What Home Inspectors Look For

As a homebuyer, you get to choose your home inspector, so it’s important to find a good one who’s experienced and educated. Ask your realtor for a couple of recommendations and then do a simple search on google to find any reviews there may be.

An inspection is the buyer’s greatest opportunity to determine the home’s condition. You will get a full picture of the home from the inspector spending time documenting the big and the little issues. This is not a test that the house passes or fails, but rather it’s a way to identify problems that will need to be dealt with.

Foundation: A home inspector takes a close look at the structural integrity of the home you want to buy. Part of that means he will be looking for cracks, moisture, water damage, and sticking windows and doors, which could reveal that the foundation of the home is shifting or sinking. The inspector won’t have the final say as they can’t officially diagnose or offer repair solutions for the foundation issues. They identify and find all the hidden problems and gather the overall sense of the issue and if it is believed to be serious, a structural engineer would need to come out. Most of the foundation repair companies won’t charge a fee to come to inspect in the hopes that you will hire them to fix the problem.

Roof: The inspector will check if the peak is straight and level. if the roof is sagging between rafters, if shingles show any signs of deterioration, if roof vents are visible, and if there is any loose flashing near the chimney. He will want to make sure the roof is well-constructed and will protect you from the elements. As part of the report, you can expect to be provided with an estimate of how many good years the roof has left before the consideration of replacing it.

Plumbing: He will look inside and outside the house and he will check to see if the water is running from the taps including the spigots, see that they drain empty, and make sure that the toilets flush. The inspector will look for any leaks around the plumbing, pipes, and fixtures. There will be an assessment of the toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaky showerheads.

Electrical: One of the leading causes of house fires is the electrical system, so expect this to be a very thorough examination. In addition to checking the electrical panel to make sure wiring and grounding are up to code, the inspector looks for corroded wires and correct amperage ratings. Common electrical issues include exposed wiring, painted outlets, reversed polarity, aluminum wiring, and lack of GFCI protection.

HVAC: Inspectors will check the thermostat, air conditioner, furnace, heat pumps, and ducts to assure that all are in working order. He will look at service records and determine the system’s age, evaluate the cleanliness of each component, and the safety mechanisms.

The Bottom Line: There is much more to a home inspection than those above but these are the most costly to repair or replace if issues are found. With this report, you are more able to identify what you can or can not take on if you buy a home. Furthermore, a home inspection can uncover potentially life-threatening problems like mold or faulty wiring that could cause a significant fire.

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DIY Quick and Easy Reboot to Sell Your Home

If you are preparing to put your home on the market, it might not make sense to complete any big home improvement projects. Once you have met with your realtor and are convinced there aren’t any major repairs to make, consider doing some easy refurbishing yourself to make your home more appealing to buyers. These updates shouldn’t take long to accomplish, and they won’t break the bank.

The First Impression:  Start with the first thing potential buyers will see online, driving by, or coming to a showing – your home’s curb appeal. Check all your landscaping and keep your grass cut. Clear your yard of dead plants, weeds, sticks, and leaves. Trim the trees and the bushes and consider adding a few bags of dark mulch around them. If your home has a front porch, adding a couple of pots of seasonal flowers on the front porch can make a huge difference. Update and possibly remove any accessories such as a doormat, wreath, or rug.

The Front Door: A little sanding, a fresh coat or two of paint, clean or paint the trim, and put on a new doorknob. A knocker will add some charm. Fix or replace any exterior lighting that needs some help.

Bathrooms and Kitchen: Outdated lighting and plumbing fixtures can drag down the entire vibe of a home. But by replacing the old fixtures with either timeless or trendy ones, you breathe fresh life into the space. If your cabinets have old and tired hardware, replace them for a quick, easy, and cheap facelift. Regrout and replace chipped tiles. This may take some extra elbow grease but will make your tile look new and give it a fresh look that buyers love.

Fresh Paint: Brighten up your home with a new coat of paint in a color palette that will appeal to today’s buyers. Doing this will help in covering up stains, marks, scratches, and any odors.  Choose a warm neutral color to appeal to the widest range of buyers. Talk to your realtor for advice on what is currently popular. Painting can be done on a weekend and absolutely won’t break the bank.

Flooring:  A huge selling point for potential homebuyers. Remember that odors linger especially in rugs and carpets and worn, dirty, or badly colored carpeting can turn a buyer off in seconds. If you have good hardwood floors, consider ripping out the carpet and exposing the wood. If that isn’t an option, your realtor should have recommendations on who or what to use to bring life into your carpeting – replacing or deep cleaning it.

Window Treatment: Get rid of any town window shades, dreary curtains, bent mini-blinds, and dusty old drapery. Remove and replace with simple white mini-blinds or wood blinds. Easy fix and refresh that can be done in a day.

The Bottom Line:  Adding any or all of these updates can easily and cheaply get your home ready to sell with confidence.  If you want to sell your home as quickly as possible you’ve got to put your best foot forward for potential buyers, especially those who come in to take a physical walk-through of the property.

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Community Matters When Buying a House

When a home-buying budget is tight, there’s always the temptation to buy a fantastic, big house in a less costly area. However, buying a home in an undesirable neighborhood might be a huge mistake, especially when it’s time to resell in the future. Choosing the right neighborhood is one of the most decisions you will make. Of course, there will always be issues you wouldn’t be able to discover until after you’ve moved in. But there are ways to scout out red flags ahead of time.

