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Homebuying Tips

REALTORS

If you are buying a house, a realtor helping you is probably a subagent of the listing broker. What does that mean to you? It means that they have a limited amount of loyalty to you depending on their own personal conscience. In reality, they only get paid when you buy a house and therefore, their primary goal is to get you to buy a house, and not necessarily the right house for you. Be savvy and follow a few simple rules.

Never trust anything your own realtor tells you—Get every question you have answered in writing.

Make sure you have the following matters proven to you in writing if you care about them.

What schools your kids will go to. Verify this with the school district yourself.
The amount of property taxes. Verify online by going to your county’s appraisal website.
Look at the survey. Read it and make sure it does not reference any part of a building on an easement or across a building line.
Make sure your repair requests are actually done. Either get verification in writing or even better, go back to the house and observe the repairs.

Pick your own inspectors and go to every inspection.

You will probably have two types of inspections:

Termite Inspection
Structural Mechanical Inspection

TERMITES

Termite Inspection. This is an inspection usually required solely by your mortgage company. If your lender did not require you to get this inspection, you could buy the house without it. But that would be risky. First, this inspection is to determine if there are signs of current or previous termite activity at the house. Depending on where you live, past termite activity may be a foregone conclusion as the house gets older. There is an unofficial maxim in the pest control industry along the Gulf Coast in places like Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi—It is not a question of IF your home will be attacked by termites, but a question of WHEN. So don’t become alarmed if the house has had previous activity. What is important is that they have not remained in the house. So it will be important to ask these question:

When was the last treatment?
Who did the treatments?
How many treatments were there?
How long a period did they apply chemical?
Is there a current annual inspection done on the house?
Where were the termites found?
Where is the seller’s Report done when they bought the house?

Why is it important to answer these questions? First of all, the inspection done by a pest control company is the equivalent of hiring a mechanic to look at a used car for you where your mechanic does nothing more than look at the car. He can see the obvious problems, but he does not turn the car on. The inspection done by a pest control company is a “visual inspection only”. This is unfortunate because the primary termite of concern, the subterranean termite is a cryptobiotic insect. That means they remain concealed and do not present themselves to air and light. They remain underground or in your walls and typically infest a house for years before any signs are seen. Therefore, it is important to know what your inspector is looking for. If you want to see what the inspector is looking for, go to:

www.housedefects.com




STRUCTURAL/MECHANICAL INSPECTOR


A Structural/Mechanical inspection is not required by anyone. Your lender does not care about it and before you pay for one, you should understand what it involves. First of all, realtors like to schedule the inspection because it usually makes the buyer feel good about what they are buying. But understand what you are getting.

These inspectors are licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission and follow a guideline of minimum standards for inspecting parts of the house. Other than a few issues that arise in certain older homes, the inspector essentially turns on the appliances, plumbing and electrical connections to determine if they are working correctly. However, you should be most concerned with three main areas because if there is a problem with them, they will cost you the most money to repair.

LOOK OUT FOR THE BIG THREE

FOUNDATIONS

ROOFS

AIR CONDITIONING UNITS

And you should know that the inspection you will get will not necessarily tell you anything about these items.

ROOF. Take the roof for instance. The inspector will almost certainly not get on a ladder and look at the roof. So how will he evaluate your roof in his inspection? By looking at it from the ground. Not too helpful. A/C. How about the air conditioning system? They generally see if it needs cleaning and if it cools or heats in a standard range. So what happens if you are buying a house in the winter? Did you know that the a/c can not be turned on during that time? Were you aware that the inspector does not care if the unit for the house is undersized. He will not give you any input about the quality of the brand or the expected life of the unit. If it works on the day he checks it, he tells you it is okay. You wouldn’t dare buy a car this way. And how about the foundation? FOUNDATION. Unless the signs are extreme, the inspector will not do any more than tell you it appears to be functioning properly. He usually does not know if there are beginning signs or settlement or possible soil problems or drainage conditions that may affect the slab down the road.

So what should you do? You can take your chances with the ordinary TREC inspector and in most cases you would be okay. However, if there is even a hint of a problem in any of these areas, you can get the item inspected by a specific professional.

FOUNDATION OR SLAB. In a perfect world, you would hire a Registered Professional Engineer to inspect the slab. They cost considerably more but you should anything that is the slightest bit suspect reviewed.

ROOF. Then have a roofing company inspect the roof. Again, you may have to pay for the inspection, but the cost of the inspection may save you thousands of dollars.

HEATING VENTILLATION AIR CONDITIONING : HVAC

You should be more interested in how well the air conditioning system will perform and how much longer it will last. The TREC inspector will tell you if the heating and a/c are performing within an accepted range of the setting. If it is too cold on the day of the inspection, you will not even find out about the air conditioning. Take a look at the a/c and heating systems yourself. Find out the year it was installed. If you cannot find out from the seller, look on the identification plate, copy the serial number and call the manufacturer. Better yet, get an air conditioning company to look at the system. They will tell you the age of the system; its capacity; its expected life and whether repairs are necessary or have been performed previously. The $100 cost of this inspection could allow you to save thousands in the future.

There is nothing wrong with having an inspection by a pest control company or a TREC inspector. Just be aware that these inspections are not what they pretend to be and if the slightest hint of a problem arises, then you should get an expert to look at the problem before deciding to buy the house.

WHAT TO DO IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS FOUND

There is no hard and fast rule. It depends on the problem. Your primary concern is whether you will have to absorb the expense of a problem after purchase. Follow these steps:

Ask in writing for the problem to be repaired by the seller and confirm that the specific repairs are done.
If it is really big, either exercise your option to cancel the contract or negotiate a concession in money from the sale of the house.
Do something other than just buy the house and not resolve the problem. If the seller gets upset and would prefer to cancel the contract, you are probably better off.
 
 
NEW PHONE & FAX: Phone: 512 221 0121 Fax: 512 233 2559

 

Evin G. Dugas - Attorney at Law 512.261.0044 Evin@housedefects.com
2303 RR 620 South,   Suite 135 PMB 361,   Austin, Texas 78734
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