in the home buying process.
In most cases, home inspections analyze a number of factors both inside and outside the home. We begin with the six most critical inspection concerns for the exterior of the home.
- Foundation – The most important thing to check for in the foundation are cracks. If any cracks or irregularities are noticed in the foundation, a further inspection may be needed to check the integrity of the construction.
- Roof – When the roof is inspected, it must first be determined if any leaks are present. If the roof is free of leaks, a proper inspection will then attempt to determine if the roof possesses any flaws that could cause leaks in the future. During inspection, it is also important to notice if any large trees hang over the home. Wet leaves from such trees can sometimes cause serious problems for homeowners.
- Drainage – The most important thing to consider is how the home is situated on the property. To ensure adequate drainage and prevent flooding in the home, the surrounding land should slope away from the home and 6-8 inches of the concrete foundation should be visible. Additionally, all gutters and drainage spouts should be angled away from the home.
- Windows and Doors – Besides looking for broken glass, a check of the windows should cover many factors. Ideally, all windows should open and close properly with a good seal, be free of rot around the window sills and have all screens intact. Similarly, all doors opening to the exterior should open and close properly with a good seal to prevent extra heating and cooling costs.
- Siding, Trim, Gutters and Paint – An inspection of the exterior siding or paint should check for the presence of bubbling or peeling. Also, all exterior fixtures that do not impact the structural integrity – such as ornamental trim and rain gutters – should be checked for overall condition.
- Decks and Porches – If the home has a deck or porch, the inspection will try to uncover the presence of rot or insect damage.
Now, we will look at six factors that should be thoroughly inspected within the interior of the home.
Walls, Floors and Ceilings – All walls, floors and ceilings inside the home should be checked for the presence of water damage – usually present as mold or other stains – and signs of insects or pests. The areas near plumbing fixtures should be given extra attention to check for mold and water damage, while gaps or cracks in exterior walls should be checked for the presence of insects. Lastly, all wall and floor surfaces – such as paint, plaster, wood floors, tile bathrooms and carpet – should be checked for overall condition.
- Appliances – Typically, home inspectors will run one dishwasher cycle and check all functions of the oven and stove. If the home is being sold with a full set of appliances, it is wise to check the working order of refrigerators, washers, dryers and microwaves.
- Electrical, Heating and Cooling Systems – These inspections of the home's infrastructure are some of the most telling assessments of a property's quality and, by extension, value. An inspection of the electrical system will typically test all outlets, light fixtures and circuit breakers. If it is an older home, an inspection should look for updated features such as ground fault interrupt (GFI) outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen. When checking heating and cooling systems, inspectors typically test the furnace, monitor the response of the thermostat and assess the overall ventilation of the home.
- Plumbing – The inspection of the plumbing system begins with a check for leaks around all fixtures and pipes. Next, both cold and hot water pressure should be tested by turning on multiple faucets. In the bathrooms, the areas around each bathtub and shower should be inspected for water damage. Lastly, try to ensure that the hot water heater is up to code and functioning properly.
- Basement – If the home has a basement, the most important thing to check for is the presence of water damage. An inspection of the basement is primarily an extension of the previously mentioned check for walls, floors and ceilings.
- Chimney and Fireplace – An inspection of the chimney and each fireplace will check for loose bricks and mortar, assess the overall stability and check for obstructions within the chimney.
Keep in mind, if an inspection uncovers a problem, you should not necessarily be deterred from buying the home. More than anything, the inspection will help you determine the value of the home and prevent you from overpaying or experiencing unwanted repairs. Depending on what is uncovered during the inspection, you may want to conduct an additional inspection of the problematic element or simply work with the seller to resolve the issue as part of your offer.