Here’s a question I get all the time from parents of first-time home buyers: “Would you let your daughter buy this house?” (I also often hear a similar question directly from buyers: “Would you buy this house yourself?”)
As a home inspector, I can give you all sorts of home inspection tips but it’s not my place to sell you a home, or to tell you not to buy it. I can’t straight-up tell you (or your daughter) “it’s a good house” or “stay away.”
But I do really appreciate questions like this. Because 9 times out of 10, the question the person is really asking is: “Can you please help us understand how to approach this decision?”
That, I’m more than happy to do!
Home Inspection Tips for First Time Buyers
When it comes to home inspection in the Upper Peninsula, there are so many crucial aspects to consider beyond aesthetics and location. One of the things I enjoy most about being a home inspector is to offer home inspection tips for my clients to help coach them through the home inspection process.
Buying a home can be overwhelming, especially for first timers. But remember, you’re not alone! I’ve compiled the following home inspection tips to help you approach the process of vetting a home calmly and confidently—even if it’s your very first time:
- Find a trustworthy real estate agent. A good agent is an indispensable ally in your home buying journey. Look for one whom you not only like personally, but who takes the time to understand your needs and will help guide you towards making the right choices for your budget, lifestyle, and future plans.
- Gather your “wise counsel”: Don’t just rely on the realtor. Enlist friends, family, or professionals with skills in handyman work, electrical, plumbing, or even just common sense. They can help you assess the house’s bones and potential repairs, giving you a more informed picture.
Home Inspection Tips for Viewing a House
Most first-time home buyers focus almost exclusively on two things: location and aesthetics. Of course, both these things are critically important. They are what gets you interested in a home in the first place. However, in most cases they’re not what’s going to make the difference between buying and looking elsewhere.
To really make a sound decision, you’re going to need to assess the home from a practical standpoint. Here are 5 home inspection tips to help you assess a home quickly during a viewing with your realtor:
- Assess the exterior. What is the condition of the roof? Are there gutters and drainage? Are the siding and trim in good shape? And in the U.P., we always want to ask: “where’s the snow going?” Remember, in tight neighborhoods like downtown Marquette or Ishpeming, falling snow can wreak havoc on cars and entryways. And you need to think about parking, too!
- Ditch the rose-colored glasses: Inside, ignore the paint and carpets. Focus on the home’s “bones” instead. Look for practical details like electrical outlets (two-prong means ungrounded wiring!), uneven floors which might indicate structural issues, and foundation cracks.
- Document everything: Take photos and videos of the house, especially the potential problem areas. Some people like to bring a notepad or take notes on their phone. This is better than nothing, but if you’re writing notes with your thumbs it’s hard to actually document the home. I always recommend taking videos and pictures of what you see. This helps catch missed details and allows for later review with a professional like me.
- Divide and conquer: If you are viewing the home with a partner, friend, or family member, assign roles based on your skills. For example, a recent client told me she let her partner measure rooms and check doors while she tackled the basement with her dad who could assess the heating system. This kind of teamwork helps cover more ground and utilizes everyone’s strengths.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Your “emotional state” is valid, but don’t let it silence your curiosity. Ask the realtor and your wise counsel about anything that worries you, from creaky floors to noisy appliances. Knowledge is power in this process.
Remember, for a typical home viewing you will only have half an hour to go through the entire home top to bottom. Thirty minutes fly by, so use these home inspection tips to make the most of the time you have!
Buying a home is nerve-wracking, but by focusing on these hidden aspects, you (or your daughter) can make an informed decision you’ll feel confident about.
One word of caution: You will almost certainly find multiple flaws, especially if you are looking at older Upper Peninsula real estate. Don’t let this stop you from making an offer on a home you truly feel you’ll love!
When You Get A Professional Home Inspection: Tips for First Time Buyers
Once you’re ready to make an offer, it’s a very smart idea to invest in a home inspection. We can help you decide whether an issue is actually a deal-breaker, or just a negotiation point.
Here are a few home inspection tips to ensure the best results from working with a professional home inspector:
- Clarify lender requirements: If you are working with a lender, get specific details from them before you schedule a home inspection on exactly what home inspection services (water testing, septic testing, etc.) they require. There is nothing worse than having your closing delayed because you didn’t get that foundation inspection that no-one remembered to tell you needed. Especially if you are dealing with “alphabet soup” agencies (HUD, etc.), you need to ask upfront exactly which inspections to order, to avoid last-minute surprises.
- Ask questions! Not all home inspectors welcome buyers being present at an inspection, let alone tagging along with questions. We encourage it! It’s our job to help you make a sound decision, so ask away. (If you’d like some help knowing what exactly to ask on an inspection, check out our blog on 10 Must-Ask Questions to Ask Your Home Inspector.)
- Bonus tip: Sharing the photos and videos you took during your walk-through with your inspector gives them an extra set of eyes on the house and allows you to ask specific questions like, “Is this normal for a house this age?” Buying a home is a big deal, but by focusing on these insights and asking questions, you can approach it with confidence.
Home Inspection Tips for Getting the Most Value from Your Professional Inspection:
Once you receive your home inspection report, you’ll have everything you need to make a sound buying decision. These last few home inspection tips will help you through this final step:
- Read your home inspection report thoroughly. We use a digital reporting system that lets us see if a report has been opened and read. I’m always shocked at how many never get opened. A good home inspection report is designed to help you out both during the negotiation process and after you own the home. For instance, our reports grade each issue as high, medium, or low concern so that you can more easily plan and budget for repairs.
- Prioritize based on function first: Forget the paint colors and fancy countertops for now. Look for safety issues like smoke detectors in bedrooms, outdated wiring, or foundation cracks. These have the potential to be deal-breakers or require costly repairs, so prioritize them over cosmetic details.
- Communication is key: I always encourage clients to give me a call and discuss results after an inspection. This can help clarify anything you find confusing and satisfy any concerns you may have. I can even point you in the right direction when it comes to addressing repairs. Remember, the only stupid question is the one that goes unasked!
- Stay calm: Not everything that looks scary at first sight is actually a deal breaker! If you have worries or concerns, now is the time to express them. Your realtor and/or home inspector can help you determine whether the home is right for you, and if it is, to create a plan to address any concerns you may have.
Buying a Home for the First Time?
Buying a home is a big decision. But it doesn’t have to be unpleasant. The above home inspection tips are designed to help you as a first-time home buyer navigate the process with confidence.
By following these tips and building a supportive team, you can transform house hunting from a stressful experience into an exciting adventure of discovering your future home!
Making an offer on your first home? We love helping clients make great decisions. Give us a call today at 906-360-3879.