How to find and hire a professional home inspector

Buying a house is a big deal – it’s like reaching for the stars and finally touching one.

But before you reach Sirius, you have some work to do. One of those is critical to your future use and enjoyment of that home you want so badly: hiring a home inspector.

These professionals are like the superheroes of home buying, ensuring your dream home is in tip-top shape. Let’s dive in and discover how to find the perfect home inspector and what questions you should ask to make the best decision.

Why a home inspector is your hero

Picture this: you’ve found the house of your dreams – cozy, charming, and just right. But wait! Before you get all starry-eyed, let a professional home inspector work their magic. These awesome folks are licensed and super-knowledgeable.

Their mission? To check the systems in your potential new home, from the roof to the foundation. They’ll spot any red flags that could turn your fairytale home into a real-life nightmare.

Mind you, their superpowers are limited. They only inspect what they can actually see. This means they can’t tell you what is happening behind the walls, under the floors or deep into the recesses of the HVAC system.

Those limitations, however, shouldn’t keep you from having the home inspected. What they can tell you may turn out to be the determining factor, positive or negative, on whether or not you still want that particular home.

The quest for the perfect home inspector

Now, let’s embark on the grand quest of finding the perfect home inspector.

Start by asking your family, friends and colleagues which inspector they used when they bought their homes. Many homebuyers turn to their real estate agent for a referral to a home inspector, but in some states, that activity is illegal.

Another good source of referrals can be found on neighborhood sites, such as and any location-specific Facebook neighborhood groups.

While you’re online, check the review sites, such as and, of course, look at the home inspectors’ Better Business Bureau rating. Don’t forget to navigate to the inspector’s (or company’s) websites and peruse the reviews and general information.

Just in case you need more help in your quest:

This sounds basic, but it’s surprising how many homebuyers neglect this step: ensure the home inspector is licensed. We also urge you to interview more than one inspector.

Your list of questions for the home inspectors you interview

  • “Are you licensed and insured?” A professional home inspector will proudly show you their credentials, including insurance. That way, the homeowner is protected if anything unexpected happens during the inspection.
  • “How long have you been in the game?” The more experience, the better. An inspector with years of inspecting homes under their belt knows how to spot even the sneakiest of problems.
  • “How long does the inspection take?” Most inspections take from 2 to 4 hours, according to Tobie Stanger at  Regardless of how experienced the inspector is, if he or she says he takes less time than that, reconsider hiring“. . . being knowledgeable doesn’t mean the inspector is going to be diligent or conscientious,” according to Stanger,  which they can’t be if they are “ … rushing through the inspection.”
  • “Can I join you during the inspection?” Tagging along during the inspection allows you to ask questions you may not even think to ask if you just work off the written report. You’ll get to see first-hand what the inspector uncovers.
  • “What do you check during an inspection?” A good inspector will cover everything, from the roof, plumbing, electrical, and more.
  • “When will I get the report?” Residential home inspectors are aware that time is of the essence when one is under contract in a home sale so they are pretty speedy in getting the report finished.
  • Let the inspector know the end date of your inspection contingency (it’s in the purchase agreement or, give us a call, we’re happy to help).
  • “May I see a copy of an inspection you have performed?” This sample copy should give you an idea of how detailed the inspector’s reports are, what is inspected and the scope of work you can expect.

Also, compare this inspector’s report to the others you are interviewing.

“In Consumer Reports’ examination of reports from home inspectors across the country, we found that the typical report consists of a few dozen pages covering findings on all the major systems in the house, and includes photographs and descriptions of documented problems and maintenance suggestions,” Stanger said.

The home inspection is one of the most important aspects of the home purchase process. Ensure that you are getting what you pay for before you pay.

What is a 1031 Exchange?

A 1031 exchange, also known as a like-kind exchange, is a tax-deferred real estate transaction authorized by the Internal Revenue Code. In fact, it takes its name from a section of the IRS Code – you guessed it, Section 1031.

The IRS, by the way, refers to it as a “like-kind exchange.” Here’s why:

The 1031 Exchange allows Americans who own investment properties to sell them and use the proceeds to buy another property while deferring capital gains taxes on the sale of the first property.

