Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-14-2019, 05:07 PM
CairoCarol is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 5,000

I'm an idiot, and I'm buying a house! Please help me with my journey.


Because I am getting a divorce, and my husband would like to keep the house I now live in (I'm in Hawaii, he is in Indonesia), I need to purchase my own place.

I'm not a stupid person (usually), but offhand I can't think of any person with no diagnosed intellectual disability who is less prepared for handling this kind of thing by themselves. For nearly 4 decades of our relationship, my husband took care of EVERYTHING related to finances. When we bought the house I'm in now, all I did was smile vaguely, sign on the dotted line, and start plotting where to put stuff.

Thankfully, money is not a huge problem; I can pay cash, I don't need a mortgage. Still, I know nothing about what I'm going to need to deal with.

I have a real estate agent and have been regularly examining listings and doing the occasional drive-by for several months now. I just toured a house that is - well, not perfect (nothing in life ever is), but damn close. It has two features that aren't easy to come by which are very important to me.

So, I'm about 24 hours away from telling the agent I want to make an offer. Will you, my fellow Dopers, follow along with this process and answer my ignorant questions so that I don't make any enormous missteps?

Here's what I'm thinking at the moment is most important: I want to make sure that I am taking ALL costs into account, so that I am not hit with expenses I had not considered. I've looked up "closing costs" on line but after a cursory look I haven't found a site that is helpful. (If anyone has site recommendations, I'm listening.)

So: costs. What should I be prepared for? What I know about, or think I know about:
  • I have to pay for an inspection
  • The seller will pay for a survey.
  • I'll have to pay for homeowner's insurance.
  • I have to pay to move my stuff, obviously.
  • I should budget for any modifications I want to make so the house is livable for me (there are two or three things: an island in the kitchen, an asphalt pad so I can turn the car around in the poorly designed driveway, a screen door to close off an open area in the back).

What am I missing?

And here's my super stupid question:I thought I would have to pay a fee to my RE agent? Or does that come from the seller? (See, I told you I was clueless.)

HELP!

My hope is that this thread will conclude in a few weeks/months with a link to a photo of me smiling in front of my new digs. But getting from here to there is terrifying for me - I am really counting on Dopers to help, and I know you will. Wish me luck!
__________________
If I waited for memory to serve, I'd starve.
  #2  
Old 09-14-2019, 06:42 PM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Here are a few things from having bought three houses:

Go back to the house, if you haven't already. Go through it and visualize where your stuff will go. Do things like open doors, flush the toilets, and run the faucets. Look for holes and stuff that might be behind the furniture. It is easy to not see things on the first look.
Also, drive by the house in the evening. Any loud neighbors? Does it seem safe? Are there people walking dogs on the streets?
Make sure you know what stuff like window treatments stay and what leaves. That's another source of expense - whoops, my bedroom window has no covering.
Find the nearest hardware store. You'll be visiting it frequently.
No you don't directly pay the realtor.
Don't fall in love with the house so much that you can't bargain, depending on what your market is like. Paying cash gives you an advantage. You don't come with contingencies.
How old are the appliances? How old is the roof? How old is the plumbing? If the roof is 40 years old or something, you might need to budget for a new one.
When you go back to the house, look for staging tricks. I don't know about your market but in mine staging is a big deal. They built a block of new houses one block from me, and touring them - not being the least bit interested in buying - was instructive. One bedroom had a tiny bed to make it look bigger. One room had the door removed, ditto. The bathroom had only light curtains - which wouldn't do since it looked out over the back of a liquor store. Nothing wrong with staging but it might lead you to think you have more room than you do.
Oh, and at closing ask for the name of a handyman. Chance are you'll need one, and it helps to have one who knows the house. On the other hand, if the work done is crap, good reason not to use him.
I'm sure others will have a ton of additional items.
  #3  
Old 09-14-2019, 06:51 PM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
One more thing. See if the community you are moving to has NextDoor or something like it, and take a look. You'll get the usual idiots, of course, but if everyone is complaining about break ins it might be useful to know about it ahead of time. These are also good sources of recommendations for workers.
  #4  
Old 09-14-2019, 06:58 PM
Hilarity N. Suze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Denver
Posts: 8,030
Most important thing about it is, buy the house intellectually not emotionally. In my house-buying experience I've found this is hard. I don't know why. On preview: Yeah, don't fall in love with the house. But as I said, I always did, and it was weird things. With the current house, it's because the tub/shower in both bathrooms is separated from the toilet. In one bathroom it's an actual separate room. I like this because I hate lying in a nice bubble bath and looking at the toilet because there is always something about a toilet that should have been cleaned but wasn't, and the bath is not where I want to think about that.

Don't use an inspector recommended by the realtor. There should be some kind of home inspection group and you can get a recommendation from them. My bad story: I had lined up a reputable home inspector who was a retired mechanical engineer with lots of home-inspection experience, but my realtor spoke of some time pressure and said she had someone who could do it sooner and we needed to. Well. That was a bad mistake. He was actually a personal trainer who WANTED to become a home inspector. Every step of the way he was like, "Well, this doesn't look real good, maybe you should have an electrician check it out...I don't know. Well, this looks like it could have been a problem at one time but I don't know about plumbing, maybe you should have a plumber check it out." And so forth.

In general going forward I am going to consider any time pressure at all a red flag. "Oh we better do this quick or somebody else is gonna buy it." Okay. Let somebody else buy it. This is where you need the head and not the heart.

Yeah, I bought the house anyway.

