It's been awhile since we bought our home. But, if we were buying it today we'd sure would do things differently. When we purchased our home over 11 years ago, we were not represented by a real estate agent. We bought it directly from the builder. We just signed anything the builder asked us to sign. We used their escrow and title companies. And, we did a "walk through" with their superintendent.
If wevwere purchasing the same home today we would do things quite differently. We'd would get a REALTOR® to represent us in the transaction. Then, if for some reason the we and the builder disagreed, there would be recourse. The contract we would use would be the standard California Association of REALTOR® form instead of the contract devised by the builder's attorneys.
The one thing we did do right was get our own lender. The loan the builder was trying to get us to use had less than favorable market rate and terms.
Another thing we'd do differently is hire a qualified home inspector to inspect the home. Steven Smith's article Testing 1, 2,3 is a good one to read about the perils of buying without hiring your own home inspector. When we purchased, we did a walk through with the builder's tract superintendent. He asked us to place blue tape anywhere we saw anything that needed to be corrected. We were merely doing a visual inspection for cosmetic defects. After we moved in we discovered many operational defects. As an example, one of our bathtubs wouldn't drain. We found out that there was construction debris in the line.
Steven's article mentions that frequently GFI's don't work. This is a serious defect. They are special electrical outlets that are designed to interrupt the circuit if an electrical appliance accidentally make scontact with water - like a curling iron falling into running water. If the GFI doesn't work there's a danger of shock and/or electrocution.
Something home inspectors frequently point out during home inspections for my clients is "reverse polarity". In many cases, the seller is the original owner and the home was delivered to them this way by the builder. This means that the wires in the electrical outlets are reversed. It's a common condition that can be hazardous if the "hot" side of your electrical system gets connected to certain types of lamps or equipment. This condition usually goes unnoticed because the outlets usually work even if improperly wired. Yet, they may be unsafe.
Our home had a roof leak about two years after we moved in. We got up one morning to see a huge stain on the ceiling in the bay window of our living room. There was a steady drip, drip, drip from the ceiling. The contractor did fix the roof for us. During the incident, two of our chairs got water damage because of the leak. The contractor sent out a furniture cleaning crew, but the solvent that was used was so harsh the fabric fell apart. The chairs are living in our garage to be recovered at our expense. The chairs were not brand new, so the contractor refused to do anything but clean them.
The reason the roof leaked was a construction defect that would have been spotted by a qualified home inspector. When the roofers built our home, they overlapped the flashing backwards. So when we got the first heavy rain (yes in California it took two years before this happened) the defect caused the rain water to funnel into the house instead of carrying the water away and draining properly.
To this day, we have a sink in our laundry room that only has cold water. The hot water line was not installed properly and we didn't call the contractor out to fix it during the warranty period because it was low on the priority list of things we needed repaired. So now we'll need to pay someone to fix something that wasn't broken...it just wasn't ever right to begin with. We'll probably not do that until we have a plumber out to work on something else or most likely when we sell our home. This is not a critical thing, but it is something that a qualified home inspector would have caught and it would have been corrected when we purchased the home. You can bet a buyer will want hot water in that sink!
So, if you're considering buying a new home, a few words of advice:
1) Ask a REALTOR® to represent you in before you begin to shop. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the service of the REALTOR® may be at no cost to you. If you don't know a REALTOR® in your area, please let me help you find one. I participate in a national referral network of highly qualified professionals.
2) Hire your own lender. The loan offered by the builder may not be the most favorable for you. If you don't have a lender, your REALTOR® will be able to refer you to someone they trust and recommend.
3) If you do nothing else, hire a qualified home inspector to perform a complete inspection on your new home before you sign the final papers. A good resource is the American Society of Home Inspectors or if you are in California, try the California Real Estate Inspection Association.
Good luck with your new home purchase. With the right people to assist you, it can be a pleasurable experience. May you enjoy many happy years in your new home.
Marlene Bridges, REALTOR® 800 777-1775
SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist®
CRS-Certified Residential Specialist®
President - Laguna Hills/Laguna Woods Chamber of Commerce
Marlene is a highly experienced South Orange County CA REALTOR® specializing in residential Real Estate and the sale of Homes and Condos in South Orange County, California and Saddleback Valley cities of: Laguna Woods, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Beach, Rancho Santa Margarita, Lake Forest, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo.