Part 1 of 3: GZR Used Home Buying Series
So, you make plans to move and your best bet is in buying a used home. This can be a smart, savvy purchase or a nightmare. Here are some things you oughta know before you shop for that second hand residence.
Who This Home Buying Guide Is For
This article is for anyone looking to buy a used home, especially first-time buyers. It aims to alert potential buyers of problems they may discover when living in their second hand dwellings.. Also, teenagers can benefit from this post. The more high school undergraduates can learn, the more knowledge they will have as adults.
Bear in mind, I am not a professional on inspecting or appraising homes. I have no experience working in real estate but I’ve seen and been in many houses in my lifetime. Enough to know the common problems they may have. Therefore, this article alone does not serve as a complete guide to buying a used home. You’ll need to do your own research and hire a professional home inspector to look your home over for you. Believe me, it will be worth it!
Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Home
For many first-time home buyers, buying a used home is our best choice. This is especially true for young couples who are just starting out. Many of them lack credit rapport and have a low income. Thus, their only option may be to buy used real estate. Likewise, they must be aware of the pros and cons of buying used versus new property.
A Used Home Is Someone Else’s Own Creation
OK, how would you feel about buying something that total strangers use and customize to their own liking? That’s exactly what you’re doing when you invest in used property. Apparently, everyone has their own different tastes, lifestyles and ways of living. For some, their home is their main source of pride and biggest investment. Therefore, they strive to take good care of it. As for others, it is just a roof over their heads. As long as it suits their purposes, that’s all that matters.
Any second hand home has likely been preoccupied by many others. And these are all groups of people you don’t even know. They add amenities to the home according to their own wants and needs. Also, they customize it in ways (such as painting walls, putting in floor treatments, etc.) that are their own personal touch.
Less Work Is Required By You Before Moving In
But in the end, all the basic work is already done for you. The landscaping is done so you need not have do that yourself. All the common features of any home are present as storage facilities, plumbing fixtures, lighting, flooring and so on. You need not have to install all these things either. You are free to accept everything in the house as it is or swap out things to your own personal liking.
Finally, if the this home was the primary residence of the previous owners, your odds of it being in excellent condition are great. On the other hand, if this house was rental property, expect nothing fancy. Just hope that it’s still in satisfactory shape.
Homes Depreciate Over the Years
You will find many homes very appealing. Most appear to be immaculate with fresh paint jobs indoors and out. Others feature wall and floor treatments that are not too old. But does that mean it’s a perfectly healthy one? Yes and no. Even these dwellings can hide signs of wear and tear.
Newly built homes depreciate the day occupants move in. They encounter many forms of stress and weather conditions from the start. Still,, in the first ten years the amount of wear is practically unnoticeable. And if it’s kept up well over the next few decades, it’s still not so easy to detect.
As the unit gets older so does its plumbing fixtures, cabinets, appliances, electrical wiring, roof, foundation, insulation, floors, siding, walls, stairs, windows, doors, garage, driveway, and landscape features, etc.
Virtually any house experiences harsh conditions inside and out. Dwellings endure extreme weather conditions from sub-zero to very hot temperatures. Likewise, they withstand dry, humid and wet conditions as rain, snow, hail, winds, etc. As you know, certain materials used in the house expand in heat and contract in cold. Homes in or near costal states endure such conditions as storms, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes. Unless you’re very familiar with its geographic location, you can never tell what a house has been through.
Indoor conditions can be harsh as well. Individuals or family members walk, run and jump through it daily,. This applies to boisterous children and pets. Cooking and bathing go on daily and create humidity inside. Waste, unwanted substances and objects are flushed down toilets or run down drains daily. Moisture buildup can lead to mold or rotting. If ants or other parasites infest the home, they can eat away at the woodwork or framework.
Don’t Expect the House to Be In Mint Condition
Oh how nice it would be if this used home was in tip-top shape. Unless the last owner took good care of everything, that’s not very likely to happen. Even so , there may be some issues they left untouched.
The appearance of a house can be quite deceiving as well. Even if the outer surfaces have new paint, there is no guarantee that the home will never need some kind of repair. Worst yet, if you find yourself absolutely loving the decor and features of the interior, you may forget the possibility that the house has flaws. This is much like falling in love with someone based on physical attraction without knowing their background or character.
Unless you’re a trained professional, flaws inside a home aren’t always so easy to spot. You won’t discover them until some kind of problem crops up months or years later. For example, you may not detect water damage to walls or floors until you do a remodel project. Also, owners do much of the work themselves rather than hiring professionals to do it.
All Homes Are Built the Same
The overall quality of most all houses is about the same. Home builders use the same building materials all across the board. Hence, a home’s overall quality and its amenities reflect on its geographic location and the decade it is built in. To my knowledge, very few, if any homes are sturdier than standard homes. And depending on location, time period, and contracting company, a vast number were erected within a short time frame. During the 1980’s and on, less quality materials were used in many dwellings. Shortcuts were made for the sake of building them faster and making them more affordable.
