7 Tips for Home Buying in a Down Economy

PA family home inspection

Buying a home in a “normal” economy is tough enough, but buying in a down market can be particularly daunting. The key to buying a home is identifying your personal financial position, goals and housing needs; however it’s equally important that you know what you’re buying. Our home buying tips represent a small portion of the overall home buying process because we are home inspectors not financial planners, but hopefully you will find them useful.

1. Find a good deal

With home inventories rising, there are lots of good deals to be found. We suggest starting the process by clearly defining the attributes you are looking for in a home – price, location, number of bedrooms, basement, etc. Pre-planning will go a long way in helping you communicate with your real estate agent so you spend more time looking at homes that matter. Foreclosed homes might represent the hottest deals on the market but some of them will also have the most issues. “Good deals are not always what they seem. A major structural defect, unsafe heating system or exposed wires that can cause injury or fire, for instance, can erase the sweet taste of the bargain,” according to Brion Grant, president of American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Hiring an experienced home inspector can help you identify these types of problems before you purchase.

2. Home inspectors matter

So you have found your dream home. Don’t get too attached until you get the home professionally inspected. Your agent may have a home inspector to refer you to but don’t forget to use the internet to research home inspection companies in your area. One excellent site is www.ASHI.org. As with many things in life, we get what we pay for, so avoid the cheapest inspectors. After all you wouldn’t choose an attorney or financial advisor on price alone! The cost of a home inspection (average $350 – $500) is small compared to the home’s price and may save you a lot of money in the long run. Things to look for in a home inspection company:

  • Experience
  • License and required insurance coverage
  • Membership in professional association (we recommend ASHI)
  • Objective, thorough and easy-to-understand inspection reports (avoid “checklist” reports)

3. Understand Radon

Look into getting a radon inspection. Radon-induced lung cancer is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths. You cannot see, smell or taste radon; however radon gases may be a problem in the home you are purchasing. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium underground. The EPA recommends testing for all homes below the third floor. Check to see if you home inspector also offers radon inspections. At approximately $140 – $165 a radon test is definitely worth the expenditure.

4. Find out about pests before moving in

Getting a termite inspection will help you know if termites or other wood eating pests may be hiding in or around the home you wish to purchase. Finding termites too late can be very destructive on your home’s foundation. At a cost of $90 – $100; we strongly advise getting a termite or WDI (wood destroying insect) inspection.

5. Attend the inspection

It is always a good idea to attend the home inspection. The inspection generally takes 2-3 hours depending on the size and age of the home. This will give you time to talk to your home inspector about the issues he/she might be finding during the inspection. The inspector can also give you maintenance and improvement tips to help you keep your home healthy. All this knowledge can come in handy with our next tip.

6. Negotiate from a position of strength

Your home, radon, and termite inspections will help you understand what you are getting before you’ve gone to closing. You will be in a much better position to understand if the home is fairly priced and allow you to address any problems found by the inspectors with the seller. Do you want the seller to fix the issues or do you want to negotiate a lower price so you can fix these problems yourself? And of course this brings us to the final tip.

7. Don’t forget about seller inspections

If you are also selling a home, consider a home inspection while you’re waiting for the offers to come in. This will allow you to identify and fix any problems before they interfere with the potential sale of your old home and ultimately the purchase of your new one!

By Ralph A. Millard
ValueGuard Home Inspections
634 Pine Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106