Six Real Estate Tips

The real estate tips that follow are meant to help you avoid common and not-so-common mistakes. Buying a house or other property always involves some risk, but there are many ways to reduce those risks.

1. “As Is” Property Inspections

Some sellers (including banks) specify that a property is sold “as is.” Of course all properties are ultimately sold with no promises other than those made in writing. We take our chances. But if sellers won’t allow an inspector into a property, walk away. There is no good reason that a seller shouldn’t allow an inspection, and the bad reasons are a risk you don’t need. Banks generally won’t loan on properties under such conditions anyhow, so you may be in trouble with financing in any case.

2. Plan For The Unexpected

Plan on at least 10,000 for “unexpected costs” when buying any real estate. One investor I know, who was very careful in his planning and had done many rehab projects, still found that he averaged a couple thousand more that he estimated for total expenses. Even when you are buying a home for yourself you should expect the unexpected, and make it part of your budget.

3. Check The Attic

On older homes, be sure to pop your head up into the attic (or have the inspector do so). Have a flashlight with you. You want to look for signs of leaks, as well as looking to see if the wiring has been updated. There are still bare wires strung on ceramic insulators in some old homes. Note how thick the insulation is as well, and whether there are any signs of animals.

4. Lay Of The Land

Look at the way the land lays around a property. On a sunny day after a dry-spell, you might think nothing of the slope towards the house or buildings. But it almost certainly means there will be water pooling near the foundation every time it rains. See if there is proper drainage, and then look for any water stains on basement walls.

5. Negotiating Through Real Estate Agents

You might think you have to meet the seller in person to use most negotiating ploys, but there are some you can use even when a real estate agent will be presenting the offer. For example, you can hesitate when you make an offer, and suggest that you really didn’t want to go this high. You might even start talking about another investment or home opportunity that you’re looking at. The agent will certainly pass along this information, and may suggest that the seller accept the offer as written rather than risk chasing you away with a counter-offer.

6. Know Your Costs

This may be the most important of these real estate tips. You should plan for extra expenses as mentioned above, but you also need to know what your ongoing costs will be to honestly compare properties. This is true whether you are buying a home for yourself or investing. Property tax and insurance rates can be very different from one property to another, for example, especially if they are in different towns. One house can cost twice as much to heat. Mortgage rates can be substantially higher on a home if it is classified as a mobile home (and some double-wide mobiles look like standard “stick built” houses). Calculate what you’ll be paying at closing, of course, but also know what your ongoing expenses will be.