BUYING A HOME – INSPECTOR, CONSULTANT OR BOTH

The process of buying a home puts a lot of stress on potential home buyers, largely caused by the size of the financial commitment involved. Added to this, of course, comes the stress of selecting the right place from all the properties you’ve considered, checking out a bunch of school systems, commuting options, shopping convenience, banks, lawyers, etc.

Buying a home is clearly a big, scary deal and, aside from the stress of the process there’s also the unsettling prospect that you’ve missed something that’s going to come back to haunt you.  The dangers of buying the classic ‘white elephant’, however, can be dramatically reduced by tapping into the expertise of professionals – a structural inspector and a (pre-purchase) planning consultant. These simple, low-cost steps are appropriate for any home purchase but are particularly valuable for an older home and/or a place where changes are contemplated.

THE ROLE OF A STRUCTURAL INSPECTOR

The principle job of a home inspector is to help you avoid the near-term ‘white elephant’ by ensuring that the home’s structure and major systems are sound and operational.  In other words, inspectors take a detailed look at everything inside & outside and raise a red flag when they discover any major problems.  (see What Does A Home Inspector Look For? A Whole Lot at Realtor.com for more details)

Having your prospective home inspected is sufficiently important that it should be included as a contingency in your offer to purchase. In fact, your bank may require an inspection as protection on its financing. If the inspection turns up a major problem, it should be the responsibility of the seller to fix it, reduce the price, or let you walk away with your deposit.

THE ROLE OF A PLANNING CONSULTANT

A pre-purchase planning consultant has two principle jobs that help you avoid the long-term ‘white elephant’.  First, they provide a professional reality-check on how a home will be able to satisfy your custom requirements over time.  Second, they assess the feasibility/budget for ideas you have regarding ways it might be improved, plus provide options from a professional’s perspective.

Unlike a home you designed & built yourself, essentially any house you purchase will have some aspect that you’ll want to – someday – change. Even if you really like the place you’ll undoubtedly have some future projects kicking around in the back of your mind – adding another bathroom, finishing the basement, expanding the kitchen or adding a garage.

Before committing to a house, these ‘someday’ plans need to undergo a reality check by a professional. Particularly for older homes, add-on projects that transform a good home into your dream home may sound wonderful in your head but can turn out to be egregiously expensive, ergonomically ill-advised, or structurally impossible.

As you narrow down your list of potential homes, a brief walk-through with a building professional will not only correct misconceptions (the ‘buzz-kill’ portion of the consultation) but can elicit suggestions and options that never occurred to you (the ‘great idea!’ portion).

In selecting a planning consultant, it’s important to select a respected and experienced contractor rather than the classic ‘brother-in-law-who’s-good-with-a-hammer’. You need someone who has references and a portfolio of work that proves their knowledge & experience.

THE BOTTOM LINE

You may not notice that the roof of your prospective home is beginning to sag or the edges of the hardwood floor are warped indicating water damage but a good inspector will.  Likewise, a good home consultant may tell you that there simply isn’t enough space for your vision of a bathroom tucked under the staircase, or the city will never approve a garage on your lot, or that expanding the kitchen will be prohibitively expensive because of extensive structural work.

Their job isn’t to bring you glad tidings, it’s to provide a realistic picture of your prospective home even if it means killing the deal.  Hire them and listen to them – in the scheme of things it’s real short money and it could save you a bundle.

 

 

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