Let’s learn some 1031 Exchange lingo  

Like the home purchase and sale process, a 1031 Exchange transaction has its own lingo:

  • Relinquished Property: The property being sold by the exchanger.
  • Replacement Property: The property being acquired in exchange for the relinquished property.
  • The Exchanger: This is the individual or entity selling the relinquished property and acquiring the replacement property.
  • Qualified Intermediary (QI): Also known as a 1031 Exchange Accommodator, this is an impartial third party who helps facilitate the exchange by holding the funds during the process.

How a 1031 Exchange transaction works

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how a 1031 exchange works:

Step 1: Sell the Relinquished Property

The exchanger sells their investment property and identifies potential replacement properties within 45 days.

Step 2: Choose a Qualified Intermediary

According to IRS rules, a qualified intermediary is engaged to hold the funds from the sale until the replacement property is purchased.

Step 3: Identify Replacement Property

Within 45 days of selling the relinquished property, the exchanger must identify one or more replacement properties in writing to the QI.

Step 4: Acquire the Replacement Property

The exchanger has 180 days from the sale of the relinquished property to complete the acquisition of the replacement property.

Step 5: Complete the Exchange

The QI transfers the funds to purchase the replacement property, and the exchanger completes the exchange, deferring capital gains taxes.

Visit for more information on the 1031 Exchange

How to find the right 1031 qualified intermediary

“Under federal regulations for 1031 exchanges, practically anyone can become a qualified intermediary,” according to the experts at This doesn’t mean you should appoint Uncle Fred who used to be a real estate agent for the job.

The folks at offer a list of QI duties, stressing the importance of choosing someone who knows what he or she is doing. Some of these duties include:

  • Dealing with the legal documents
  • “Preparing documentation regarding the relinquished and replacement properties.”
  • Working with the title or escrow company with regards to giving them the instructions and documents.
  • Placing the funds from the sale of the relinquished property in an escrow account until the exchanger has identified the replacement property.
  • Making sure that the exchange is done in accordance with IRS rules.

There are additional considerations and you can find them at the aforementioned website.

Finding this 1031 superhero isn’t as difficult as it may seem. First, ask the title or escrow company for a referral. If that doesn’t pan out, consult the Federation of Exchange Accommodators website.

We must warn you, it’s a rather antiquated and not a user-friendly website but it does offer good information and contacts.

 The benefits of the 1031 Exchange

A 1031 exchange offers several benefits, chief among them the ability to defer capital gains taxes. By doing this, you can reinvest the full proceeds from the sale into a more valuable property, potentially increasing your wealth. Additional benefits include:

  • The Exchange allows you to diversify your real estate portfolio by swapping properties in different locations or asset classes.
  • Repeated exchanges can enable you to continuously defer taxes, facilitating the accumulation of wealth over time.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

Remember what the IRS calls a 1031 Exchange? Like-Kind Exchange. The replacement property must be of “like-kind” to the relinquished property, typically meaning it should be investment or business property rather than personal property. So, no, you can’t use your home in a 1031 Exchange.

Then, there are the timelines. Yes, they are strict and yes, you will be expected to meet the deadlines.

Finally, we cannot impress upon you enough that a 1031 Exchange is not a DIY project for the newbie. Please consult with a qualified intermediary, tax advisor and real estate attorney to ensure compliance and make informed decisions.

Remember, while the concept of a 1031 exchange may seem overwhelming at first, consulting with professionals and qualified intermediaries can help you navigate the process smoothly.

So, if you’re considering selling an investment or business property and reinvesting, don’t forget to explore the potential benefits of a 1031 exchange.

5 Things to consider before becoming a landlord: What they don’t tell you

Nobody really knows the total number of people who consider themselves landlords in the U.S.

The IRS puts the estimate at 7.1% of tax filers. They also claim that 17.1 million properties generated income for their owners,” according to David Bitton at

The most interesting statistics are of a financial nature. Bitton explains that, according to the US Census, “. . . landlords’ income is typically solid, earning up to $97,000 annually. It’s $35,000 more than the actual median household income.”

If you’re toying with buying a rental property, read on as we discuss five often-overlooked factors you should consider before becoming a landlord.

1. Legal and financial responsibilities

Being a landlord involves more than just collecting rent. You need to familiarize yourself with local landlord-tenant laws, which can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another.