IME the seller pays the realtor. The buyer pays for the inspection. If the inspection reveals problems that can be fixed, that can result in a downward price adjustment.

If you're planning exterior modifications, make sure that you can actually do them. I.e., check for zoning, HOA, city rules, things like that.

As for what you have to budget, also IME there is always some furniture that worked in your old place but does not work in the new place. Like, my old couch looked fine in the old house, in the new house it was too long to fit one place, not really what I wanted in the other place, and in my new living room it looked shabby no matter what. In the previous house it was the dining room table; just didn't work. YMMV.

There is also the issue of window treatments. When we looked at our house, it had curtains. They were ugly so I was going to replace them anyway, but when we actually took possession they were gone.

Oh! They also put in the contract that what went with the house in terms of appliancews was only the washer and microwave, in other words they were taking the refrigerator and dryer. It was a nice washing machine. When we took possession, there was a different washing machine and it was a POS. So get everything in writing! including brand names and maybe even model numbers

(We also had to put in a dishwasher. This place, built in 1956, had never had a dishwasher! Unbelievable. Well it has one now.)

Last edited by Hilarity N. Suze; 09-14-2019 at 07:00 PM.
  #5  
Old 09-14-2019, 07:08 PM
Hilarity N. Suze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Denver
Posts: 8,030
Missed edit: A friend of mine bought a brand-new McMansion (I don't call it that in front of her) for over $1 million, and the water in the upstairs en-suite bathroom does not get hot enough for a good shower, and nobody can figure out why. She's had various plumbers and heat experts trying to figure it out. So she has this beautiful shower, top of the line, with a gas fireplace in the bathroom, and she has to either shower in room-temperature water or go to a different bathroom.*

This is something I never thought to check when looking at houses either. Does the water get hot? How fast? If you're taking a shower and the automatic sprinkler system kicks in are you going to get scalded? Yeah, I don't even know if it's possible to check THAT out.

*She also has a long driveway with lights all the way to the street. Half of them have never worked either. She never looked at the place at night so she didn't know. And like I said, brand new house.
  #6  
Old 09-14-2019, 07:18 PM
harmonicamoon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Yucatan, Mexico
Posts: 3,043
Don't buy, rent.

Some people believe they have to own. Believe me, renting is so much better. Neighborhood turns to shit, just move. If you were married for 40 years, you might not be a spring chicken. And you said you are able to pay cash, so, you must have a stash. What is the deal about having to own it? Rent and you have a stash to travel.

Rent. Don't get in a hurry to purchase. If you feel you have to own, you can do it later.

Probably not the advice you are seeking. But, think about it.
  #7  
Old 09-14-2019, 07:36 PM
Morgyn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: In the time stream
Posts: 5,825
Find out how old the HVAC system is, and its service history. If the house is over 15 years old and these are originals, you may need to get a new furnace, A/C unit, or water heater (they'll be more energy efficient, anyway).

How old is the electrical wiring? Older homes can have aluminum wiring, and if someone installed modern plugs with copper, this can be a fire hazard.

Have a look at the panel and see how many circuits it has and how many are in use. The fewer the switches, the older it is and the more likely you'll wind up having to rewire the house. Check that the heavy-draw appliances are on their own circuits (a circuit specifically for the kitchen appliances, for example, so that the range, fridge, dishwasher are not on the same circuits as the lights in the kitchen; also a circuit specifically for the washer and dryer). Check that the bathrooms and the kitchen have GFCI plugs.

Find out how old the windows are. Are they double or triple paned? How well do the outside doors fit? Do they have weather stripping to prevent gaps? Is the weather stripping flexible (good) or does it look stiff, old, and cracked (bad)?

If the house is over 20 (30?) years old, you may have to worry about asbestos insulation. Over 40 or so, and the original paint (which is no doubt under several layers) may be lead paint.

Has the house had a lot of renovation work? Was it hired done or was it done by the homeowners? This can be a red flag, because many homeowners aren't aware of building codes and safety requirements. Lots of the house renovation shows, when they open the walls they'll find that someone cut a supporting joist to run a plumbing pipe, or that the wiring is actually knob and tube and only looks modern at the outlet (but this last is only likely to be an issue if you are buying a really old house).

Hire your own real estate lawyer to examine the contract before you sign it. It can save you a lot of grief.

If possible, get a look at the utility bills for the last year. That'll give you an idea of how much it costs to heat, cool, light, and keep yourself in water, but high bills can also flag hidden issues in the house. Ask the local utilities what an average cost is for a house like that as a comparison.

Find out what the property and school taxes are on the house. That's an additional yearly expense you need to budget for.

Check with the local police department for crime statistics in the neighborhood.
  #8  
Old 09-14-2019, 08:25 PM
digs's Avatar
digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: West of Wauwatosa
Posts: 9,991
Speaking of the neighborhood, take a couple of walks in your "new" 'hood. We did that, and met some nice folks.

And actually had a woman stop us and ask "You're the nice couple thinking about the Winston place, aren't you? Well, you need to know how she neglected the house. And let her dogs and cats pee anywhere!" So we took a handyman friend to the house with us, and he gave us an inventory of all the walls and flooring that'd have to be replaced to get rid of the effects of her pet care.

Too bad, it was a cute house in a cute neighborhood (biggest selling point? Chalk all over the sidewalks; happy kids everywhere). Twenty years later and we often say "Too bad about the Cat Pee House..."
  #9  
Old 09-14-2019, 08:36 PM
DorkVader's Avatar
DorkVader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: boise idaho
Posts: 2,779
What is the condition of tue driveway, is there a public sidewalk in front of the property? What is the condition of that? What I mean is, are there low spots where it looks like water pools? Is the driveway totally flat or does it slope ever so slightly away from the house. Possibly a low spot where the drive enters the garage? What about the foundation, any cracks or visible repairs? Take a bubble level and check the floors and counters for levelness. Foundation repair or replacement is not an expense you want.

Oh, yeah, you (obviously) want the driveway to he smooth and even and ever so slightly sloped so water runs off away from the house
__________________
"The Wonka will show you the true nature of the chocolate, He is your master now."
Darth Desserticola, Sith Hare

Last edited by DorkVader; 09-14-2019 at 08:38 PM.
  #10  
Old 09-14-2019, 08:50 PM
markn+ is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: unknown; Speed: exactly 0
Posts: 2,659
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgyn View Post
Hire your own real estate lawyer to examine the contract before you sign it. It can save you a lot of grief.
+100 on this one.

You're going to get a lot of advice in this thread, some undoubtedly good and some maybe less so, but I urge you to take this one very seriously. I just completed an out-of-state real estate transaction which went as smoothly as could be hoped for, solely because I had a local lawyer on my side, reading all the paperwork, interpreting things for me that I was unfamiliar with because of differing state laws, advising me on what was normal and what was not (who knew that termite inspections are not a normal part of homebuying everywhere?) Without the lawyer I would have been much more anxious throughout the whole process and I may not have done as well as I could have. The lawyer's whole fee was less than $1000 and her services could have saved me thousands.
  #11  
Old 09-14-2019, 09:01 PM
Musicat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Sturgeon Bay, WI USA
Posts: 21,267
As a RealtorTM, but in the state of Wisconsin, I have some advice. Note that there are major differences between US states, so some things I say here might not apply to your state.

I highly advise you to hire a Buyer's Agent. In my state, as a buyer, you have a choice from your agent -- he/she can be a Buyer's Agent or a Listing Agent, or a sub-agent of the Listing Agent. Obviously, representing you instead of the seller is to your advantage. There probably won't be any cost associated with your choice. Ask about this.

Who pays for what (inspections, tests, etc.) is not set in law. Any party can pay for any item. Granted, there are conventional practices, but these can be altered in the offer. If you want to make the offer more attractive, offer to pay for more items. If it doesn't matter, don't.

In my state, it is unethical to recommend any specific workman such as inspectors or plumbers. We are required to supply a list of choices for the buyer to chose from. With regards to appraisals ordered by lenders, federal law requires them to choose, in rotation, from the next appraiser on the list. The intention is to remove bias.
  #12  
Old 09-14-2019, 09:55 PM
asahi's Avatar
asahi is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: On your computer screen
Posts: 10,800
Get a lawyer. Who handles real estate.
  #13  
Old 09-14-2019, 10:45 PM
Sunny Daze's Avatar
Sunny Daze is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Bay Area Urban Sprawl
Posts: 12,831
Congratulations on finding a house!

Ask your real estate agent to do an estimated set of closing costs for you. They should be able to put that together easily.

I look forward to hearing more as this all comes together.
  #14  
Old 09-14-2019, 11:42 PM
sps49sd is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 553
Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
...I highly advise you to hire a Buyer's Agent. In my state, as a buyer, you have a choice from your agent -- he/she can be a Buyer's Agent or a Listing Agent, or a sub-agent of the Listing Agent. Obviously, representing you instead of the seller is to your advantage. There probably won't be any cost associated with your choice. Ask about this.
I second this.

I have bought only one house and it was nice dealing with someone who was not paid by the seller.
  #15  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:00 AM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgyn View Post

Check with the local police department for crime statistics in the neighborhood.
That's a good idea. Around here another thing to look at are the test scores from the various schools. Real estate values are strongly dependent on this. Might not be true in other places.
  #16  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:02 AM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonicamoon View Post
Don't buy, rent.

Some people believe they have to own. Believe me, renting is so much better. Neighborhood turns to shit, just move. If you were married for 40 years, you might not be a spring chicken. And you said you are able to pay cash, so, you must have a stash. What is the deal about having to own it? Rent and you have a stash to travel.

Rent. Don't get in a hurry to purchase. If you feel you have to own, you can do it later.

Probably not the advice you are seeking. But, think about it.
If I had followed this advice the last time I bought, a bit over 20 years ago, I would have been out a million bucks in appreciation. Just sayin'
  #17  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:41 AM
CairoCarol is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 5,000
Just popping in to say I'm reading and digesting the responses ... thank you all ... I'll come back with more specific comments in the next 24 hours or so, but I am very appreciative of the care going into the above posts even though I'm too sleepy/emotionally wrung out(*) to answer right now. Questions will follow soon.

(*) Related although tangential point: After posting the above, one painful task I soldiered on through today was talking to the STBX about freeing up money for the purchase while the divorce paperwork remains in limbo. Not a fun conversation to have, but avoiding it doesn't do anyone any favors, so I bit the bullet and did it. Sigh, yay me, whatever. It shall be worked out.
__________________
If I waited for memory to serve, I'd starve.
  #18  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:53 AM
glee is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Obama country
Posts: 15,611
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonicamoon View Post
Don't buy, rent.
The first property I bought (in 1987) was for $37,000. I spent $2,400 on it and sold it a year later for $51,000.
I bought my current home in 1989 for $75,000. It's now valued at $260,000.

Of course I've paid no rent in that time (and as a home owner my credit score is outstanding.)
__________________
Arnold Winkelried:
'glee, I take my hat off to you.... at first I thought you were kidding with your cite but I looked it up and it was indeed accurate. (Still in awe at the magnificent answer)'
  #19  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:40 AM
Hari Seldon is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Trantor
Posts: 13,059
There are several advantages to buying over renting: Taxes first. Even if you have no mortgage, or maybe especially then, all the money you have invested in the house is paying dividends in the form of rent. And all those dividends are untaxed. It is my pet peeve that renters are subsidizing home owners, but they are. Second, any changes you want to make you can. Of course, you will need local permits for major structural changes, but there is no one to tell you not to hand pictures, install shelving, renovate the kitchen. And third, it is a great way of saving for retirement. The house I bought 47 years was sold in the spring at 31 times the purchase price. Accordingly to an inflation calculator it should have sold for somewhere between 5 and 6 times. When you rent, the rent you pay is just money spent, no return.
  #20  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:42 AM
CairoCarol is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 5,000
Voyager – thanks, your advice helps me think I’m on the right track. I’d never heard of NextDoor; it looks like a good resource (somewhat to my surprise it does seem to exist in the neighborhood I’m looking at).

Hilarity – thanks for the tip about the inspector. I don’t think any modification I have in mind would need a permit, but you’ve reminded me that I should at least find out. (Permits are next to impossible to get in a timely fashion here; nearly all of the RE listings mention “unpermitted structures.” This house has an unpermitted roof over the lanai. People are very open about these things, it’s just the way things are in East Hawaii.) The window treatment question is a great one – I already checked and they are leaving the blinds, which is quite important to me as (and this I know from tiresome experience) considerable time and expense can be involved otherwise. This house doesn’t have a dishwasher – neither does the one I’m in. (Strangely, they both have disposals, which aren’t that common around here.) I swear, I spend an hour or more a day doing dishes. Getting a dishwasher installed is #1 on my list of things to do.

harmonica moon, I’m always interested in different points of view but it would take a lot of work to convince me to rent. I’m 60, and not to be bleak, but I want a home I can live in for the rest of my life, or have as an asset to sell should I need to move to some kind of care facility. And I do want to be able to make modifications so my living space really suits me. Plus, I have 3 cats. Just doesn’t seem like a good fit for being a renter.

Morgyn, thanks, I wouldn’t have thought of the electrical questions (except I did think of the GFCI outlets, and then forgot to look when I was in the house). HVAC concerns are minimal around here as neither AC nor heating are needed (pretty great temperatures year ‘round, windows open all the time, and we just use ceiling fans on hot days), but the water heater is key.

Digs – love the Cat Pee House story. The house I want is in a fantastic (by my standards) neighborhood – quite rural with lots of nature everywhere. You’ve just made me focus on the fact that the house next door is also for sale. That has potential in terms of making friends; at some point maybe I can team up with another newbie, if whoever buys the other place is compatible.

DorkVader – the driveway is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s long and sloped, with gracious palms lining the drive; quite beautiful, in fact. So you drive up and then it just ends at the garage, meaning there is no good way to turn around, so you get to back down that long driveway. Good grief. (Pic here, taken from standing at the front of the garage looking out.. The previous owners dealt with this stupidity (which all the houses around have) by driving over the grass and parking in the back under an awning. My agent says, “we call that a Puna garage.” So I guess it’s a Hawaii thing. (Puna is a section of the island that has a rep for attracting, um, free-spirited types.)

Since neither the back-down-the-driveway or Puna garage options appeal to me, I’m going to put in an asphalt pad next to the garage so I can turn around and drive forward.
__________________
If I waited for memory to serve, I'd starve.
  #21  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:25 PM
thorny locust's Avatar
thorny locust is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 1,273
Chiming in re the buyers' agent. You said you have a realtor; but you almost certainly don't have a realtor. The seller has a realtor; that's why you're not the one paying the realtor.

And also chiming in that you need to get a lawyer. Have the lawyer check everything you're supposed to sign before you sign it.

In some areas requiring a house inspection (for condition and repair of all sorts of things, and for existence of possible hazards) has become quite common. You can make an offer contingent on the results of the home inspection, or for that matter contingent on all sorts of things, which will allow you to back out without penalty or without much penalty if problems are discovered.

Is this place on city water and septic? If not, make any offer contingent on both the well and the septic system passing testing/inspection -- and check water supply for quantity and taste as well as safety.

(If anything fails inspection, and it's something fixable -- wells sometimes are fixable and sometimes not -- and you like the place enough to fix it, you may be able to get the sellers either to fix it before you close on the property, or to reduce the price by enough to cover your costs to fix it after closing.)

Go talk to the neighbors! You may find out something about the place that the realtors don't know. And you'll find out something about the neighbors. Are they all keep-to-yourself types who don't much even want to talk to you -- and if so, are you one yourself, and will fit right in, or would you be better off elsewhere? Does the second house to the south host loud parties every weekend and, if so, will they invite you, and do you want to go, or will the noise just drive you crazy? Is your back yard a well-known and well-used shortcut to the school? (In the first place I bought, it turned out that it was.)

Also check what the zoning is. Check this even if all you want to do is live in what's obviously a house -- that lovely big open field across the way may be zoned commercial, that single-family block may have been re-zoned for high-rise mixed use. This may be fine with you, or it may not, but it's good to know about it. And it's useful to know whether or not you can put in an in-law apartment, or set up a home business, or have a few chickens or a third or fourth dog, if you ever might want to do so.

Both zoning and neighbors can change; and neighbors almost certainly will. But there's no need to move into a situation that's there already if it's going to be, for you, a major problem.
  #22  
Old 09-15-2019, 03:05 PM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
In my town we needed a permit for our spa. Some towns might have weird requirements. The people who issue them will let you know, and if you use a certified builder or repair person they will know also.

Beware of HOAs also. There is a house near to me that just got bought and needed a new roof. The HOA has some ridiculous roof requirement, in terms of look. The roof is now half done and sitting there, and the new owners are not surprisingly not paying to keep the place they can't live in up.

As for inspections, do them, and make the purchase contingent on passing or the problems being fixed. People we know bought a house using an (idiot) friend as a real estate agent. She advised them to not worry about inspections. (I think she needed the commission.) They listened to her (they are idiots also) and bought the house and, surprise, surprise, are discovering all sorts of expensive problems.
  #23  
Old 09-15-2019, 06:41 PM
Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 13,839
Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Chiming in re the buyers' agent. You said you have a realtor; but you almost certainly don't have a realtor. The seller has a realtor; that's why you're not the one paying the realtor.

And also chiming in that you need to get a lawyer. Have the lawyer check everything you're supposed to sign before you sign it.
Just adding a cautious note in here that should check how things are done locally. In New York I believe it's law that all real estate contracts of sale have to be drawn up by the principle or their attorney, so you want a buyer's attorney to represent your own interests.

In CA this is not the case and as opposed to NY lawyers just aren't used a lot for standard real estate transactions. Here the paperwork is mostly drawn up and executed by a neutral title company. And the buyer's agent in CA typically is a realtor, just representing the buyer for that particular transaction and their commission is indeed customarily paid by the seller. Getting an attorney is still perfectly reasonable, but most folks are not interested in shelling out extra cash for what around here is not required unless the transaction is unusually complicated.

All states function a bit differently, so what may be customary in CA or NY may not hold true in Hawaii.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-15-2019 at 06:41 PM.
  #24  
Old 09-15-2019, 10:40 PM
Morgyn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: In the time stream
Posts: 5,825
Quote:
Originally Posted by CairoCarol View Post
Morgyn, thanks, I wouldn’t have thought of the electrical questions (except I did think of the GFCI outlets, and then forgot to look when I was in the house). HVAC concerns are minimal around here as neither AC nor heating are needed (pretty great temperatures year ‘round, windows open all the time, and we just use ceiling fans on hot days), but the water heater is key.
Just remember, the global climate is changing. Didn't used to be you needed A/C in the UK and Europe. People are now dying of heat stroke there because they are getting at least one or two heat waves a summer and almost no one has A/C. What is sufficient now may not be in the not so distant future. (Why yes, I'm paranoid, why do you ask?)

Oh, yeah, given it's Hawai'i: How close are you to an active volcano, and how far are you from the coast where hurricanes and tsunamis can roll in from?
  #25  
Old 09-15-2019, 11:26 PM
ZipperJJ's Avatar
ZipperJJ is offline
Just Lovely and Delicious
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 25,492
My advice to you: Hundreds of thousands of idiots buy houses every year and they are just fine. I promise you you're less of an idiot than them. I was a 25 year old single lady when I bought my house and it's been fine for 15 years now. Not everything will be perfect but you will find a way to overcome the problem. No need to be afraid of what might happen. You got this.
  #26  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:30 AM
Nava is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 42,726
Quote:
Originally Posted by CairoCarol View Post
So: costs. What should I be prepared for? What I know about, or think I know about:
  • I have to pay for an inspection
  • The seller will pay for a survey.
  • I'll have to pay for homeowner's insurance.
  • I have to pay to move my stuff, obviously.
  • I should budget for any modifications I want to make so the house is livable for me (there are two or three things: an island in the kitchen, an asphalt pad so I can turn the car around in the poorly designed driveway, a screen door to close off an open area in the back).
I imagine it will be ok to stay where you are right now during any work that's needed in the new house before moving in, but still, that needs to be considered.
Also, your stuff needs to be moved but also whittled down (of anything which doesn't work well with the new house or which you don't want any more) and completed/replaced; there may be things currently in your new house that you just don't want there, as well. The good news is, after several international moves this part should be a hitch; also, the replacement part doesn't need to be done yesterday.

I just finally was able to take down that closet which completely enveloped the radiator in my bathroom. I only bought the house in 2007! Mind you, there have been calendar years I only set foot here to empty the mailbox and change the position of the blinds, but still...
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.
  #27  
Old 09-16-2019, 07:14 AM
Razncain is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: TX & CO
Posts: 1,677
Lots of good advice given, and absolutely, about NOT using an inspector the realtor recommends. Lots of people on the good ole boy network here.

Get a homeowners declarations page. Find out about insurance costs, past claims, any known issues about the home in terms of repairs that has been done, any flooding issues, mold, easements, etc, etc. They can still hide stuff, but in the event it was proven that something was not declared and was a known issue, this is something that can make them liable, and if serious enough, gives you the option to back out, and preferably you find this out before closing, but still protects you, just may cost you more if you discover it after closing.

Check and double check that survey. Look for utilities, other easements and right of ways.

My friend and his wife has been trying to buy a house in Arkansas or Missouri for the last two years, he doesn't miss anything. The realtor, as usual had plenty of recommendations for inspection, but he just says to her, "ma'am, I'm not trying to be rude or arrogant, but I just prefer to do my own inspections and think I can do a better job." She just smiled and say good luck then.

Many times, from his experience, he found some realtors trying to downplay it, or they have somebody that can fix that problem quite easily. At times, some of this stuff is minor, but usually homes can have some serious issues. One of these he found was another easement problem, and she said her friends said he can have that fixed in a day or two. He says back to her," if your friend thinks this can be fixed in a day or two, he doesn't know what he's talking about." Sure enough, with this particular easement issue he found, and not being on the declaration page (often they plead ignorance) and after being promised it would be corrected quite easily, two months later it still wasn't resolved, so realtor finally said homeowner agreed to sell it to them $25,000 less without having fixed the easement problem. Naturally they walked.

After you've done most of the work, or had someone you can trust help do a lot of it for you, then run it buy a lawyer, see if he still sees anything that still may have been overlooked.

If everything still looks good, and if you haven't already done so, it is time to meet the neighbors. They can be a wealth of information. Some neighbors are heaven sent, others destined for hell.
  #28  
Old 09-16-2019, 08:11 AM
Ravenman is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 26,666
I would add for the buyer's agent: I had a fantastic experience with Redfin several years ago, in which I got a rebate for the fees for the buyer's agent that the agent didn't charge.

What happens is this: the seller hires an agent and agrees to pay the two agents involved a particular percentage of the sales price. Seems like these percentages have gotten lower over time, but let's say this contract provides for 2% commission to the buyer's agent (again, coming out of the seller's proceeds).

The agent I had worked under a policy that he would only accept 1%. So the buyer paid my agent 2%, and my agent turned around and wrote me a check for like $15,000 or something, and he kept the rest for himself.

Long way of saying this: I'm not endorsing any particular agent or service, but asking about your agent's commission could save you a handsome sum.
  #29  
Old 09-16-2019, 10:50 AM
Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 56,492
I worked in real estate for 26 years. I agree with checking with the local police department about the area. And spend a few nights in the area and take note of how any police cars patrol around, particularly on weekends.

What about local schools, parks, stores, churches, and even laudromats. You might be using all of them.

My two tips for dealing with the government: Do it as little as possible, and do what they say. Do not fight them, you rarely win such battles.
  #30  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:23 PM
teela brown is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Almost Silicon Valley
Posts: 9,591
Take a drive along the street which is behind the property you're looking at. How does the house look which is just behind your potential property? Like a burned-out drug den or frat party pad? Strewn with lots of those giant plastic kids' toys? (Might be a clandestine day care center, like what happened to us once when we rented a home.)
  #31  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:28 PM
Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 56,492
Near a school? After school and night time events can be noisy.

Near a church? Expect noise and parking issues Sundays and during church events.

Check the town's laws regarding snow removal: when and how much. The big front yard ain't so great when you have to shovel two feet of snow off the sidewalk in front of it.

Last edited by Annie-Xmas; 09-16-2019 at 12:31 PM.
  #32  
Old 09-16-2019, 12:48 PM
TriPolar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 40,673
Adding to the chorus on hiring your own lawyer.

Also, your house and your property are a canvas that someone already painted on, but you can paint over what they've done. When picking a house think about how it could look some day. And keep in mind the seller has made the house as clean and shiny as possible, it's not always going to look like that no matter what you do.
  #33  
Old 09-16-2019, 03:15 PM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post

Check the town's laws regarding snow removal: when and how much. The big front yard ain't so great when you have to shovel two feet of snow off the sidewalk in front of it.
She's in Hawaii. Probably as much an issue as it is for me in the Bay Area.
Location, location, location.
  #34  
Old 09-16-2019, 03:38 PM
Morgyn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: In the time stream
Posts: 5,825
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
She's in Hawaii. Probably as much an issue as it is for me in the Bay Area.
Location, location, location.
If she's far enough up the slopes of a volcano, she could get snow. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa both get snow. Not often, and not deep, but it happens. (And you cannot imagine how surprised I was to learn that, too.)
  #35  
Old 09-16-2019, 05:13 PM
echoreply's Avatar
echoreply is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 899
Along with the buy with your head not you heart: Be willing to walk after the inspection. It might be the best $3-500 you spend, and end up saving you thousands in the long run. The inspection is likely to find a few problems, and maybe they're things you ask to be fixed, or just accept that you'll deal with yourself. At some point the number of problems might get long enough that it's just time to move on. It might not even be the expense, as $15-25k for repairs might be in your budget. It can be not wanting to spend the next few years moving from one home project to the next trying to get everything in shape.
  #36  
Old 09-16-2019, 05:48 PM
carnut is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: State of Hockey
Posts: 4,904
I am in my second home, this one is a condo. I was looking to downsize and there wasn't a lot on the market. This condo came with a 6-months warranty that my realtor extended to one year as a housewarming present from her (she is a personal friend too). The unit was built in 1988 and still had the original HVAC and appliances. I had forgotten about the warranty but knew I wanted to replace the appliances anyway so I went ahead and did that on my own and am happy with the result. However, I kept having problems with the ancient air conditioner once spring rolled around. Hmm.

