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First Time Home Buyer Tips You Must Know

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17 Tips From a First Time Home Buyer Advocate

Joining the ranks of a first time home buyer can be a little intimidating, and you can be forgiven if you are approaching it with a little bit of hesitation. It is understandable, after all a survey done by Trulia discovered,

22 percent of homeowners wished they had more information about their home before the purchase.

It is a big step forward in your life as well as a massive commitment in terms of time, energy, and financial investment. It doesn’t help that home prices and property taxes are rising much faster than wages are, making it tougher to keep up.

A Trulia spokeswoman, Daisy Kong expressed some findings from the study that may be even more disturbing. She mentioned that many home buyers are competing in a tight market, and to beat the competition they are taking offers not requiring a home inspection.

That means they may not discover problems with the home until after the sale is complete, she says. Home buyers who overlook these issues before signing on the dotted line could get stuck making expensive repairs and renovations they weren’t prepared for.

Dare I mention one of my most recent client’s situation, a first time home buyer, got stuck with a bill over $8,000 to fix water damage issues the home inspector missed. This young family was distraught, worried and extremely angry about the whole deal. This is a home, a shelter, a new chapter, and—most of all—the single greatest investment in their lives.

Stop here before you lay an offer on the table. It is time to take a breath and listen to a little advice because when you are buying in today’s market you need all the help you can get.

First Time Home Buyer Tips For Before You Sign

I am not trying to scare you, after all, I am in your corner. I want nothing more than for the percentage of regretful or uninformed home buyers to lower. With over 25 years experience in the home remodeling industry, my advice comes from the inner father in me to help home buyers make the best decision by getting them the best deal. Let’s start with a property appraisal.

  • Always Do a Full Appraisal of the Property

When you are looking at a potential home it is easy to get carried away. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that something that looks good necessarily is good.

While aesthetic value is important you must look at what may be the biggest and most important investment of your life in a more practical way.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What are the base materials of the construction? (quality and soundness vs. aesthetic)
  2. Will regular maintenance be required to replace outdoor wood paneling as dry rot sets in?
  3. Is the roof sound, or will water intrusion become a problem in a few years?
  4. Is there evidence of current termite issues or previous termite treatment?

Look at a property’s every strength and weakness and try to appraise it realistically.

  • Check for signs of deferred maintenance

Look for burned out light bulbs, faded paint, scratches, and marks on floors and walls, leaky faucets, damaged fence panels, and dead grass.

These may seem like small issues, but signs like these can indicate that the previous owner may have left more important and expensive projects in disrepair.

  • Look for signs of camouflage tactics

If something doesn’t look right it’s probably not right. If a patch on the wall looks iffy it’s probably hiding something worse behind it.

If your windowsills are warped but look freshly painted this could be a sign of windows with current leaks. They were painted to trick you into thinking there was nothing wrong.

A good way around this is to get a moisture meter to test the drywall for moisture because when it has been wet, it stays wet for months after a rain event. Water leakage is a very common and very expensive issue that can be used as a bargaining chip at the closing table.


In Texas, if you buy a used car that is a lemon- lemon laws are in place for you to get your money back, but if you buy someone else’s lemon house, there is no recourse.

A first time home buyer is an investor.

So here is the father in me, this next piece of advice may take some time to truly evaluate.

  • Be Honest With Yourself And Your Pocketbook

An old saying goes that you never lie to others as much as you lie to yourself, and that can play out when you are in the home buying process.

You may be able to tell yourself that just because you can be pre-approved by a bank for a particular amount that you will really be able to handle accruing that much debt.

Keep in mind that lenders are in the market to make money for themselves and expect you to be able to take care of your own business. Some of the “hidden fees” will make your jaw drop.

According to a NerdWallet survey about,

41 percent of homeowners said they were not aware of all of their loan options... about 15 percent said they were surprised by hidden fees.

Be honest with yourself concerning how much you can afford to pay monthly and then round down. Becoming a homeowner accrues as-yet unrealized expenses that you will need to prepare for. In the 2013 Trulia survey, it was discovered around,

18 percent of home buyers wished they had made a bigger down payment.

My advice is to aim for putting at least 20 percent down up front to give you a lower monthly payment, a better interest rate, and to help you get the house you want in a hot housing market.

  • Start saving for a down payment and rainy day early

With life, you never know what could come along and punch you right in the pocketbook. It may seem like common sense, but a surprising amount of people are foolish with their money and don’t bother to save. It’s easy to spend, but it is hard to save. Be a saver, and you will be a stellar homeowner who can also live the good life with a quality home.

A First Time Home Buyer Sweats Equity

The investment in a new home is more than just dollars and cents. Sweat equity is a virtual necessity for today’s homeowner. Let’s be real, the goal is to make back more than you spend, eventually.