Understanding your legal obligations as a landlord is essential to protect your rights and avoid potential legal troubles down the road. We urge all new landlords to consult a legal professional to ensure compliance.

Moreover, being a landlord requires a solid grasp of your financial responsibilities. You’ll need to factor in costs such as property maintenance, repairs, insurance, property taxes, and possibly mortgage payments.

Be prepared for unexpected expenses, such as a leaky roof or a broken furnace, which can quickly eat into your profits. A comprehensive financial plan will help you weather these challenges.

2. Time and commitment

Owning rental properties may appear to be a passive income source, but it requires a significant investment of time and energy if you don’t hire a property manager.

From finding and vetting tenants to addressing maintenance requests and handling administrative tasks, being a landlord is a commitment that demands your attention.

Consider whether you have the time and willingness to take on these responsibilities. Are you prepared to be available 24/7 for emergencies? Can you handle tenant inquiries promptly?

If you’re already juggling a busy schedule, you might want to think twice before becoming a landlord. Alternatively, you can hire a property management company to handle these tasks, which will cut your profits.

3. Dealing with Difficult Tenants

As a landlord, you’re likely to encounter various types of tenants, and not all of them will be easy to deal with. While most tenants are responsible and respectful, there may be instances where you have to handle difficult situations.

Late rent payments, property damage, noise complaints, and even eviction procedures can be financially, emotionally, and mentally challenging.

Developing strong communication and conflict-resolution skills is crucial to handle these situations effectively. Being fair, firm, and proactive can help maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

However, if confrontation and problem-solving aren’t your strong suits, being a landlord may not be the right choice for you.

4. Market volatility and vacancies

The real estate market is prone to fluctuations, and vacancies are an inevitable part of the job.

Assessing the local rental market and gauging the demand for rental properties in your area is important. Understanding the vacancy rates and rental prices will help you make informed decisions and set appropriate rent levels.

Additionally, periods of vacancy can result in financial strain, as you’ll still be responsible for mortgage payments and other property-related expenses. To avoid undue stress, have a financial buffer to sustain yourself during these lean periods.

5. Emotional attachment

While it’s natural to feel a sense of attachment towards your property, especially if it’s your former home or an investment you’ve poured your heart into, emotional attachment can cloud your judgment as a landlord.

Remember that this is a business venture, and making decisions based solely on sentimentality may not be in your best interest.

Treat your rental property as a business asset and make decisions based on sound financial considerations. Keep emotions at bay when dealing with tenant issues or making decisions about repairs and upgrades. It’s important to detach yourself emotionally and approach situations pragmatically.

Remember, being a landlord is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay. Weigh the pros and cons, evaluate your personal circumstances, consult with your legal and financial advisors, and make an informed decision.

Easy ways to increase your property value before selling

Have you ever noticed how the longer you live in a home, the less you notice or the more you can tolerate stuff that’s wrong with it? It starts feeling less like an investment and more like your territory.

When you decide to sell the home, common sense hits. The faucet drips, the oven doesn’t heat properly and the paint is 20 years old. Your home’s value becomes top-of-mind.

While there may be a lengthy list of tasks you’d like to perform before putting the home on the market, and it may seem overwhelming, relax.

Some tasks take priority. Others are more cosmetic in nature. Let’s take a look at some projects that won’t break the bank and may increase the home’s value.

If you have repairs that need to be made, do those first

It’s a wise use of your money to make repairs before doing any cosmetic work. The problems will most likely appear in the home inspection report, and you may pay for some of them anyway.

At least take care of any major repairs, such as repairing or replacing an HVAC systems, fixing roof problems or plumbing or electrical issues.

No major problems? Great!

Get to work on providing potential buyers with what they crave.


When you turn your attention to upgrades, it pays to know what homebuyers are seeking in their new home. Flooring is near the top of the list. Although hardwood flooring is a draw for luxury homebuyers, starter and family homeowners would do well to consider luxury vinyl plank flooring.


A large real estate conglomerate studied online listing descriptions to determine which features yielded a good return on investment. They found that homes described as boasting luxury vinyl plank flooring sold for nearly 2% more than those without it.

Not only that, but they sold four days faster than the other homes. Learn the pros and cons of vinyl plank flooring at

Update the kitchen

Since it’s the most important room in the home, according to numerous surveys of homebuyers, updating the kitchen should be first on your list. Not only will the work be popular with buyers but it will also help boost your home’s value.

