Ultimate Checklist for Buying a House

July 1, 2020 by Lexi Klinkenberg

 

Most Americans consider buying a house as a significant life goal. Homeownership offers stability and a sense of security and safety and for some, it is an essential rite of passage into adulthood. As you pursue your dream of homeownership, it’s crucial to understand the many moving parts to the home buying process and protect yourself from the risk of becoming “house broke.” This ultimate checklist for buying a house will help you cover all your bases.

Ultimate_checklist_for_buying_a_house

Know how much you can afford

Determining how much house you can afford is the first step in the buying a house checklist – getting this number set will relieve stress in the long run. Start with your current budget and calculate your monthly income and expenses. Don’t forget to take into consideration the price variance in different locations. For example, a home in Nampa, ID has a lower median sales price than a home in Boise, ID. The safest rule of thumb dictates that your mortgage loan payment should not exceed 28% of your gross earnings each month. Your lender will use this number as an initial benchmark in their calculations to determine the loan amount for which you may qualify.

Here’s a quick example: Say your monthly gross income is $8,000. You’ll take $8,000 x 28 = $224,000. Now divide the total by 100. $224,000/100 = $2,224 is the maximum monthly mortgage payment, including principal, interest, taxes, house insurance (PITI) plus mortgage insurance, that you could afford according to the 28% rule.

 

Save, save, save for a down payment

When you can pay 20% of a home’s purchase price as a down payment, you’re in a good position with your mortgage lender. That 20% down payment eliminates the extra monthly payment for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI lenders require that every loan amount exceeds 80% of the purchase price – you pay that insurance to reduce the bank’s risk if you default.

 

PMI gets tacked onto your monthly payment so that 20% down payment you save for will make your monthly house payment lower. Depending on your status and circumstances, there are loans available with much lower down payment requirements from 3.5% to 10%. If you’re a veteran you may even qualify for a no down payment mortgage known as a VA loan. Whatever your situation, you’ll want to start saving each month for your down payment.

 

Check your credit rating, and if necessary, take steps to improve it

The type of loan you’ll qualify for – and at what interest rate – will depend on your credit score. Lenders use your FICO score as the basis to determine your credit-worthiness for a mortgage. Knowing your credit rating will help you understand if you need to improve your credit score to qualify for a loan. Your lender can help you identify which debts to pay down or pay off first, and which lines of credit to keep open to make the best improvement to your credit.

 

If you notice something on your credit report that shouldn’t be there and is driving down your credit rating, consider contacting a credit repair company to help mitigate credit issues and get your score headed in the right direction.

Research mortgage options and get pre-approved for a home loan

Different lenders – banks, credit unions, and mortgage companies – all offer different mortgage options. Do your research with each of these different lenders before you choose the one to finance your purchase. Once you have chosen the lender you want to use, get a mortgage pre-approval. Most real estate agents will require you to be pre-approved as well. This pre-approval puts the realtor in a position to negotiate with confidence on your behalf. And it strengthens your offer to the seller because it means that a bank is already willing to lend you the money, improving the likelihood of closing the sale. This is an important step for your buying a house checklist.

Research_mortgage_options_and_get_pre-approved_for_a_home_loan

Find a good real estate agent

You’ll want to find a real estate agent who listens to you and understands your goals and needs for buying a house. Ask your friends and family for referrals to an agent they’ve worked with and felt did a good job of representing their interests. If you’re moving to a new area, look at online reviews and see who you think would be best to represent your interests, and who will take the time you need to find your perfect house. Be sure you are comfortable with the person you choose – you could be spending a lot of time with them in the short term.

 

Discover the area and neighborhoods you’d like to live in

Explore different neighborhoods and locations to get a feel for whether you would like to live there. Surprisingly, many people overlook this key consideration in the buying a house checklist before they start looking for a home. When you take the time upfront for this exploration, you’ll be able to watch for houses in those areas that meet your criteria – rather than jumping at what might be the right house in a location where you don’t want to live.