  • Prepare To Break a Sweat For Equity

Gone will be the days of living in a rental property with a maintenance team to fix that crack in the wall or remove mold from the windowsills.

Do not get too sentimental, those were your chump days. Your goal now is to be a home and landowner. Moving on up comes at a cost but it doesn’t have to break the bank! DIYers rejoice.

Once you have owned the property for a few years, your to-do list might be much longer than you think.

Weekend projects can be fun, but it is all about your attitude. Do your research, get sound advice from professionals, make sure everyone at Lowes and Home Depot knows you by name. Yes, google and youtube can help for most small projects but know when something is over your head.

Do not attempt to do something that deals with your pipes, foundation, support walls, windows, chimneys, brick repairs, roof leak repairs or other skilled trades. You may end up costing yourself more money in the end.

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

  • Know your neighborhood and surrounding areas

Educate yourself on the crime rate and criminals in your new neighborhood. If you are concerned about potential crime in your neighborhood visit the local Police Department and ask them about crime statistics for that area.

Talk to people in the area to learn first-hand what it may be like to live in your new neighborhood.

  • Know weather patterns and geographical effects in the area

That creek flowing behind your property might be a pleasant sight during the dry season, but what about when heavy rains set in? Are you in a potential flood zone? Will that picturesque creek turn into a raging river?

Knowing the geography and weather patterns of the area can help prevent you from becoming stuck with a house boat when all you wanted was a house with a gorgeous view.

  • If you have kids- educate yourself on the school district lines

From my own experience, my current neighborhood is split right down the middle between a mediocre school and a top-quality school. This could be a deal breaker for a first time home buyer looking for a certain school district.

Luckily my house just so happened to lie on the side of the boundary with the good school. DO NOT assume that everyone in your neighborhood will go to the same good school. Contact your school district before you move to ensure your child or children will go to your desired school.

  • Check for remodeling projects and permits legitimized through the city

See if the footprint of your home matches the blueprint on file with the city. If it doesn’t match, check that any renovations were okayed through the city via inspections.

If you find illegal work done on the home move on to the next home and DO NOT buy because this can result in bad electrical, foundation problems, and overall structural damage of the home.

  • Ensure all warranties or previous work done on the house will transfer to you as the new owner

On my home, the foundation was repaired by a company with a 30-year transferable warranty for any prospective buyer. Be sure to ask for the paperwork for transferable warranties upon purchase of your home.

If you, as the new homeowner, get work done on your home keep all warranty paperwork and ensure warranties are transferable for someone who may buy your home in the future.

  • Ensure your home is graded properly

The land leading up to your home for water runoff should be graded away from your home as opposed to in toward your home. Be on the lookout for low lying areas because water could pool here and cause damage to your landscape or your home.

  • Look at the dirt surrounding your home

Ensure that you can see the foundation concrete up to 6 inches because if the dirt covers this you won’t be able to see where termites could possibly get into your home.

  • If the home has a pool, look for cracking in the concrete surrounding the pool deck

This is a sign of water intrusion around that nice pool you are wanting for those hot Summer days. Pool repairs can get pricey and you could get stuck footing the bill if you don’t look for these signs upon purchase.

  • Inspect your windows for water intrusion

Ensure you look first at the window glazing to ensure it is not cracking or failing. Look at the window frame- if it is bent in the bottom corners that means water has been getting in behind the brick near the window for a long time.

Look for bricks cracked around the window and especially the windowsill- this is a sign of water intrusion that can run into costly repairs in the future.

  • Hire a licensed professional home inspector

You want to ensure you are not moving into a home that will cost you more in the end to fix than what you bought it for. A home inspector will check most aspects of your home for safety and quality assurance. He will check roofing, full exteriors, structural elements, full interiors, plumbing, electrical, heating and AC, and all related components.

However, he will not tell you about water intrusion and its effect on the structure of your home. This is where I come in!

  • Have me, Terry, inspect your home for water intrusion

With 40 years of experience in many different trades, I have a special eye for spotting what normal inspectors and engineers won’t see because I have done it all when it comes to home repair. I also remodeled my own home so I deeply understand the inner workings of homes.

If you have me inspect your home, I will catch the tiniest details top to bottom. I am a first time home buyer advocate; I will inspect your home for free for water intrusion if you are a prospective home buyer because of the inner father in me wanting you- the home buyer- to make a smart investment.

If you have any questions about rain related leaks or any construction related concerns since I have mastered many trades, ask Terry, I am here to help!

If you are a first time home buyer and looking for a complimentary first time home buyer waterproofing inspection, contact us. We will give you the goods to bargain yourself a better deal and offer on the table with a transferable 2-5 year warranty if work is needed.

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