Here are a few tasks to consider:

  • Repaint the kitchen. Nearly 45% of real estate agents surveyed by claim that homebuyers crave “… light or calming color palettes in the kitchen,” according to Daniel Feininger at
  • If it’s within budget, replace your countertops with granite or quartz.
  • Replace or paint the cabinetry and add new hardware.
  • Add new, task-oriented lighting.
  • Hit the appliance sales because 75% of homebuyers say they want new appliances in their next home. Energy-efficient appliances will bring in even more money at closing.
  • Install an undermount sink and a new faucet.

Do the same for the second most important room, the bathroom 

The most important task in the bathroom is to ensure that it’s impeccably clean, then turn your attention to the following:

  • Replace the countertop toiletries with decorative items.
  • Replace the builder-grade towel racks.
  • Add new plumbing hardware.
  • Freshen up the towels and throw the rug.
  • Replace the mirror.
  • Update the lighting.

All that remains now is to clean the home, top to bottom. Make it look move-in ready, and you’ll have buyers clamoring after it.

From Tenant to Homeowner: A Guide for Young Renters

Slightly more than 35% of Americans are tenants, paying $1,937 (median) in rent each month, according to The total monthly housing cost for these folks is $1,301, while the housing cost for homeowners is $1,510, only $209.00 more, according to the US Census Bureau.

Of course, we are looking at median costs here so your situation may be different. In the main, however, owning a home is not prohibitively more expensive than renting.

It’s the actual purchase that has many tenants, especially those in the younger generations, feeling as if they are locked out of homeownership.

From the perpetuation of the myth that a 20% down payment is the law of the land to the notion that a house payment would be significantly higher than a rent payment, many Americans remain in the cycle of paying someone else’s mortgage payment.

Today, we’ll dive into the various ways you can get on the path to homeownership: to make a move from “No, you can’t paint the living room” to the complete freedom to decorate how you want, to plant what you desire and to have a dog, finally.

Step one in the journey to homeownership

Before embarking on the path to homeownership, it’s crucial to be mentally prepared and financially ready. Consider the following questions:

  • Do you have a solid support system in place to help you through the process?
  • Have you thought about what type of real estate agent you need? Many new homebuyers require a bit of hand-holding and a substantial amount of tutoring on the ins and outs of the process. Some agents are adept at “real estate therapy,” so if you feel you might need that type of support, you’ll want to make a note to choose your real estate agent carefully.
  • Are you ready to begin letting go of emotions and thinking like an investor during the purchase process? For example, your dream might be a suburban home with the quintessential white picket fence. Your financial reality, on the other hand, may dictate that you purchase a condo to keep home maintenance costs low enough to be affordable. Are you ready for that? For doing whatever is necessary to start building equity?

Get clear on your credit and finances

Becoming a homeowner requires financial stability and planning. Start by assessing your current financial situation. Take a close look at your income, expenses, and savings. To make this easier, use a worksheet like these from the folks at and this one from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Then, check your credit report and score. Every American is entitled to a free credit report each year from, the only company authorized to provide these reports by Federal law.

Here is a list of which aspects of your credit report lenders will scrutinize the most:

  • Have you recently applied for credit?
  • Do you pay your bills on time?
  • Are your credit limits maxed out? Lenders want to see balances no higher than 30% of the limit.
  • Have you declared bankruptcy?
  • Are you an authorized user of someone else’s credit card?

Work on getting your credit balances where they should be, paying bills on time, and avoiding opening new credit accounts.

Consult a mortgage broker

Implement some changes once you have a clear idea about your budget and credit. If you don’t make enough money to buy a home, consider taking on a side gig.

Fix your credit, if necessary. Then, visit with a mortgage broker to determine how much you can borrow and how much you’ll need to put down.

Ask the broker about state, local, and federal down payment assistance programs and whether or not you qualify.

Finally, ask for a ballpark figure on what you can expect to pay in closing costs.

