How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

  • Consider your rights and options for representation before you start your home search.
  • Choose your agent carefully. Trust your instincts. If what he’s saying doesn’t ring true, it may not be. Require that he sign a buyer agency agreement with you that spells out his obligations, if he tells you he’s representing your interests.
  • Be sure the Buyer Agency Agreement that you sign has a termination clause so you can be released from that agreement if the agent isn’t doing his job.
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  • Get pre-qualified with a good lender at the start. You’ll be like a cash buyer when you find the property you want to buy.
  • Have your agent make the calls and take you to see FSBOs (unlisted properties for sale by the owners). You’ll need a professional involved – the seller seldom knows what to do next once he’s gotten you in the door.
  • Be sure your agent goes with you to visit builders' model homes. Some builders won’t share commission to have your agent involved if he is not with you the first time. You’ll probably pay the same for the house regardless - the builder anticipates that a percentage of the buyers buying his houses will have representation, and rolls those costs into the house prices he offers to everyone, agent or not. A home builder is like a FSBO times 10 – once you step inside that sales office, everyone you encounter, except your own agent, will be working for the seller. Don’t go alone.
  • Require a copy of the soils report for the subdivision and for the lot you’re considering building on. If your agent is not sure, it’s a good idea to call the engineering firm for clarification of the type of soil on your lot. Be sure your foundation is being constructed according to the engineer’s specifications for that particular lot.
  • Hire the best inspector you can find. It’s almost a sure thing that he’ll save you more than he costs. If you’re buying a new home, make sure your purchase contract allows for you to have your own inspector before drywall, and again, at or before the final walk through before Closing.
  • Require a copy of the final CO (Certificate of Occupancy) at Closing. Builders must comply with local building codes and pass a final inspection by the local building department in order to get a CO when the house is finished so that it can be occupied.
  • If the builder is offering a structural warranty to be provided by an outside warranty company, be sure to get a signed copy of the promise for the structural warranty at Closing (the structural warranty itself is usually sent to you after Closing).
  • Require a signed copy of the builder’s own warranty at Closing. There are laws requiring a builder to warrant the house for defects in materials and workmanship for a period of time after Closing. The warranty should spell out what that means and for how long.
  • Get a signed list (from the builder) of repairs not completed before Closing. Be sure it specifies when those repairs will be done. It’s a good idea to anticipate this happening, and making sure your purchase contract deals with just how that will be handled.
  • The best advice: be certain that your purchase contract specifies what you expect to be done, no matter what it is. If it’s not in writing, you’ll have a hard time holding anyone to it. An experienced buyer agent will be able to help you accomplish that.