Buying my First House (many questions)

So CrazyCatLady and I just returned from our first house-buying excursion down in NC. We found four places we liked, and we’ve finally settled on one of them to pursue first.

This being our first foray into home ownership, we have several questions. I thought I’d post them here, since I guess some of you have done this before.

–Is there anything important that a standard home inspection is going to miss? For instance, we’d like to know if the basement leaks. Would we get that sort of information?

–On the same token, how important is it that we’re present for the home inspection? Our realtor will be there, and we have every reason to trust her.

–We looked the current owners up in the phone book while we were down there. (They were gone, of course, while we were being shown the house.) Is it kosher to just call them up and ask them some questions, or should we direct them all through the realtor?

–(Here’s a big one.) How much should we offer? The house lists for $130,000, and it’s been on the market for quite a while. I think it will go for somewhat less, but I don’t know where to start.

–Any other important bits of advice?

More questions as they arise, I assure you.

Dr. J

Licensed Real Estate Agent checking in here…

Make sure that you have hired a licensed inspector, and do not go on just the mortgage company “inspection”. The “inspector” the mortgage company will send out is NOT looking for anything beyond things that interest the mortgage company. You need to hire the inspector, and yes, you need to be there. He/she should spend a minimum of 2 hours going over every single thing in that house–turn on and run all appliances, faucets, flush toilets, run showers, check under the house, in the attic, etc. ANYTHING that could possibly be wrong should be checked for.

Do not under any circumstances contact the owners directly. This would be akin to talking to someone you are suing directly instead of going through your attorney. The real estate agent is there to look out for your interests and knows what to say and what not to say. If the owners would talk to you, they certainly shouldn’t, as it could jeopardize the contractual relationship. Anything you want to know the answer to, you can ask your realtor to find out. If your realtor won’t, then go to the broker. Do not contact the sellers directly.

If your realtor is any good, she should prepare a detailed market analysis for you showing you the average sale price per square foot in that particular neighborhood. She should also be giving you property disclosure forms listing anything and everything the sellers know about the property. She can help you to determine why the house has been listed for so long and offer recommendations as to offering price, but she is obligated to write a contract for whatever amount you ask her to and present that offer as written.

Oh, and I always advise my clients not to “low-ball” the seller. Figure out your best price, then offer a little less. If you go in with an outrageously low offer, often times the seller is insulted and will not even make a counter offer. So don’t be insulting, but make an offer that allows you a little wiggle room should the seller counter your initial offer.

'The money you spend on a Liscensed home inspector ($200-500) is worth every penny. There is another inspector you should get, that I can’t remember, that is about $100. ( I will look it up.)

When you are in a house always turn on all the faucets in every room that has them to check for water pressure. Flush all the toilets, run the bath tub/shower to see if they work.

If the house is on a well, get the water tested (about $50-75) to see the quality level of it. ( We have arsenic in our, hoorah! But it’s free, Yea! I have special powers! I can bend Uri Geller with my spoon!)

Knock on the walls to see if they sound hollow. (Oh wait, in NC you won’t have a problem with something called ‘winter’.) If it’s hollow, its probably missing insulation. Insulation is key north of the Mason Dixie Cup.

(this part is pure brain fart.) NC is in the hurricane swirly pattern on TV. When you talk to the neighbors - next brain fart paragraph down) ask them how is the weather during that? Are you on a flood plain.

Meet the neighbors. Go over and introduce yourselves. " Hi, we are two heterosexuals looking into this neighborhood…is your wife a go-er? :smiley: …How are the schools, local restaurants/etc " to get a feel for the area and them. If they are assholes at that moment, guess what…it probably won’t get any better.

Most importantly, Pay attention here, this is life and death information how far and how fast is the local pizza joint and do they deliver. WE have no pizza delivery here. (So, nine years later, I learned to make my own. Recipe available for a small nominal fee of $39.95. Taxes and destination charges extra.
Naturally, the next Straight Dope Truck Pull and Hog Calling Contest is at your place, Doctor J!

When in doubt, buy the Dummie’s Guide. I highly recommend any book from the series. It should cover just about any question you may have.

Here’s a link to where you can buy the book at a discount from

Dummies Guide to Buying a House