Thing to Know Before Buying a House

Updated on June 13, 2011
K.P. asks from Tacoma, WA
24 answers

It's still early and not for sure yet, but my husband and I are finally talking about buying a house. I have been looking a little and found some places that would be so great. It's scary, but I am so excited! The market is low, so that we could get a pretty nice house for cheap. So what are some things that you wish that you had known or that someone had told you before buying your house? Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thanks ladies for all the answers keep them coming if you can!
Thanks for helping me through all of this crazy that is about to ensue lol! I will definately refrence all these answers and be checking them all.
We do realize that it is going to be hard, and frustrating and just plain difficult. We are making a list of have to have, and wants. We are going to be picky while doing this process because we have time. We arent going to jump the gun and buy the first thing we see.
We are already qualified to do this by the VA, my husband was in the Army for many years, so we dont pay PMI and they cover our down payment for us. So we are good to go for that and are already saving our money while we look and get everything squared away so that we have extra for any sudden costs that we might need. And we are thinking about a 3-4 bedroom house which we can afford so that there is room for more babies in the future.
Also no I am not looking for a fixer uper. I dont mind fixing a few things here or there, and I dont mind painting, I am actually looking forward to doing that and being able to call it my own and not have to ask if we can do things! Yay!

Its going to be a big task but there isnt anything I want more!

Thanks again for all the great answers you guys are great!!

Featured Answers



answers from San Antonio on

Think about not only what size of home you will need now, but 3 or 4 years from now. We just bought 2 years ago, and have outgrown the place as the kids have grown.
Also, not only run water, but run hot water!

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answers from Milwaukee on

Flush toilets, run water and see if the dish washer runs! As you can see I'm a little WATER obsessed.

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answers from Boston on

School system
Crime rate in neighborhood
Drive by the potential home during day and night-see how the house is affected by street lights bc those things cant be moved!
If you can drive by after a good rain to see how water flows on the property.
Look at potential maintenance in the yard-mulch, mowing, shoveling sure you don't bite off more than you can chew with those
Cell phone service
How is the home heated/cooled

Good luck and have fun!

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answers from Omaha on

My advice to you... get a home inspection.

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answers from Boston on

If things about the house need to be fixed, get an estimate for how much they'll cost BEFORE you buy the house. Not that the current owners will be responsible for your changes, but some things that you think would be cheap are actually very expensive, and vice versa.

Make a list of "negotiables" and "non-negotiables." You'll be happy if you get some of the things on your "negotiables" list, but you'll have a much harder time being happy if you give up on the things that are really important to you. Do this by going (mentally) room by room and thinking about everything that you would want. Gas stove in the kitchen? Carpet or hardwood floors? Minimum number of full baths? Etc.

Happy hunting!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I agree with all the other posters. And try to think ahead.

When we bought our first house I was just 7 months pregnant with our 1st. I didn't 'think' like a mom yet. So our sloped driveway on a blind corner was a pain, because the kids could never play in the driveway for fear of a ball or big wheel rolling down the driveway into the street. Soooooo. . . . when we looking for our second and current house our kids were 7 and 11, (now 17 and 21) but I went into every house thinking of teenagers. And it is VERY teen friendly. Our basement had a full bathroom and a full kitchen already which was nice.
We also drove out there at different times of the day. When we were ready to make a decision it came down to the house we were in and one other. I noticed as we left the neighborhood of the other house that there didn't seem to be any kids. We drove back out to this house and saw the swings in the back, skateboards in the front, etc.

And as others have said, a home inspection is a must. And make sure you don't go cheap or with a family friend because 'he'll cut you a deal'. That was our mistake with this house. Family friend cut us a deal. If he wasn't so worried about whether or not my kitchen sprayer worked he might have been able to catch the bad siding that was part of a federal class action suit! Within 2 years we were putting stucco on our house, at our expense because the siding was literally rotting off the side of the house.

Again, someone already mentioned, it will be more expensive than you think. Just the moving expenses, even if you do it yourself, can be more than you think. Something will come up, so don't stretch yourself so thin going in. I'm not sure with how the whole market and economy is, if they will be as pushy. But just because your bank says you qualify for house that is X expensive, you don't have to do it. Both of our houses we bought under what we qualified for.

Oh, and probably something I don't think I saw this mentioned, but try to look beyond paint color/wall paper and decor. I am NOT a design person and I don't have a 'vision' of what I can do with something. But I did know that painting is easy (I like to paint) but removing wallpaper can be a pain in the behind, and to replace carpet can be expensive.

And take your time, if you can. We were not moving out of state and staying in the area so we looked 2 years. We had our list of things we had to have and found the house! OK, it turned out to be the money pit, (stucco, windows replaced because wood rot covered with fresh paint, steel piers under one corner, replaced every door knob, every faucet, both hot water heaters, etc), but I LOVE my home and I LOVE my neighbors and neighborhood.