In a nutshell, all homes wear down at similar rates. They will need work over the years. And the current condition an older home is in depends on how well its owners keep up the joint. Thus, it’s helpful to find out as much about the history of a home as possible.
What I Experienced When Buying A Used Home
In the summer of 1988 I purchase my first home, one that was built in 1946. I take a walk through it and find it like “love at first sight.” I like its great cosmetic features as its hardwood floors and cove ceilings. The layout is nice, and there is a bedroom in the attic with its own skylight. I am now so gun ho about this house I have to buy it. I like it far better than the other houses I see. It has a convenient location that is hard to beat.
A Flooding Basement
So I move in during the summer of 1988, a year of drought conditions. How was I to know that the basement would leak? Then a rainy season comes the following spring only to find puddles of water in my basement. Now I discover I need drain tile as my neighbors tell me our houses are on a high water table.
However before the flooding starts, I begin to build a recreational room in the basement. I strip down the walls, wire in outlets, insulate and cover it all with drywall. And this is the time they tell me I need drain tile.
So I hire a contractor, they come down and remove a strip of concrete all around the inner perimeter of the basement. Then they run plastic piping through the entire trench they make and then cement it all back in. Luckily this doesn’t do damage to my walls but if I were to put in flooring, that would mean I must replace it all. Good thing I don’t need to refloor the room over again.
Damage In the Bathroom
A few years later, while taking showers in the bathtub, I gently slap on the walls, As I do I hear bits of wallboard crumbling inside. Something tells me that there is damage lurking behind the fiberglass sheets the last owner slaps up to intentionally conceal the problem.
It is then I remove the panels and fined large chunks of wall gone and many plastic tiles missing. Now I must tear it all out and put in waterproof sheet rock. I put in new fiberglass panels as this seems like an easier fix than installing ceramic tile. It’s a simple fix and surely helps prevent future water damage.
Saving A Garage That Should Have Been Replaced
One day, I find a note that the city leaves on the old single garage in my backyard. It’s a citation from the city of Minneapolis saying I need to repaint my garage. I tell myself, that shouldn’t be too hard as all I need to do is scrape and repaint. So I scrape off peeling paint and the siding falls off. I see it’s rotten and isn’t salvageable so I remove it. Once I do, I see the sheathing is bowed in and needs replacing. So I put on all new sheathing and siding and paint it to match the house.
After noticing the downward bowing in the center of the roof, I realize it’s time to put on new shingles. So I remove the old shingles, only to find two other layers of them beneath that. So that explains the bowed roof. Once I remove them all I see sections of decking needing replacing. So I do that.
If I could do this over, I would hire a contractor to remove the old garage and put up a new double car garage in its place. Single car garages are no longer satisfactory to most owners as they are too small. Double car garages increase the value of the home and make it easier to sell if you should decide to do so.
Replacing the Gravity Heat Furnace
As I commit to buying this home, I see it has a gravity (or octopus) type furnace. This thing is humungous and looks like it could heat a factory. I see it has large pipes about 15 inches in diameter wrapped up in some light cloth material. So what do I do? I get drunk, have fun in the basement and push the pipes up and down for fun. Little do I know this cloth material is asbestos. It is much more hazardous than it looks.
Even though it works fine, it’s difficult to light. Only someone who knows about these things can do it without a problem. Still I hear that I must replace it with a modern furnace and that’s what I do. After removing the old unit, there’s like a square area that exposes the sand beneath the area of the old furnace. I cover it up with cement and have a friend who installs forced air furnaces put in my new furnace for me. As he does this, he puts in a central air unit so now I no longer need my old window air conditioner.
So, if you should happen to buy a home with one, change it out for a new unit. You’ll have more room and spare yourself the hazard of exposure to asbestos.
Hire A Housing Inspector
OK, it’s the summer of 1988 and I look at my house and love it so much, I just have to have it. My impulses just overtake me. My real estate agent and my parents see how much I love this house so they don’t try to steer me elsewhere. I assume that if the agent nor my parents run down the house, it must be OK. There are many problems lurking in the house such as a need to re-shingle the roof and put in a forced air furnace. Still, my agent nor parents mention them. This makes me mad when I think about it. These are things I could have confronted the sellers to do but instead, I pay the to have them done out of my own pocket.
I hear that you must hire a building inspector to look over your home. But what do I do? I ignore this advice. I am too frugal to pay that extra expense and I don’t think it’s necessary. I fear that the inspector will look it over and tell me everything’s OK. That would then leaving me feeling like this was a waste of money. Now I wish I had as I would gain great advice from this.
No matter how nice a house looks, hire a housing inspector to look at it. Why? Here are some good reasons:
- To find things that need replacing as the hot water heater or furnace.
- To spot work that hasn’t been done properly according to code such as plumbing, venting or wiring.
- To detect contaminants and toxins in the home as radon, mold, gas leaks, etc.
- To spot expensive repairs the house will need that aren’t so easy to detect.
- To ensure there is no fire hazard lurking in the home.