In the mail comes a letter asking if I want to renew the home warranty. Wow! I had completely forgotten it, so I call to report an HVAC problem. After several trials and failures at fixes (because problems were many), I end up with a new system and the cost to me is small (for things not covered by the warranty). I am amazed and thrilled that this worked out in my favor. Consider asking for a home warranty if the home was built in the 80s or early 90s. Not saying you will need it, but what a relief it was there for me when I had been laid off my job.
  #37  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:25 PM
digs's Avatar
digs is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: West of Wauwatosa
Posts: 9,991
Quote:
Originally Posted by echoreply View Post
Along with the buy with your head not you heart: Be willing to walk after the inspection.
Or be willing to say "Look, the inspection found $15,000 of things that'll need fixing now (or in the next few years). Either fix those things, reduce the price by fifteen thousand, or I'm going to rent that trailer down the road til I can find the perfect house".
  #38  
Old 09-16-2019, 06:31 PM
CairoCarol is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 5,000
Thank you all for the continued comments - even though it isn't realistic to individually address everyone as the thread goes on, rest assured I appreciate and am taking to heart everything.

Perhaps I should give a little background on the neighborhood so everyone knows whether snow removal is likely to be a problem

The house is in Mountain View, Hawaii on a one-acre lot in a very quiet neighborhood. Houses on either side, empty field across the street, and the property abuts on a vacant, privately owned 15-acre plot. It's a 10-15 minute drive to the nearest "civilization," by which I mean gas station, post office, grocery store, etc. Population is increasing and it is most likely an "up and coming" area, in that as Hilo grows there is greater demand for nice housing in the adjacent towns.

Volcanoes, snow, and tsunamis are not a risk in Mountain View; its location is safe from all of those things. But it is absolutely relevant to point them out, as they do affect certain locations on island. (Well, maybe not the snow. There is only snow at the summit of Mauna Kea, and there are no residential areas up there, just telescopes.)

Morgyn's point about global warming is well taken! I just read the paper and it said we had record heat this weekend - 86 or even 90 degrees in some places! I think the house is structured in a way that would allow installation of an AC unit in a bedroom or two, but I'll certainly verify that at the same time I am going through a checklist that includes many good suggestions y'all are giving me.
__________________
If I waited for memory to serve, I'd starve.

Last edited by CairoCarol; 09-16-2019 at 06:34 PM.
  #39  
Old 09-16-2019, 07:09 PM
thorny locust's Avatar
thorny locust is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 1,273
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Check the town's laws regarding snow removal: when and how much. The big front yard ain't so great when you have to shovel two feet of snow off the sidewalk in front of it.
The OP's in Hawaii.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZipperJJ View Post
My advice to you: Hundreds of thousands of idiots buy houses every year and they are just fine. I promise you you're less of an idiot than them. I was a 25 year old single lady when I bought my house and it's been fine for 15 years now. Not everything will be perfect but you will find a way to overcome the problem. No need to be afraid of what might happen. You got this.
Quoted for truth.

You are definitely less of an idiot than a lot of people, because instead of assuming you know how to do everything you realize that you don't, so you're asking.
  #40  
Old 09-16-2019, 07:22 PM
CairoCarol is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hawaii
Posts: 5,000
Smallish update, which you should all skip unless you have some weird interest in these very boring details:

I'm still legally married (mostly because I dread the divorce paperwork and no one is holding a gun to my head to complete it) and spoke to my not-quite-ex husband about buying a house before the divorce is done, which means he'd end up signing some stuff to release funds from our joint assets. He's okay with it, sort of, but wants to be sure he has no legal liability/interest in any property I acquire. I've contacted my divorce attorney to discuss it but so far just left a message.

I did have a long chat with my financial advisor today, who thinks all the numbers work and that most likely I can structure the purchase so that it doesn't involve my husband in any way.

So, small steps forward.
__________________
If I waited for memory to serve, I'd starve.
  #41  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:14 AM
Nava is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 42,726
Quote:
Originally Posted by CairoCarol View Post
Morgyn's point about global warming is well taken! I just read the paper and it said we had record heat this weekend - 86 or even 90 degrees in some places! I think the house is structured in a way that would allow installation of an AC unit in a bedroom or two, but I'll certainly verify that at the same time I am going through a checklist that includes many good suggestions y'all are giving me.
Pretty much any house that's got exterior walls should be able to take a heat pump. Those are better than AC even if you're in a place where construction didn't include heating until it started including AC ("oh c'mon, it never gets cold here, why would you want heating?"), because when it does occasionally get cold it's a single machine for two uses and a heat pump is more efficient than other heating methods. Mine has a dehumidifier function too. You may want to check the cost of purchase plus installation and do it already, rather than after you've moved in.

Nava, who installed a heat pump in her "it never gets cold here", 1960s Barcelona flat and is superhappy about it.
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.

Last edited by Nava; 09-17-2019 at 12:18 AM.
  #42  
Old 09-17-2019, 01:30 AM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgyn View Post
If she's far enough up the slopes of a volcano, she could get snow. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa both get snow. Not often, and not deep, but it happens. (And you cannot imagine how surprised I was to learn that, too.)
We get snow on the tops of mountains here also. But not a lot of houses there.
  #43  
Old 09-17-2019, 01:36 AM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by CairoCarol View Post

Morgyn's point about global warming is well taken! I just read the paper and it said we had record heat this weekend - 86 or even 90 degrees in some places! I think the house is structured in a way that would allow installation of an AC unit in a bedroom or two, but I'll certainly verify that at the same time I am going through a checklist that includes many good suggestions y'all are giving me.
We just got central air here after 23 years, since the number of days of high heat have increased so much. We're well insulated, so consecutive days of high heat are the real problem.
Assuming you have heating, ask someone about how easy it would be to put in central air. In NJ it was very easy and cheap. Here the ducts were too small and it was a lot more expensive.

Our windows aren't designed to take window units. You can also have the air conditioner out through a wall - my father did that for one of ours when I was growing up.
  #44  
Old 09-17-2019, 01:53 AM
Nava is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Hey! I'm located! WOOOOW!
Posts: 42,726
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voyager View Post
Assuming you have heating,
In Hawaii? There's a reason I mentioned places where heating doesn't come built-in.
__________________
Evidence gathered through the use of science is easily dismissed through the use of idiocy. - Czarcasm.
  #45  
Old 09-18-2019, 05:01 AM
Nayna is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 200
I know upfront costs and the cost of homeowner's insurance were mentioned - have you looked into property taxes? Should be available online or from your agent.

I recently considered buying a small house nearby - I was going to pay cash for the house, but didn't go through with it because taxes came to over $300/month.
  #46  
Old 09-18-2019, 06:25 AM
chela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: michigan wnw
Posts: 1,903
Ymmv but Your RE agent should be able to answer many of your questions about closing costs, as well as estimate your property tax even if it’s currently non homesteaded which you’ll have to apply for that exemption from the taxing authority. Have you signed a buyers agency agreement? This document will identify how you will be represented on the contract negotiations. You are a cash buyer? Show proof of funds and You hold negotiating power in this sellers market!

Ready to write an offer? Have your agent go over the purchase agreement line by line. Once the offer is accepted the clock starts ticking on getting inspections done, financials etc. you have a window of time to reject the house based on inspections. If you come back with an addendum to contract with list of repairs beware this can negate your offer meaning the sellers can say nah we don’t accept your addendum for repairs, we’ll take another offer. You can’t back up the bus on the deal. Lots of ways for deals to go sideways. Your RE should have experience work under a reputable broker.
__________________
Real Oldies
communityradio
  #47  
Old 09-18-2019, 12:44 PM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,535
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
In Hawaii? There's a reason I mentioned places where heating doesn't come built-in.
Our addition only had wall heaters, which we used only a few times a year. We have it now, but it came more or less free with the air conditioning. And our climate, though good, isn't as good as Hawaii.
Central air is going to be a lot more expensive if you don't have heat and thus ductwork.
  #48  
Old 09-21-2019, 08:18 PM
Morgyn is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: In the time stream
Posts: 5,825
Something I just thought of. If there's any way to do it, have at least the framing of the house checked. Hawai'i is a moist climate <cough>, and you could have framing that is rotted or, worse, mouldy. Black mould is nothing to sneeze at (says the woman who just sneezed for 5 minutes straight which triggered the thought). There might be a way to do an air quality test by leaving an open, airtight container there for a day or two, closing it up, and having the contents lab tested.

Although for all I know, there are no mould issues in Hawai'i, black or otherwise, and the house is probably built with local wood that presumably is proof against water rot.
  #49  
Old 09-21-2019, 08:40 PM
DorkVader's Avatar
DorkVader is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: boise idaho
Posts: 2,779
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morgyn View Post
Something I just thought of. If there's any way to do it, have at least the framing of the house checked. Hawai'i is a moist climate <cough>, and you could have framing that is rotted or, worse, mouldy. Black mould is nothing to sneeze at (says the woman who just sneezed for 5 minutes straight which triggered the thought). There might be a way to do an air quality test by leaving an open, airtight container there for a day or two, closing it up, and having the contents lab tested.

Although for all I know, there are no mould issues in Hawai'i, black or otherwise, and the house is probably built with local wood that presumably is proof against water rot.
The person inspecting the home will (or at least should) be going into the crawlspace or basement and the attic with a good flashlight where you will most likely have these problems (be most easily seen) first, mold and signs of mold, is one of the things a competent inspector looks for since it is a direct sign that the structure has or had a water problem.

Indoor air quality testing is a standard thing for a mold remediation specialist to do.
It's done pretty much the ssme way that they get particulate or pollen counts for the air outside in a given area
__________________
"The Wonka will show you the true nature of the chocolate, He is your master now."
Darth Desserticola, Sith Hare

Last edited by DorkVader; 09-21-2019 at 08:44 PM.
  #50  
Old 09-21-2019, 08:58 PM
Riemann's Avatar
Riemann is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Santa Fe, NM, USA
Posts: 7,642
The notion that your agent is working for your interests is pure fiction. Of course, some agents (a small minority) are just honest people and will do so. But the system is set up to give agents a massive financial incentive to gloss over any problems to make the deal go through. You should proceed on the assumption that both seller's agent and your buyer's agent are effectively working to gloss over any problems and just make the deal go through.

Don't ever take a recommendation for an inspector, attorney or surveyor from an agent. Even if there's no explicit corruption, these people get a lot or business this way, and they know what keeps the agent happy and keeps the referrals coming - i.e. not highlighting problems that may be roadblocks to a smooth quick deal going through.

Hire your own attorney to review everything. Attorneys have much stricter rules that they must be working entirely in their client's interest, so you have much greater confidence that your attorney will highlight problems. An experienced real estate attorney can offer you broader advice on how to handle issues beyond just the legal docs, and where it's serious enough that it would be unwise to trust your agent.

Walk around the neighborhood several times, at different times of day, weekdays and weekends. Knock on the doors of your potential future neighbors, and ask them straight out if there are any problems in the neighborhood. People will tell you - they love to gossip about stuff that has been annoying them to somebody who will listen.

Last edited by Riemann; 09-21-2019 at 09:02 PM.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:40 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017