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answers from Portland on

You've been given a lot of great advice. The one thing I haven't seen is this: If you plan on doing anything to the house (painting, changing fixtures, remodeling,etc.) you have to take a long and honest look at the amount of time you have to do things, what your skill level is, who would be available to help you and what type of money you have to spend. DH and I bought a house 5 years ago that was a fixer and had SO many aspirations as to what we wanted to do. Well, as it turns out DH doesn't like working around the house, neither of us know how to do much, we don't have a lot of extra money to spend, and coulnd't afford to pay someone to do the work for us. So, we managed to get everything painted - even though it took a LONG time and we have some half finished projects still (because DH won't finish it and I don't know how) and there's stuff that we both still dislike but can't change.

Moral of the story: if you're not handy - don't buy a fixer. If you don't like yard work - don't buy a house with a big yard. If you don't want to do any of the work - be able to pay someone to do it for you.

Good luck!!!!! Owning a house is a lot of work but it's a great feeling to have something to call your own :)

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answers from Washington DC on

Get a good real estate agent, one who will look for what you want and not what she thinks you want or need according to her. Sometimes you have to change and that is OK.

Home inspection is a must, the mortgage co won't lend you the money without it.

Do you have a down payment or money put away for earnest money?
Earnest money is money you put down to hold the house while you are negotiating. It can be as little as $500 and I have paid as high as $2500.

You'll also need money for closing costs, the mortgage co will let you know what they are when you get close to the closing.

It's still a buyers market which means the sellers should offer to pay closing costs, or at least some of them.

They should offer to pay for a home warranty, this is if something should go wrong with any of the appliances in the first year. I would have the sellers do this for you, the real estate agent usually asks for this.

In the East we always do a termite inspection.

Get a fixed rate mortgage. Let your real estate give you some good banks to work with out there.

See the home before you buy it. Open all the windows, run faucets, check wood on outside decks, carpet, tile in baths, roof age, age of heating unit and major appliances,

Check school districts, neighborhood at night and in the day, on Saturdays and weekday evenings. Talk to the neighbors.

Is there a light into the subdivision?
How far is the shopping area?

Check the list of the area's sexual predators.

Check taxes for the city, county

Is it fenced? Does it need to be?

Unless you want a fixerupper do into look at them, they takea lot of money and time to get to where you want it to be. Look for homes that you can flip in 5 years. Not that you will but you might, especially if this is your first home.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Like someone else said - try to determine what your actual monthly payment will be after you add taxes, insurance, etc. You might need PMI (private mortgage insurance) if you cannot put down 20%, which will add more to your monthly payment. Also remember some places have HOA dues, which I think can increase as time goes on, but I don't know. Don't get an adjustable rate - crazy lenders are still trying to push these even after everything that happened a few years ago - there is no way anyone can be positive they are going to move within a specified amount of time because your house value could drop below what you owe. Having said that, I think someone already said this, but whatever place you buy, don't discount that you could be there forever, so make sure you like it. :)

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answers from Modesto on

Leave at least 30 days open to report things that might be defective, like plumbing or electrical issues in the escrow instructions. The clock didnt work on our oven in our brand new house, and it NEVER did, it always kind of made me mad. Talk to the neighbors, drive down the street and through the neighborhood on wknds and Friday nights. Don't get yourself too far from grocery shopping or too near any noisy things like an airport, train, dance club, etc. Try to get a fixed rate loan with a low interest rate. If you dont understand things, dont sign them, have a real estate attorney look over your agreements. Weird things can happen if you dont know what you are doing. Make sure you get the kind of homeowner insurance where if either of you pass away, the mortgage is paid for. My stepdad died last year and left my mom with 30k yet on their mortgage, it's a bummer.

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answers from Kansas City on

Are you familiar with how much taxes and insurance will raise your monthly payments? Definitely get a home inspector you can trust. sure the neighborhood is what you want. I would make a list of "have to have", "want to have" etc. We bought in sept and we were really pleased with all we were able to get. It's a dream come true :)

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answers from Seattle on

Make sure there is plenty of storage space and room for your furniture. We once bought a house we loved and didn't realize that there wasn't a pantry until after we moved in and tried to find a place to put the groceries. Spend some time in the house and visualize your family living there. Go through the motions of your routines and make sure the traffic flow is right - the bathrooms are in the right place, and so on.

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answers from Tulsa on

It costs more than you think to own a home. Repairs, taxes, maintenance, etc..

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answers from Medford on

The house and location have to support your lifestyle or you will want to sell sooner than later.
I love to be able to walk /bike everywhere, so had to pay extra and get a smaller house inside town. Studies show that our daily routine and lifestyle contribute more to long term happiness than "things" or "stuff" (even a fancy kitchen or bigger house), apparently we get used to that kind of stuff really quickly and it no longer gives us much pleasure, but daily routine stuff like how long it takes to get to work, or how close you are to friends are the things that give us long lasting sources of happiness.