Save up some money for the down payment and closing costs

Now that you know how much money you’ll need for the down payment and closing costs, have you figured out how to come up with it? Here are a few tips from mortgage professionals:

  • Create a dedicated homebuying savings account and direct your employer to auto-deposit a portion of each paycheck.
  • Take on another job. This can be a part-time job or a side gig, such as driving for Uber or one of the other similar companies. Or, check out freelance, work-from-home opportunities at
  • Look into the down payment assistance programs recommended by the mortgage broker.
  • Find ways to cut expenses. Many young people are moving back in with Mom and Dad to speed up the savings process. As of February 2023, the median rent nationwide was $1,937. By moving back home, you can save $23,244 in just one year.

Transitioning from being a tenant to a homeowner is an exciting and fulfilling journey, but it requires careful preparation and planning. You can confidently navigate the homebuying process by getting clear on your goals, assessing your financial situation, saving diligently, and seeking professional advice.

Let us know how we can help. Advice is always free.

We are not mortgage professionals. This blog post’s legal and financial information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice.

Smart Strategies to Save for a Down Payment on Your Dream Home

Dreaming of buying a home? One of the biggest challenges of the process is coming up with a down payment, a percentage of the home’s purchase price that you must pay at closing.

But don’t worry; with the right strategies, accumulating a cash down payment can become more achievable than you might think.

Let’s explore several simple and practical strategies to help you reach your goal of homeownership.

Set a savings goal

Start by determining how much you need for a down payment. Despite what many Americans assume, 20% down payments are not mandatory. In fact, the average down payment is 6%, according to the experts at Reliance State Bank. Several government-backed mortgage products require much less, depending on your circumstances.

Then, there are down payment assistance programs. Talk to a mortgage professional to understand the specific amount you should aim for.

Then, determine a realistic savings goal based on this amount and break it down into monthly or weekly savings targets. This way, you’ll have a clear roadmap to follow and stay motivated.

Then, make saving that money a no-brainer

Make saving easier by automating your savings process. One of the easiest ways is to dedicate a certain amount of each paycheck and automatically transfer it to your savings account.

This way, a portion of your income is saved before you even have a chance to spend it. Over time, your savings will grow without requiring constant effort or discipline.

Put together a budget

Developing a budget is key to managing your finances effectively. Track your income and expenses to determine what you’re spending on and which categories you can eliminate or reduce your spending.

Trim unnecessary expenses like eating out or subscription services. Consider cooking at home, packing lunches, or exploring free entertainment options. Redirect the money you save towards your down payment fund.

Check out these free budget templates:

Research down payment assistance

Look into down payment assistance programs. These programs, offered by government agencies or non-profit organizations, provide financial assistance to eligible homebuyers.

Depending on the program, they offer low- to no-interest loans, grants, or other assistance to help bridge the gap for your down payment. Consult with your lender for local sources and research, and contact local housing authorities or community organizations to explore these opportunities.

Check out for an informative breakdown of a number of down payment assistance programs.

Boost your income

Consider ways that you can make more money. Look for opportunities to earn extra money, such as freelancing, gig work, or a part-time job. Use the additional income solely for your down payment savings.

Every little bit counts and can bring you closer to reaching your goal faster. Here are some additional ways to pump up your savings account:

  1. Downsize or rent cheaper accommodations

If you’re currently renting a larger or more expensive place, downsizing to a smaller or more affordable accommodation can free up extra funds for your down payment. Look for other ways to reduce your housing costs, whether by finding a roommate, negotiating a lower rent, or exploring more affordable neighborhoods. Temporary sacrifices can lead to long-term gains.

  1. Tap into gift funds

Sometimes, family members may be willing to gift you funds toward your down payment. If you’re fortunate enough to have supportive relatives, discuss the possibility of receiving financial assistance as a gift. Remember that lenders may have specific requirements regarding gift funds, so understand and comply with any regulations.

  1. Save windfalls and bonuses

Whenever you receive unexpected windfalls like tax refunds, bonuses, or inheritances, resist the temptation to splurge and instead direct those funds toward your down payment savings. These unexpected financial boosts can provide a significant jumpstart to your savings goal.

Saving for a down payment requires discipline, but homeownership can become an attainable goal with these strategies. You may be surprised how quickly you’ve accumulated the money needed to purchase your dream home.

Remember, patience and perseverance are key.


How schools impact property values


Take a look at your new home wish list. You’ve undoubtedly included the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need, listed the amenities you hope to find, and perhaps even the type of neighborhood you hope to live in.

