A significant part of living the American Dream is home ownership, but depending on the home it is either a blessing or a curse. Put the odds in your favor with these simple guidelines.
Get It In Writing
Possibly the oldest advice about buying, but advice that will save problems when followed is: get it in writing. When my wife and I purchased our home it had a couple minor issues we requested be handled. One was handled quickly, but the second issue — reattaching a chain link fence never was handled. Since we did not get the agreement to fix the issue in writing, I had to figure out how to re-install chain link fence.
Double Check The Big 3
The roof, furnace and cooling system are three major expenses for home owners. When you are considering a home, have it inspected and pay close attention to what the report says about these three items. In our home all three items were relatively new, but the roof was not a tear off — meaning the shingles were applied on top of existing shingles. When it was time to replace the roof, we were required to do a tear off, which is more labor intensive and expensive, but since it was revealed in the report, I was able to plan for it.
Set Aside Maintenance Money
Even if you buy a new home, you can expect maintenance costs. In time, appliances wear out, windows need updated or roofs need re-shingled. If you purchase an older home, you will probably be making repairs sooner. For us, the most pressing repairs in the first 10 years of ownership were a blacktop driveway, a privacy fence and the roof. By setting up a maintenance fund, you remove some of the pain of the repair cost by spreading it out over a longer period of time. Over the years, we have utilized part of our annual tax return to offset repair expenditures.
Spend On The Low End Of Your Budget
In the business of buying, it’s always in the best interest of the bank and the Realtor to sell you a home at the top end of your budget. The problem: this leaves very little room for unexpected expenses, home improvements, or even worse, you have no disposable income. Save yourself some headaches by buying on the low end and use the money saved to improve your home — or to just enjoy life.
Know Your Neighbors
The most difficult item to determine when buying a home is the neighbors, but they can make or break the deal. Cruise through the neighborhood you are considering on various days and at various times to get a feel for the neighborhood. In our case, we moved when my daughter was five and chose a home on a street with no through traffic and a nice mix of neighbors. In the decade we have lived here, we have never had any issues with neighbors — in fact we have great neighbors — and you cannot put a price on that.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to learn new skills to save a few dollars. When our water heater needed replaced earlier this year, instead of replacing copper lines I learned how to solder. It took a few tries, but by watching a YouTube video and practicing on a scrap piece of pipe, I was able to accomplish a nice looking joint and save myself the expense of calling a plumber.