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answers from Redding on

get your own home inspection. if you have a friend or relative that is good with house stuff, ask them to walk through with you. You will get more out of their hour than the 10 minutes a paid inspector will spend.

And, patience! Don't melt your heart over each offer, there is so much that can go wrong...if you think everyhouse you see it "the one" you are only setting yourself up for lots of tears and heartache.

I own 2 houses, so I have been through all of this a couple times, believe me...looking back, I feel so silly. I drive by houses that didn't work out and laught at myself for crying over it. :)

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answers from St. Louis on

We built our first house and there was no display home so we could only work with blue prints. Really the only problems we have had were things like not realizing we should have put a bay window in the kitchen because the door kept hitting the kitchen table. Stuff like that.

I would say get the most house you can for your money but not more than you can afford. If you get a house that is just right but you could have afforded more, you will end up having to move again if you add another family member or something like that. I don't like to move, you will find I will die in this home.

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answers from Eugene on

That the kitchen and the bathroom should be up to date and move in ready.
My husband and I had to do both and the plumbing immediately. The only one who was able to take a bath was the 2 1/2 year old who had it in the kitchen sink.
For the rest of us it was a make shift shower hidden behind some trees in the backyard. That went on for over a month. And, we also had a Honey Pot at the end of the driveway while the bathroom underwent renovations.
I never ever want anything but a turnkey.
Good luck with the house hunting.

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answers from Appleton on

If it's in a planned community. Many new sub-divisions are a planned community and the rules are just plain stupid. You can't leave your car out at night, bikes must be in the garage, no boats or campers in the yard, no satelite dishes ect ect. They will also fine you if your grass gets too long, or the snow isn't shoveled on time, some even tell you what flowers you can plant. Many have rules on guests, how many you can have and what time they must leave. I'm sorry I own my home and no group of nosy busybodies are gonna tell me how to live in it.

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answers from Seattle on

Hello :)
Buying a house is sooo exciting so congrats!!! Some great advice that I received is to visit the local town hall. They can give you info on schools, if there has been criminal activity in a particular area, etc.

On a side note for the house, make sure you look for lots of storage :) It's something to overlook and later wish you hadn't.

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answers from Houston on

preferably make it a 1 story----easier upkeep, if it isnt make sure the water heater is downstairs.

survey the yard, are the sidewalks cracked?) it could be built on a faultline and might cause irregular settling, cracks in the walls and foundation.

oak trees too near the house can cause cracks too, and make sure all the trees are healthy and will not fall during strong winds.

if it was built after the 80s check the pipes to make sure they are not plastic

if it was built between 80-2000 (roughly) do an investigation on the type of siding used, most will be completely useless and need to be replaced within 10 to 20 years.

check the breakers , make sure they have more than 1 leg, make sure the ac and ductwork are in good shape, and slow moving flushing toilets can indicate a leak in the foundation.

and this may sound superstitious but statistics show that houses built on triangular plots have bad outcomes (robberies, fires, extreme weather suicides,accidents,and murders)

and with no statistical evidence whatsoever i have always heard that front doors that are red and face north are good luck

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answers from Medford on

These are related to the buying process: Find a realtor who you like. If you start with someone who isn't getting what it is you need, switch! The process is stressful and you want someone who you feel is on your side. Same goes for your lender. Get pre-approved and then think seriously about what you want to pay each month. Factor in homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance (if you have less than 20% down) and property taxes. Don't be afraid to renegotiate your purchase price or contingencies after the home inspection. We were afraid of losing the house so we didn't negotiate aggressively. There were things we should have asked the sellers to take care of, even though they weren't huge. Lastly, ask to have closing costs covered by the seller so you have plenty of cash for the move and any additional furnishing you need to do. Ask for ALL closing costs, up to something like $10,000 or $15,000, even though you'll be told it won't cost that much. I think we asked for a closing costs up to like 7,000 and then I got a call from the title company on the day of closing that I need to bring a big chunk of money with me. It was a nightmare to try to scrape that money together in a couple of hours. Then six months later, there was a surprise check in the mail. The escrow account had an excess of about that same chunk of money. Someone screwed up.

The last thing I would say is to watch some of those house hunting and fixer-upper shows on HGTV. They are really good for showing some of the pitfalls and issues with buying a home and homeownership. It can be expensive, and also very rewarding. Congratulations on this new phase!!!

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answers from Portland on

Hang out for a while at NIGHT in your new neighborhood, before you buy. My house is near train tracks and good lord, those trains run like every hour all night long, and they need to HOOOOOONNNNNKKKK because it's in town. If I'd known it was this LOUD I would have kept looking. As is, I use white noise machines to sleep.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Get yourself pre-approved for a mortgage. Take the monthly amount the give you and cut it in HALF. When I was single and bought my first house I was approved for $1100/month. I bought a house with a mortgage payment of $500 and I would have been eating ALPO if I was paying $100!

Good luck!

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