One aspect of the home purchase that few buyers consider is the house’s future resale value. Sure, you don’t have a crystal ball with which to read the future, but housing market experts and economists have studied home values for decades and understand the issues that impact value, both positively and negatively.

Since your home is also a hefty investment, jot down the words “resale value” on your wish list and read on to learn why, whether you have children or don’t, purchasing in a good school district is a wise decision.

The studies

The multitudes of studies on the influence of nearby schools on property values all agree that a good school district positively impacts value.

One study, with results published at, claims that homes near schools with a 4 or 5-star rating at held their value better during the Great Recession than those near schools with fewer stars.

David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern University, noticed that in Florida, homes near schools that had been awarded an A rating by the state realized an additional $50,000 in value versus homes near those schools with a B rating (Wall Street Journal).

“A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that home values increased $20 for every dollar spent on public schools in a community,” according to a report from the National Association of REALTORS®.

Buyers agree

When the National Association of REALTORS® interviewed homebuyers for their “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, ” 25 percent of them wanted to live in a “quality” school district.

More significantly, for home sellers, 53.3 percent of those interviewed expressed a willingness to exceed their budget for such a home. The NAR broke that number down further:

  • 6 percent of buyers are willing to pay one to five percent above their home purchasing budget.
  • 7 percent will pay six to 10 percent above budget.
  • Almost nine percent would pay 11 to 20 percent above budget.

What makes a school district “good?”

One of the most common determinants of school quality is test scores. For instance, bases its ratings primarily on test scores.

U.S. News’ annual “Best High Schools” rankings are based on three criteria:

  • State-mandated test scores.
  • How effectively the school educates its minority and disadvantaged students.
  • Participation in and performance on International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams.

Interestingly, a recent study sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation suggests that “mean test scores are significantly related to property values.”

How much more is a good school district worth?

Determining a dollar value on the additional home values in high-performing school districts seems to be the only area the experts disagree on. One study claims that homes in school districts with high test scores are worth $16,000 more than similar homes in poor-performing districts. (Refs 6)

A Brookings report claims that, on average, homes in high-scoring school districts are worth $205,000 or more than those in low-scoring districts. (Refs 7)

Figlio says homes in top districts net a 23 percent premium over homes in other districts. The best news, at least from the professor, is that no matter the fortune of the housing market – whether it is rising or falling – the premium remains consistent. (Refs 8)


Proceed with caution

Doing your research is the key to shopping for a home with a quality school district as your top criterion. Two game changers to watch out for are the deterioration of quality schools and rezoning.

Check recent elections for how residents voted on school bond issues. A well-financed school is a good sign.

Inquire as to the teacher turnover rate. When many teachers leave a district for greener pastures, it may be a sign that the quality of the schools is going downhill.

Rezoning a school district typically occurs due to overcrowding. A few years back, Las Vegas parents with children in the Clark County Schools District discovered that 17 schools would be rezoned because of overcrowding and a lack of funds to build new schools.

Some schools subject to rezoning are located in the pricey Summerlin area of Las Vegas, where many folks paid a premium for their homes because of the area’s outstanding schools.

Although current Givens Elementary School students aren’t affected, homeowners who recently moved to the area hoping to enroll their child in the highly rated school will now be directed to one of two other schools with substantially lower scores.

Determining whether a school district will decide to rezone is challenging. Check the school board’s cap on enrollment, and if your school of choice seems to be approaching or exceeding it, proceed with caution.

Although the size and price of a home are always key components when considering the purchase of a home, choosing a home in the best school district you can afford is also an important factor.

When considering the home’s future value, the quality of the school district sometimes trumps all other considerations.

Feeling anxious about buying a home? There’s a cure for that

I think most of us remember buying our first home. Such a mix of emotions involved! Elation, fear, anxiety, and excitement all rolled together.

It’s perfectly normal to feel all of these things, but it is also necessary to try to curb the more negative feelings during the process.

There are numerous ways to deal with emotions without them becoming destructive or disruptive. Let’s take a look at a few of those.

Someone to lean on

Although a step we’ll explore later on will help you learn more about the home-buying process, nobody expects you to be an expert in the beginning.

In fact, most folks who have bought homes will tell you to hire an expert. That would be an experienced real estate agent.