 

Look for local amenities and services that support your lifestyle, such as a school, hospital, grocery, and other retail shopping, a gas station, or public transit. Drive around at different times to see what’s going on in the neighborhood. Check it out during the week and on weekends, as well as during the day and evening.

 

Know what to look for and find that perfect home

Once you have zeroed in on a neighborhood or area you like, you’ll want to decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you prefer and the overall square footage of your ideal home. You don’t need to worry about every nook and part of the home, but understand that an average two-bedroom home in the U.S. is between 1,600-1,800 square feet. A “small” house is less than 1,000 square feet. While a “large” house comes in at 3,000 or more square feet.

Now that you’ve set your search criteria and started looking for a home, you’ll want to make a buying a house checklist with the home features you want before you begin your home tours.

 

Watch out for these red-flag items, which come with varying, but sometimes significant costs to repair or replace if you make an offer on the house:

  • Roof – look for shingles that are curling or peeling.
  • Windows – are they clear, or do they show evidence of moisture or fog between the panes? Are they single- or double-pane?
  • Furnace – is there a sticker indicating it’s been serviced regularly? Is it more than 15 years old, and is it working?
  • Air conditioning – is it more than 15 years old, and is it working?
  • Water Heater – is it more than ten years old? Is there any rust or calcium build-up around the base?
  • Flooring – look at the floor’s condition and determine if it can be cleaned up or if you’ll need to replace it before moving in.
  • Paint – how has the paint held up, both interior and exterior? Is it dirty but solvable with good cleaning, or will you need to repaint?

 

Be fair, but factor in your anticipated repair and maintenance costs in the short term. You may not need everything to be in perfect condition if the house fits your criteria otherwise, but you want to understand your risk of big expenses in the near future.

 

Attend open houses and home tours

Watch the ads for open houses and start visiting those homes that fit your criteria. If they are in your chosen location, that’s ideal but not essential. Open houses outside of your desired location can be considered test houses, which will at least give you an idea of what’s on the market in your price range. You can also attend virtual home tours if you don’t have the time to make it out to a house you want to look at. These tours can help you identify the type of home you like, the layout you want, and the features you want or don’t want in your home.

Attend_open_houses_and_home_tours

Make an offer

If you’re pre-approved and find the right home during one of your home tours, you’re ready to make an offer. Your real estate agent will help you complete the offer letter, and make sure you’ve included all the important details in your offer – timing, exclusions, contingencies, etc. Your realtor sends your offer to the seller’s real estate agent, and they decide if they agree with your offer price and terms.

 

Negotiate

During the negotiations phase, a good real estate agent demonstrates real value to help buyers and sellers strike a deal. Your real estate agent can help you determine what to include in the offer. They can also help guide how you should respond to a counter-offer when the seller didn’t agree to your first offer, but they didn’t reject it outright. They may counter some or all of the requests in your offer. You can determine whether you can go along with the counter-offer items and if you’ll counter back.

Once you’ve come to terms and the seller accepts your offer …. congratulations, you’ve purchased a house!

 

Find a great home inspector and schedule a home inspection

You’ll want to get a home inspector to walk through the home to ensure there are no major repair or system issues. They will check that the plumbing, electrical, and fixtures (like windows) appear to be functioning properly, safely, and without any maintenance issues. Your lender may require all of this to close the loan, and your realtor can help you set it up.

 

Get a home appraisal

Your lender will send in a home appraiser to determine if the value of the home is equal to or less than what you offered to pay. There may be several factors at play here, but typically the offer and appraised value should be close for your lender to finalize your home loan. Every lender differs on their specific criteria.

Get_a_home_appraisal

Renegotiate

If either your home inspector or the appraiser finds fault in the home, you may need to renegotiate your purchase offer. Your real estate agent can help you with this process, which allows you to adjust your offer in light of the findings, or cancel the offer altogether. On the original offer, these items are often called contingencies.

 

Hire a real estate attorney to make sure you’re covered

Especially if you are not using a title company to finalize the purchase, you’ll want to hire a real estate attorney to review your offer and all related documents, like the inspection and appraisal. The attorney will make sure you didn’t overlook anything in the contract, and that all the agreements you and the seller made are met.