When you see homes that are rundown throughout the community, it could be a sign that the residents have given up and the neighborhood is in rapid decline. A street that is full of homes with broken/cracked windows, overgrown, unkempt yards, home vacancies, gutters filled with leaves and vines, sagging rooflines, pooling water in yards, homes with obvious chipping paint & broken fences should sound off an alarm. It’s a clue that the neighbors don’t take pride in their homes and with no upkeep, they can end up decreasing the property values for the entire street.

Are there too many houses that are for sale in the neighborhood? When driving through notice if there is an abundance of “for sale” or “for rent” signs. If everyone is trying to sell, it’s probably not a coincidence. There are plenty of reasons this could be going on, but it’s important to have your Realtor dig in and find out the details. Also, check with the local police department and find out about the crime – a real reason people would be making a mass exodus from the neighborhood.

How is the local school system? Are there fewer students enrolling? A sure sign of a healthy community is a blossoming school. Another reason to have a good, knowledgeable Realtor with you – he/she should know all these details or at least where you can find the information about the schools.

Most streets have some cracks and bumps but are you noticing big potholes in the neighborhood? This could mean that this is an area of neglect in the city. Is the local park a mess? If you can see that there is no organization to take care of the streets, the parks, and any public spaces in the neighborhood it is a sure sign that the property values are headed down.

Drive through the neighborhood on a beautiful day. Do you see people out and about? Are kids playing ball in yards? Bike riding? Is anyone sitting on the front porches? A big red flag if you don’t see people. This could signal that residents stay inside and don’t allow their children to play outdoors because they don’t feel safe outside. Again, check with the local police department.

The Bottom Line: Attention to the surroundings of any neighborhood is important. Often, the focus is on the home and how perfect it is for you, but a huge part of the way you live is where you live. Drive around, contact the local law enforcement agency, speak with local real estate agents, and do online research. 

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A Home & Its Title Chain

Does the seller have the legal right to sell this home? Is the home’s title free of judgments, liens, or bankruptcies that would prevent the seller from transferring a clear title to the buyer? How can you be certain?

Every property has a history of owners.  That history is called an ownership chain, or more often, a title chain.  When a link in the chain has a problem, it’s called a title defect, or a cloud on the title. No matter how small the problem is, any title issue must be resolved in order to offer a clear title to the buyer.

When purchasing a home, you may view title insurance as an unnecessary cost.  However, title insurance provides protection for both the seller and the buyer against title defects. Title insurance, as the name implies, insures against property title defects or ownership defects.  Some title problems may not become apparent for years. Others can hinder the sale of your home, and may even limit who you can sell your home to.

The title company will examine public records of the home being sold, sometimes going back 50 years or more, to look for past deeds, wills, trusts, divorce decrees, bankruptcy filings, court judgments, and tax records that may be defective or outstanding. The results of the search will be compiled into a preliminary title report that will be given to the buyer, seller, real estate agent, lender, and attorney involved in the sale.

Common Issues

PUBLIC RECORDS: Mistakes and errors happen but you do not want it affecting your home. The errors can be disastrous and cause you an undue financial burden to resolve. Simple clerical or filing errors could affect the deed or survey of your property.

UNKNOWN LIENS: Prior owners of your property may have left unpaid bills. And, even though the former debt is not your own, banks or other financing companies can place liens on your property for unpaid debts even after you have closed on the sale. This is an especially worrisome issue with distressed properties.

ILLEGAL DEEDS: While the chain of title on your property may appear perfectly sound, it’s possible that a prior deed was made by an undocumented immigrant, a minor, a person of unsound mind, or one who is reported single but in actuality married. These instances may affect the enforceability of prior deeds, affecting prior (and possibly present) ownership.

MISSING HEIRS: When a person dies, the ownership of their home may fall to their heirs or those named within their will. However, those heirs are sometimes missing or unknown at the time of death. Other times, family members may contest the will for their own property rights. These scenarios – which can happen long after you have purchased the property – may affect your rights to the property.

FORGERIES: Unfortunately, we don’t live in a completely honest world. Sometimes forged or fabricated documents that affect property ownership are filed within public records, obscuring the rightful ownership of the property. Once these forgeries come to light, your rights to your home may be in jeopardy.

UNDISCOVERED ENCUMBRANCES:  At the time that you purchase your home, you may not know that a third party holds a claim to all or part of your property – due to a former mortgage or lien, or non-financial claims, like restrictions or covenants limiting the use of your property.

UNKNOWN EASEMENTS: You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but an unknown easement may prohibit you from using it as you’d like or could allow government agencies, businesses, or other parties access to all or portions of your property. While usually non-financial issues, easements can still affect your right to enjoy your property.

BOUNDARY/SURVEY DISPUTES: You may have seen several surveys of your property prior to purchasing, however, other surveys may exist that show differing boundaries. Therefore, a neighbor or other party may be able to claim ownership of a portion of your property.

UNDISCOVERED WILL: When a property owner dies with no apparent will or heir, the state may sell his or her assets, including the home. When you purchase such a home, you assume your rights as the owner. However, even years later, the deceased owner’s will may come to light and your rights to the property may be seriously jeopardized.

The Bottom Line: The experts at Title First oversee and perform thousands of closings each year. When using Title First, you can sign confidently on the dotted line knowing that all details of your title transfer and closing are in proper order. We are here to answer any questions you may have about buying or selling a home, and our team will guide you through the entire process.

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