Choose your agent carefully. If you need periodic check-ins by telephone, ensure the person you choose is responsive. If you crave knowledge about the process, choose an agent with patience who can put complicated financial terms into plain English. Finally, ensure your agent is someone you feel comfortable with and can build rapport with.

Visit with a lender early in the process

You’ve probably heard this “tip” before. Most of the advice you’ll find online claims that the reason for the early visit is to become pre-approved for a loan. Sellers, they say, are more comfortable with pre-approved buyers.

While that is largely true, a more important reason to see a lender early in the process is to determine how much you can spend on a home. This allows you to shop smart for a home that won’t break the bank when all is said and done.

Stick to a monthly payment figure (including principle, interest, taxes, insurance, and HOA fees, if any) that you know you can comfortably cover and refuse to go beyond that.

Once you know the maximum amount you will spend on a home, you can ask your agent to not show you homes over that figure. This will go a long way in helping get rid of anxiety.

Get educated

Most savvy homebuyer’s real estate agents understand there is much to know about buying a home that the average American can’t possibly know. Because of this, they provide lots of educational materials on their websites.

This is great for buyers who do best when teaching themselves.

Not all of us can learn that way; however, knowledge, as they say, is power. Consider attending a first-time homebuyer course.

Fannie Mae offers one you can take online; it is free of charge, it’s taught in English or Spanish, and you will receive a certificate at the end of the course.

Knowing the process and what to expect along the way is empowering and will build your confidence. No anxiety for you!

The Savvy Homebuyer’s Guide: Performing a DIY Home Inspection (in Addition to Hiring a Pro)

So, you’ve finally found “the one” – your dream home. The excitement is real, but before you dive headfirst into making an offer, it’s crucial to thoroughly understand the property’s condition.

That’s where a home inspection comes into play. While hiring a professional home inspector is highly recommended, there are a few things you, as a savvy homebuyer, can do to perform your own DIY home inspection. Today, we’ll walk you through the process, giving you peace of mind and helping you perform your due diligence.

First, we need to be very clear

A DIY home inspection does not replace the need for a professional inspection. A qualified home inspector has the experience, knowledge, and equipment to identify potential issues you might overlook.

However, conducting a preliminary inspection yourself can help you spot any obvious red flags and provide a foundation for meaningful discussions with the professional inspector. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started.

Start with a visual assessment

Take a good look at the exterior of the house. Look for any signs of damage, such as cracks in the foundation, peeling paint, or sagging gutters. Walk around the property, checking the condition of the roof, windows, siding, and doors. Take note of any visible issues that might require further investigation.

Inspect the electrical system

Begin by checking the condition of the electrical panel. Look for signs of rust, burn marks, or loose connections.

Test the light switches and outlets in different rooms to ensure they are functional. Pay attention to any flickering lights or buzzing sounds which might indicate electrical problems.

Feel the outlet plates. “Electric current may make a switch plate slightly warm to the touch, but if the outlet is uncomfortably hot, turn off whatever is plugged in and try it in another outlet.”

“If the outlet grows hot even without anything plugged in, it may be wired incorrectly,” according to the professionals with Underwriters Laboratory, a non-profit organization that performs testing for public safety.

They also recommend that you check the outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms. “… both require special shock-resistant outlets called ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).” These are the outlets with two buttons on the face, often one red and one black.

Examine the plumbing

Check for leaks under sinks, around toilets, and in the basement or crawlspace. Run faucets in all sinks and showers to test water pressure and drainage.

Flush toilets to ensure they are in proper working order. Don’t forget to inspect the water heater and look for any signs of corrosion or water damage.

Assess the HVAC system

Test the heating and cooling systems to ensure they are working properly. Adjust the thermostat and listen for any unusual noises coming from the furnace or air conditioning unit.

Investigate the home’s structural integrity

Look for any cracks or unevenness in the walls, floors, or ceilings. These could be signs of foundation issues or settling. Rockford Mutual Insurance Company offers a list of additional things to look for that may indicate foundation problems.

Open and close doors and windows to ensure they operate smoothly. If possible, access the attic or crawl space to check for any signs of pests, water damage, or insulation problems.

Check for water intrusion

Inspect the basement or crawl space for signs of water intrusion, such as dampness, mold, or mildew. Look for moisture stains on walls or ceilings throughout the house, which could indicate leaks or previous water damage.

Evaluate the exterior

Walk around the property and assess the condition of the siding, roof, and gutters. Look for any signs of damage, missing shingles, or loose gutters that could potentially lead to water infiltration.

Don’t forget the yards

Stroll through the yard, paying attention to the grading and drainage. Ensure that water flows away from the foundation to prevent water-related issues. Look for overgrown trees or branches that threaten the house or power lines.

Remember, while a DIY home inspection can provide valuable insights, hiring a professional home inspector to comprehensively examine the property is essential.

A professional will thoroughly assess the structural elements, electrical and plumbing systems, and more, using specialized tools and expertise. Their unbiased evaluation will give you a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition, helping you make an informed decision about your purchase.

When hiring a professional home inspector, do your due diligence. Seek recommendations, read reviews, and ensure they are licensed and certified.

Accompany the inspector during the inspection, ask questions, and take notes. This will further enhance your understanding of the property and any potential issues.

Combining your initial assessment with a thorough professional inspection gives you the confidence to make an informed decision about one of the most significant investments in your life – your new home.

What is due diligence when buying a home and why it’s so important

Buying a home is an exciting and significant milestone in one’s life. In fact, it can be so exciting that many homebuyers are solely attracted to the cosmetics of a home or another hot button on their wish list and neglect performing due diligence.

Due diligence, by the way, refers to the process of conducting thorough research, inspections, and assessments to verify the property’s condition and evaluate any associated risks.

Today we dive into what due diligence entails when purchasing a home, providing you with valuable insights to make informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls.

Understanding due diligence

You’ll have several opportunities along the way to closing to gather information and assess whether the home meets your expectations and aligns with your financial goals.

Due diligence typically occurs after the seller accepts your offer but before closing the sale. Some duties are routine, such as the professional home inspection, seller disclosures, HOA documents, appraisal, and title search.

You must learn all you can about the home before closing. Anything that pops up after that will be your responsibility to remedy.

The importance of inspections

One vital component of due diligence is conducting a professional home inspection. A qualified inspector to thoroughly evaluate the property can uncover potential issues that may not be visible to the untrained eye.

The inspection may cover the structure, electrical systems, plumbing, HVAC, etc. The findings from the inspection can help you make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the purchase, negotiate repairs or price adjustments, or even walk away if the issues are significant.

Keep in mind that a whole-home inspection is a visual inspection. The inspector can’t look behind walls, pipes, or floorboards. If you suspect a problem after the inspection, hire a professional specific to that problem to check it out. This might include a plumber, electrician, roofing contractor, or HVAC specialist.

Research the neighborhood

Another crucial aspect of due diligence is researching the neighborhood in which the home is located. Explore factors such as proximity to schools, parks, shopping centers, transportation, and other amenities important to you.

Additionally, research the area’s crime rates, future development plans, and any potential nuisances or restrictions that may affect your lifestyle. By understanding the neighborhood, you can determine if it aligns with your needs and preferences, ensuring your long-term satisfaction with the home.

Financial considerations

Due diligence also extends to financial aspects. This includes thoroughly reviewing the terms of the purchase agreement, understanding any contingencies, and ensuring that the property’s title is clear.

You may also want to consult a financial advisor to navigate complex financial aspects like loan terms, mortgage options, and tax implications. By conducting a comprehensive financial analysis, you can ensure that the home is a sound investment and fits within your budget.

Additional considerations

While inspections, neighborhood research, and financial analysis are crucial, due diligence can also encompass other aspects, such as:

  • Reviewing homeowners association (HOA) rules and fees, if applicable.
  • Assessing potential environmental concerns or hazards in the area.
  • Obtaining insurance quotes and understanding coverage options.
  • Checking for any pending or past litigation involving the property.
  • Reviewing permits and renovations to ensure they comply with local building codes.

Due diligence is critical when buying a home, allowing you to make informed decisions and protect your investment. You gain valuable insights into the property’s condition, neighborhood, and financial considerations involved by conducting thorough research, inspections, and assessments.

Remember, while the process may involve some extra time and effort, it is a worthwhile investment in ensuring your future happiness and peace of mi