 

Close on the home

When your due diligence is complete, and your lender has approved funding your loan, you can close on your home. This means the money will be exchanged, and the deed will now transfer from the seller to you. You now officially own the home. The deed gets recorded at the county courthouse, and you are now listed on public record as the property’s owner. A title company or a real estate attorney can close and record the transaction.

 

There are many moving parts to consider when you’re looking to buy a house. When you understand these basics, you’ll be in a good position to assess your credit, apply for a loan, and successfully navigate the actual house purchase. The trip to homeownership may seem daunting, but with this buying a house checklist in hand, you’ll be in control and be a homeowner in no time.

Originally Published on Redfin

Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

Most Americans want to become homeowners one day, but buying a house is a major life decision. In fact, it’s very likely that buying a home will be the biggest purchase you’ll make in your lifetime.

 

As a buyer, you want to get a home inspection done on the property you are interested in. This inspection can uncover issues that will give you bargaining space regarding the closing price.

 

When you are selling your home, you should be aware of the inspection results as well. It’s better to disclose every sort of problem or damage in your home that you are aware of straight away. In doing so, Realty Management in Boise explains, the inspector’s results will have less power over the final price of your property.

 

In this article, we are going to explore this topic in-depth. You’ll learn about the interesting dynamic between home inspections, appraisals, and property values that is important to understand for buyers and sellers alike.

 

The Starting Point: What Is a Home Inspection?

Home inspections are carried out to see what the property’s current condition is. These are usually paid for by the buyer. When the buyer knows about any hidden damage or problem, they can make a more informed decision.

 

Still, there are sellers who pay for a home inspection before bringing their property into the market. This is because, should any issues arise, they can take care of these problems before someone comes to a property showing.

 

Here are some things on a typical home inspection checklist:

 

  • Is there excess moisture in high-risk areas such as crawl spaces or basements?
  • Is the plumbing in good working order? Are there any leaks?
  • What is the status of the home’s foundation? Is it possible to spot any signs of foundation issues?
  • How are the chimney and roof holding up?
  • Is the electrical work up to date?

 

Does a Home Inspection Affect Property Value?

The crucial point here is to understand the differences between property inspections and appraisals (or simply property valuations). Inspections come with the aim to ensure that there are good living conditions in a home. The goal of appraisals is determining the property value.

 

Home inspectors’ customers are home sellers or buyers, whereas appraisals are necessary for lenders. This is because property valuations are directly shaping the loan terms and the total amount lent.

 

When you are selling your home and the appraiser has set the home value lower than your selling price, buyers may ask you to decrease the sale price. Upon refusal, you could see most of the buyers walking away.

 

In this sense, an appraisal does affect the value of your home both in theory and in practice. But the same holds true for home inspections. The examination of your home can uncover serious flaws.

 

When a buyer learns about these flaws, they will feel that your property is worth less. After buying the home, they will need to conduct necessary repairs to restore the good conditions. This is going to be an expense that a buyer will pay out of his own pocket after acquiring your property.

 

Another question that sellers often ask is whether the home inspection will directly impact their property appraisal. In many cases, the appraiser does not have a copy of the home inspection report. Appraisers will usually not ask a copy if there isn’t one provided in the first place.

 

Inspection vs Appraisal: Which Affects Property Value More?

Appraisals have a much bigger role in affecting your property’s value because an appraisal is carried out to determine your home’s market value. This numeric value is something that buyers can directly use to negotiate your sale price.

 

Inspections affect the perceived value of your property by potential buyers. When they learn about considerable defects in your home’s structures, you’ll have to reflect these deficiencies in the closing price.

In a Nutshell: Home Inspections Affecting Property Value

Home inspections are an integral part of every transaction between buyers and sellers. Most of the time, buyers are the ones who order and pay for home inspections. Sometimes sellers do it before putting their properties up for sale in order to fix any issues noted by the inspector.

