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How can I avoid to purchase a "lemon" house? Where can I find out the problems?

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April 12 2010 - Pasadena
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The single most important thing you can do to avoid a "lemon" when buying a home is to have a home inspection. Be at the inspection if you can, and ask the inspector lots of questions. The report he/she writes is like the guidebook to home ownership. Keep it with your other important house papers.

The second most important thing is to purchase for yourself or ask the seller to purchase a home warranty. I include this in most purchase contracts I write. Although not perfect, home warranties do cover most major mechanical systems of the house, appliances, electrical, plumbing, etc.

No house is perfect, even new construction homes. When calculating how much home you can afford, make sure and budget money every month for maintenance. Set a certain amount aside, and then when a problem arises, you will have cash available to handle it.
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May 15 2010
z1984,
The best thing you can do is be prepared. If you know a contractor, bring them along to see the property and have that person check it out for you. As Realtors we know how to check for "Red Flags" and we do, but the more you as the consumer know about what to look for....the beter. You will have a professional home inspection. Make sure that person is a member of the NAHI or other professional Associations of Home Inspectors. All work on the homes MUST have permits! Unpermitted work is poor work..remember that as well.
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May 15 2010
There's no 100% guarantee and "Buyer Beware" does apply. The best you can do is have an inspection done when you find a home to purchase. If it were me, I would hire an electrician to inspect the electrical, roofer to inspect the roof, etc.. rather than just a licensed inspector. Anyone can get a business license and become an inspector without really having experience but those in the trade will have the proper credentials and know what to look for. The cost will equate about the same, in many cases, than hiring just an inspector.

Another thing is that if an inspector doesn't find a problem and you close, you can only sue for the fee you paid him/her. An inspector will have you sign a hold harmless and then you can be stuck with thousands in repairs, regardless.


Also, make sure the proper permits have been pulled and that there's no liens that can't be resolved prior to closing, etc.  Title companies do not always find everything, which is why a good title company is critical. Don't go with the cheapest unless they are the best.
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April 12 2010
In most municipalities permits are required for just about any type of improvement, from a new roof to even a furnace replacement or deck.  You might visit the governing building department and investigate if any were ever obtained over the life of the home.  It is not a guarantee, but the permit implies the work was done by legitimately licensed contractor in compliance with local building codes at the date of application, often receiving independent inspection that it was completed appropriately.  Conversely no record of any permits doesn't automatically mean any improvements are substandard, but they do not come with the foregoing assurances regarding who performed the work and standards surrounding the same. 
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April 12 2010
As already stated, a good home inspector is key. However, you want one that is willing to take the time with you to explain the home's problems in-depth. If you are a first time homebuyer, this is all new to you. (Ideally, everyone in the transaction will take the time to thoroughly explain the process to you!) Also, if the inspector takes pictures, that helps. You can go back and look at them later when you are able to really study them. Finally, try to be there for most of the inspection if possible. Again, you will have questions and a good time to ask them is while you are at the property with your inspector.
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April 12 2010

Whenever purchasing anything it is "buyer beware".  Having said that this means you need to do your homework.

Investigate the neighborhood, talk with the neighbors, check the tax records, review surveys, etc.  As for the building itself visit the property often and do not be afraid to look in the corners, in the closets, move furniture, and look inside and out.  If you see something that does not look right, ask. Do not be shy.  

Probably the most important thing you can do is to find a good inspector, then follow up on the inspectors recommendations.

No house is perfect, not even new ones.  If you do your homework you will go into the deal with your eyes open.

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April 12 2010
You will need to get a really good and experienced home inspector.  Home inspectors are trained to check out the house from top to bottom.  They check out the places that you don't or can't see.  Ask your selling agent for a referral.  Don't go for cheap discounted home inspectors.

Good luck!
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April 12 2010
 
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