And remember, the seller, agent, or experienced people you bring along won’t find or disclose all the problems. The seller(s) want to “get the hell out of there!” The agent wants to make a sale and move on. Your personal acquaintances may have experience buying and owning homes, but they’re not trained professionals. Hence, they do not know city codes.
Many homeowners are DIYers and novices at that. Most fail to pull permits for their work as they think they know everything.
Furthermore, home inspectors are only human. The more things you can catch on your own, the better. Realtor.com expresses 10 red flags when looking at a used home. Check them out.
Investigate the Neighborhood Before Buying A Used Home
As you tour a house, you can ask either the real estate agent and the seller about the neighborhood. If the neighborhood’s bad, you’re not likely to get a complete accurate description from either. Agents are out to make sales, “move” houses and are restricted about what they can say. A seller will tend to make the area sound OK or typical as he knows that if he expresses the real truth, you’ll definitely won’t want to buy the house. This may be the REAL reason he wants to get out of there, but he certainly won’t tell that to your face. Nobody’s going to tell you what your odds are at getting “jumped” or shot at if you walk alone after dark. Hence, you need to do your own homework and investigate the area yourself.
Visit It At Different Days and Times
So, drive around the neighborhood just to get a feeling of what it’s like. If there are lots of people hanging around outdoors, observe what they’re doing. The best times are around 6:00 pm and 11:00 pm. You may want to drive through during working hours on a weekday and on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. If traffic is heavy, drivers honking or blasting loud music and other out making drug deals, this is not the ideal place to live. But if the area is quiet and people are sitting out or working in their yards, this will be a much better environment. What about after dark? If you hear gunshots fired or excessive loud noises, again, this is not a place you’ll want to live.
As you drive through during daylight there are signs that will indicate whether the area’s good or bad:
- What condition are the houses in? Are they well kept up or rundown?
- Is this house near a busy street? How heavy is the traffic and how well can commotion be heard from where you’ll be living?
- How nice are the yards? Are they mowed and nicely landscaped or are they cluttered with trash?
- What about the vehicles you spot? Do they look fairly new or are they old junkers?
Other Telltale Signs of Trouble
I don’t want to sound racial or biased, but we all know there are “undesirables” out there that ruin our communities. Such people are nicknamed as “riff-raff”. They are naturally attracted to areas where drugs and alcohol are readily available. Signs that you near or in such an area may be:
- Several liquor stores and bars or taverns within a short distance.
- Older, rundown homes with sagging roofs or porches or even siding coming off the walls.
- Trash filled yards, abandoned vehicles, old furniture or broken appliances laying around outdoors.
- Police cars driving through frequently.
After all, the riff-raff love to live where the action is and prefer to get to places within minutes by bus, bike or foot. They don’t want to have to drive far just to get fast food or liquor. Because they spend a lot of time outdoors and love places where they can lounge and find others of their type to interact with. Such areas are mainly filled with rental houses or apartments. These kind of people would rather rent than own a home.
Desirable Places to Live
Nowadays, it’s hard to find a neighborhood that is 100% untouched by crime or not somewhat near a bad area. Not unless you’re wealthy enough to live in a high-class community filled with mansions or you would rather live way out in the sticks. If neither of these types of areas appeal to you, you may want to consider communities on the outskirts of town.
Also, there are residential areas that go on for blocks in all directions. Such areas seem to have nothing but houses and very few stores or commercial buildings. Thus, if you need to go shopping, you’ll need to drive a few miles. Though the neighborhoods may seem boring or inconvenient, they are more likely to have nicer homes. Nearly all (if not all) homes are occupied by families as opposed to renters. Such communities have laws and inspectors to ensure that all property owners keep up their homes and yards. Because they are family-oriented communities and likely have plenty of schools and ample amenities for children. Likewise, children feel safe living in these neighborhoods.
Because these areas are so quiet, lack easy access to inner city amenities, and are segregated from other parts of town, they are not too likely to attract the riff-raff.
Buying a used home often is a wise purchase and for many first-time buyers, their only option. When moving into one, you know that there will be less work, time and money needed on your part to make your home livable. All the amenities in a standard home are there and the yard has its landscaping features too. You are free to accept everything as it is or you can change features to match your personal preferences.
Used homes come in many sizes and styles plus exist in successful communities. On the other hand, new homes are built in neighborhoods that yet need to grow. There is no guarantee that these regions continue to expand or offer all the amenities you need. Buying used, you have a choice of homes to choose from that will suit your budget. You’ll also have many stores and services that you’ll need on an everyday basis, right close to your home.
However, the downside of owning a used home is that you may have to make expensive repairs to it. That’s because its aging and wear and tear are not always so noticeable and even sometimes, well hidden. Homes wear out over the years as they withstand harsh conditions.. To avoid making this post overly long, I wrote this as part one of a series in buying a used home.
Finally, don’t be so fixated on the house you to buy that you forget about the neighborhood. Just by taking a few hours of your time to check it out, this can save you years of problems relating to crime.