 

Property value is determined by an appraisal, not a home inspection. But when a home inspection uncovers serious flaws, the home’s value is affected from the buyer’s point of view. A home inspection usually doesn’t affect the property value determined by an appraiser.

 

We hope this guide offered you more clarity about home inspections and their relation to property value.

 

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

First time Meridian Idaho homebuyers

The dilemma

More and more people are starting to consider buying a home for the first time. After all, their rent is nearly the same amount as a mortgage payment. If you live in Meridian, Idaho, then you know exactly what I’m talking about!

Know Meridian

Before buying, we recommend doing a considerable amount of research on the area and its associated costs for operating the home. Older homes naturally tend to be less energy efficient than newer homes, and thus can be considerably more expensive to operate than a typical rental.

So how does one know what to expect as a first time homebuyer? Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself:

  1. Talk to people in the neighborhood that you’re interested in buying in. Ask people with homes around the size that you’re looking to buy.
  2. Call your local utility companies. These people may be able to give you an estimate of each utility expense if you give them some general information. 
  3. Talk to a Realtor. These guys get paid to advise their clients through the whole process. While some may not know information off the top of their head, they may be able to point you in a good direction.
  4. Over budget. It is good idea to factor in future major expenses. Look up average life expectancies of different major expenses, ie, roof, water heater, A/C, Furnace, etc, then create a savings budget for each of these items so that whey they get closer to failure, you’re prepared. Each item will likely fail at different times, so you don’t need to be fully funded on all (as long as you’re saving some aside every month for each item).
  5. Finally, once you have made your offer, ask your home inspector to create a home energy report for your home. These will usually cost a little extra, but are totally worth it! They provide you with an estimate of utility expenses based on the individual home characteristics, and family needs. In addition to this, they give you helpful tips on how to be more energy efficient in the home, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars a year.

Don’t skip the home inspection!

If you follow all these steps, and the advice in the home energy report, you will find yourself with less surprise expenses and more money in your pocket at the end of the year. As always, make certain that you have the home inspected. This expense is a MUST, especially for first time homebuyers. This will provide you with a more accurate list of major and minor items that could potentially be fixed by the owner before you move in. 

60% of decks are unsafe

Decks are wonderful additions that can really sharpen up the look of a home while providing a nice place to hang out with family. Though they are nice features on a home, many are not built to withstand the severe weather conditions of Idaho, and other diverse weather states.

The problems

Homes are built to be able to withstand severe weather conditions. The problem is, a deck should be looked at as an extension of the home. Therefore, should it not be built to the same standards of a home? Obviously, I’m not talking about following the same codes as the house, but it would be nice to see decks built with a bit more care, and safety precautions.

Home inspections

Here in Idaho, home inspections should include a thorough inspection of the deck. Home inspectors often see problems with decks such as:

  • footings not below frost line ~ can cause posts to raise and lower deck during the seasons
  • balusters not spaced correctly, or secured safely ~ fall hazard
  • handrails missing, or not properly sized ~ fall hazard
  • ledger board (connection to home) not secured well ~ possible deck collapse
  • nails used instead of through bolts and lag screws ~ nails tend to pull out
  • Improper sizing of materials ~ failure or collapse of deck
  • Improper construction practices ~ failure or collapse of deck

While this is a short list, there are many more common issues that are found by home inspectors every day. So, you can see why it would be important to have your home inspector take a thorough look at the deck, but is it really “unsafe?”

It doesn’t fail until it fails

In our professional opinion, “unsafe” is something that should never be overlooked. Though a connection may work for a period of time, that doesn’t mean it won’t fail in three years. Home inspections include these safety concerns because we want our clients to feel safe when using their deck. The last thing we want is for our client to contribute to one of the 40,000 annual deck injuries. Even though it may look fine, it doesn’t fail until it fails; and when it does, you won’t be ready for it.

In need of a home inspection?

Home Inspection ID would love to fill your home inspection needs. We provide inspections in Boise, Nampa, Meridian, Caldwell, Kuna, Star, Middleton and most of Treasure Valley. If you live in Idaho, an inspection is a must; but if your home has a deck, make sure your home inspector is knowledgeable in deck construction, or have a separate specialist verify its soundness in addition to the home inspection.

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Why I want a masonry fireplace

Fireplaces have been featured in homes forever. Originally, they were necessary in order to provide heat for the home during the cold months; however, they have gradually become more and more a luxurious staple in the home, rather than a necessity. And to be honest, Who doesn’t enjoy them? Living in Idaho, I’ve come to appreciate a good fire in the middle of winter. They’re amazing to stare at and create a wonderful spot to huddle around while reading a book.

Drawbacks

Their only real drawback is that they generally are low on the efficiency scale for heating your home, and sometimes, actually lose heat instead of gain heat in the home. There have been many different designs when it comes to fireplaces that can either improve or decrease their efficiency and functionality.

To name a few types:

  • gas igniting (wood burning)
  • gas burning
  • woodburning
  • gel burning
  • stoves (pellet, and wood-burning)

Each of these can have different features that can help improve the efficiency of the home.

Which one is better?

So, which one is the best? Well, most would argue that it’s not always about efficiency, and you must also factor in user experience and enjoyment. While this is true in most common choices (debating efficiency vs luxury), there is one (possibly more) that is able to combine both.

Masonry fireplaces have been around for centuries. The reason for this is stone and masonry’s unique ability to conduct heat and radiate that heat for extended amounts of time. With a masonry fireplace, one is able to heat an average home well, by simply burning wood once per day, and possibly a second at night.

The burning process

The temperatures of these fireplaces get to over 1000ºF in the firebox, and the gasses endure a secondary “burning” to reduce emissions as well as improve efficiency of the burn. What’s left of the smoke, is then slowly fed through smoke channels in the masonry, transferring this massive amount of heat into its walls. These walls then radiate that heat for hours and hours after the burn has finished. Creating a constant source of heat long after the fire has gone out.

Not only are these fireplaces extremely good at radiating heat (unbeatable by any other style of fireplace), they are also amazing to watch and enjoy the warmth around. There have been many names for these fireplaces; Finnish, Russian, Masonry, etc.

Masonry fireplace walkthrough on Youtube

I must say, that while I have been intrigued by these fireplaces for awhile, I wasn’t completely sold until I saw this guy’s youtube video (click here). He does a fantastic job of explaining these beauties, and demonstrating how they work.

Have you found your dream fireplace?

Home Inspection ID would love to hear what your favorite type of fireplace is! You can let us know why it’s your favorite in the comments (please include a picture!). If you are in the market for a home in Boise, Idaho, that features one of these or any other type of fireplace, you will want to get it inspected by a professional. Though a home inspection is a great start, it’s also a good idea to have a specialist inspect it a bit more thoroughly.

Different types of chimney inspections

There are different levels of chimney inspections; levels 1,2, and 3. Level 1 is a non-invasive inspection (similar to what a home inspector does). Level 2 is a little more invasive (but not usually destructive). And level 3 includes all of the visual examinations of 1 and 2, but may also include removing parts of the building in order to examine further. These different levels of inspection are warranted based on past/current problems, concerns, or noticeable damage. A level 1 is always recommended, however if there are any major concerns, a level 2 or 3 may be advised.

 

Ultimate Checklist for Buying a House

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Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

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First time Meridian Idaho homebuyers

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New home problems

While there are so many wonderful things about technology and the improvements that have allowed us to build more efficient, airtight homes, it’s caused a dangerous problem that can be easily overlooked.

Modern houses are really quite amazing structures. They are made up entirely of systems that interact with each other on a daily basis without the average person even being aware of it. Thousands of hours have been poured into research and production of each system, and all of this goes, for the most part, unnoticed by the occupant.

With changing technology, comes new and different safety concerns. One’s that could put your family and loved ones at risk, should they be neglected.

Homes over the years have gradually become more and more airtight. While this is fantastic when it comes to heating and cooling efficiencies, it poses an oftentimes overlooked threat:

Backdrafting.

What is backdrafting? Backdrafting occurs when a house is put into “negative pressure”. In simple terms, what this means, is that the house is essentially consuming more air than it’s receiving. This creates a sort of vacuum, which will use whatever source of air comes the easiest. unless you leave a door or window open during the Winter (not likely in Idaho), then that “easiest” source will probably be the exhaust vents, chimneys, and flues.

Now imagine what would happen when you fire up the furnace, or any other gas, oil, or solid fuel appliance with a flue? You guessed it; the combustion products would backdraft into the home, creating dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide (due to improper combustion) and hazardous gases. Now, if this all happened while you were asleep, then you may not even notice that this was occurring until it was too late.

With older homes that are less airtight than more recent construction homes, this becomes a little less of an issue (though it can still be an issue, especially if the home has been renovated or air sealed), as air can be pulled in through cavities in walls and other vulnerable areas.

So, we now know what can increase the risk of negative pressure, but what are some of its underlying causes? Well, usually it has something to do with a fuel burning appliance such as a furnace or a water heater (or both). In order to create a flame, these appliances use up oxygen in the air around it, but if (say) the furnace and water heater are located in an airtight section of the home, then this could force air to be drawn from the easiest source available, i.e., the flue. Since the flues main occupant is the combustion product of the appliance, then this gets sucked into the home as well.

One other contributing factor could be the excessive use of bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room exhaust fans. While these devices are important in pulling stale, humid air out of the house; they do not provide a way for air to get back in while in use.

Now, having said all this, there have been reasonable precautions taken by many manufactures and builders of homes and appliances to prevent this “negative pressure” from happening. Some of which includes the following:

  • Backup combustion air flaps installed in tightly built homes near fuel burning appliances, allowing air in to prevent negative pressure.
  • Appliances that draw combustion air directly from outside (many times through a PVC pipe).
  • Fresh, outside air, supplied and mixed in with inside air via ducts to the air handler, creating a more balanced, or sometimes positive pressure environment in the home. This only works, however, if the blower is running.
  • Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs), and other mechanical ventilators which can help even out pressure between the outside air, and inside air.

These are just some of the things that have been developed in whole or part, to help aid in preventing backdrafting in the home. These precautions, however, are usually unbeknownst to the home owner, and sometimes the contractors who install such appliances. It is very important to have these concerns looked at by a professional in the heating industry. They will be able to performs tests on all your appliances and flues in order to understand if this will be an issue or not.

If you are do-it-yourselfer when it comes to many things around the home, it is important to be aware that many things affect other components of the home, and you may consider having a professional walk you through the installation process, and then inspect it upon completion.

All this said, is it bad to have a tightly built home? Absolutely not! Tightly built homes are very efficient, but you must look at the home as a series of interdependant systems, not separate systems. The minute you start separating systems without looking at the ramifications on other systems in the home, you put the occupants and systems at risk.

Ultimate Checklist for Buying a House

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Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

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A money saving idea for heating your water

Here in Idaho, the weather can get pretty cold at times. Imagine taking some snow that has melted, and heating that over the stove every time you wanted to take a shower. That sounds absurd, however that is precisely what many of our homes are doing to provide us with hot water during the winter. As you can imagine, the price it takes to heat that water can be substantial when you look at the annual cost. Now, think back to your last shower (hopefully not too long ago!), and the amount of steaming hot water that went down the drain. Whether you’re a 30 minute showerer, 15, or even 5, there is a considerable amount of heat you paid for that gets disposed of every day. This amount is even larger if you have a large or medium sized family.

Luckily, someone realized this waste of energy, and invented something to “recapture” some of this wasted heat.

Let me introduce you to the “Drain Water Heat Recovery Unit”:

Take a look at the diagram. The easiest way to explain this system is to follow the cold water (blue) in the diagram. This water is run around and around a copper heat exchanger of sorts, where hot water from the bath/shower pours down against the outer wall of the cold supply water piping. Since the unit is made from Copper (a very good conductor of heat), a considerable amount of heat from the shower water is captured and transferred to the cold supply water without making any direct contact.

If you keep following the cold water in the diagram, you will see that the water is now “pre-heated” (green), and enters the water heater this way. Much better than ice cold water. This not only makes it cheaper to run year round, it can also extend the life of your water heater since it is no longer working as hard to heat ice cold water. You’re essentially recycling old heat.

Since price ranges for these units can vary anywhere from $300-$500 (copper can be expensive), the payback period is usually estimated to be between 2.5 to 7 years. When you think about it, that’s not very long at all! Compare that to solar roofing at over 20 years payback (usually much longer).

So, while these units are particularly helpful in cold or diverse climates like Idaho, they can also be helpful in warmer climates as well. After all, even in Arizona they use hot water!

While in Idaho, home inspections aren’t usually going to include money saving upgrades like this in a report, you can certainly ask your inspector if he knows of any home efficiency or energy upgrades that might be a good fit for your home. Who knows! He may have a list!

 

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Construction isn’t cheap

Have you ever hired a contractor for something you thought was simple, and it turned out to be much more of a money pit than you originally thought? Yeah, I thought so. Even if you haven’t yet had the pleasure, it’s not hard to imagine the cost once you factor in supplies, and labor.

The high (but many times appropriate) pricing of contractors, is often a big incentive for sellers to do projects on their home that probably should have been done by a professional.

The average homebuyer wouldn’t be able to tell if (say) a sub panel that was installed, was installed by the owner, and not an electrician. Home inspectors, though they can’t always determine past work “qualifications,” can often spot shoddy work in a heart beat. In this case, why does it matter? It seems to be working, right? Sure, it may be working, but here are a few reasons to be concerned:

  1. Electrical wiring is complicated, and there are books of codes put in place for safety reasons. Electricians have spent hours studying these codes and how electricity works. Homeowners typically have not, and though they may have wired something to the point that it “works,” it can often be a far cry from safe.
  2. Though in many jurisdictions it’s legal to work on your own home’s electrical, if you ever in the future had to pull a permit for certain types of renovations (many times having little to do with electrical), you may find yourself having to bring the wiring of the house up to code in order to legally do the addition or renovation. As we all know, electricians aren’t cheap, and this can add thousands of dollars in additional costs.
  3. As a buyer, if the seller was confident enough to do his own electrical, there’s a fair chance that there is more work not done by a professional in the home. This isn’t to say that a homeowner isn’t capable of doing his or her own repairs, it’s just something to be cautious or aware of if you notice that the owner is a DIYer.

Now, I know all of this makes me sound like a negative Nancy, but really, being able to find this kind of work that can or should be done can save you thousands when negotiated with the seller (far surpassing the cost of the inspection fee).

Many times, we find that all the major systems such as the Furnace, A/C, or roof are “nearing the end of their life expectancy,” but are technically still doing their job well. This can be a huge negotiation factor with the seller, whether they decide to provide a new furnace (thousands of dollars), or drop the price of the home (thousands of dollars).

Construction costs can be offset. Whether that is through the seller, doing it yourself (cautiously), or tax credits offered by different states for upgrading to more energy efficient systems (yes, they do this!).

 

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Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

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First time Meridian Idaho homebuyers

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The honest, dishonest seller

It’s true, after pinching pennies and stretching them as far as the bank will let you, forking over another $300-$600 can be gut-wrenching. And for what? For some guy to come through and tell you everything you already knew was broken needs to be fixed? Besides, the owner of the house seems like an honest dude, and I trust him when he says there’s nothing wrong with the house. Have a little faith in humanity.

Well, you may be right.

But… You also may be wrong.

That’s just it; it’s a gamble. To be honest, it has nothing to do with the integrity of the seller, and everything to do with the facts. It may be very likely that the guy is being forthright and honest with you, but he can’t tell you what he does not know

When living in a home, you tend to overlook issues as you get used to them, or simply forget about them. This is normal, and not to be confused with a seller seemingly hiding problems with their home, just to get it sold. While there is definitely a fair share of dishonest sellers, I’d like to think that most are not trying to be.

This is why home inspectors are key in making sure all cards are on the table. I mean, after all, this is likely one of the largest single purchases you’ve ever made, and possibly will ever make.

As residents of Boise, Idaho, and the Treasure Valley, we live in a very low crime rate area, with honest, trustworthy people on every side of us. Sure, there’s always that one neighbor, but in general, we are blessed to live in such a great community! However, simply basing your decision on the trustworthiness of the seller can be a HUGE mistake.

I don’t go to a plumber for electrical answers, and similarly, I don’t go to an airline pilot (or whatever career the owner is in) for questions about their home. It’s simply a matter of expertise, not honesty. Though it definitely helps to have an honest seller!

If you’re in need of a home inspection, Home Inspection ID would be happy to assist you in scheduling yours either by phone (208-570-7685), or by simply scheduling your appointment online here.

Ultimate Checklist for Buying a House

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Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

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First time Meridian Idaho homebuyers

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Compare your new furnace to this photo

I’ve noticed a trend in several houses I’ve been through on home inspections and at friends houses lately (at least in Idaho). Sometimes I like to think there is a good reason for this trend, but unfortunately I have a hard time believing it.

Take a look at this photo. Compare it to your furnace, and check specifically for the white PVC tube that juts out of the top left of the furnace. If you do not have this, but instead have a metal vent, you most likely have a mid to low-efficiency furnace and are free to move on to my next post! (unless you’re considering upgrading) This is for people who have a high-efficiency furnace in their home (which is most often uniquely characterized by it’s PVC venting). Keep in mind I’m not talking about the two condensate lines in the right hand side of the photo. Now that we know what we are talking about, let’s move on!

Assuming you have one of these furnaces, let me explain how they work:

Typically, you should see two PVC vents sticking out of your high-efficiency furnace. One brings fresh, outside air in, and one lets it back out (once all the oxygen has been starved from combustion). This is an ideal setup. It is sometimes referred to as a “closed loop system”, meaning that it does not let inside air escape outdoors through the exhaust.

You may have noticed that the picture I gave you does not include that second PVC pipe. Instead it has a little port that was left without the PVC. This means that the installer for some reason decided to use indoor air to supply combustion air for the furnace. If yours is set up similarly, you can verify that this is the case by simply placing your hand for a brief moment over that port, and you’ll feel the suction caused by the amount of air it pulls through it.

Manufacturers of these high efficiency furnaces usually allow these units to be installed like this, pulling air from the interior of the home instead of outside. But why?

It doesn’t seem to make much sense when you look at the drawbacks:

  • you can lose 1-3% of your efficiency by doing it this way
  • you create what’s called “negative pressure” in the home, which can be dangerous if located near any natural draft appliance (pulling combustion products back into the home instead of out the flue) such as a water heater.
  • It can sometimes prevent bathroom exhaust vents from doing their job to their full extent, by preventing humid air from escaping as easily (if left long enough, causing mold or mildew).
  • If the area the furnace is located in is not dusted very often (many aren’t as they are often in an unfinished basement), it pulls that right into the burner area (which is sealed off in the H.E. furnaces), possibly lowering the lifespan of the unit.

While I may have overemphasized some of these drawbacks, and made you think that your furnace is severely compromised, you don’t really need to worry all that much. After all, manufacturers are ok with it, and 1-3% efficiency reduction is barely if at all noticeable on your bills. These problems are often very small problems depending on the size of your home, location of the furnace, and the way the house was designed.

The only reason I bring all this up, is because it doesn’t take that much work to pipe it to the exterior. Seriously! There’s already one that’s piped outside, and they even sell double wall pipes that function as both the exhaust and intake air (without mixing them), so that you don’t have to pipe two separate lines.

I guess what I’m getting at, is if your considering purchasing one, maybe confirm with the installer how you want it installed, as they may tell you that the manufacturer allows it be installed the other way, but now, you know better… Make sure it’s done best, not just right!

Ultimate Checklist for Buying a House

Read More

Do Home Inspections Really Affect Property Value?

Read More

First time Meridian Idaho homebuyers

Read More