Alright so you've just purchased your first home… the excitement is overwhelming and you are still in shock at the simplicities that come with it. You no longer have to ask a landlords permission to paint or make cosmetic changes, the money spent on them is now going back in your pocket, and every time you walk in to the house the realization hits you that you own it.
There is almost no greater feeling in the world then purchasing your own home and more specifically your first home. However, with that purchase come some pitfalls and shortcomings that can be scary and intimidating.
Don't Remodel Yet!
When you bought the home it may have been outdated and ugly or maybe just not your style. You went through it with your spouse (or those of us that are single with your dog) and dreamed about all the changes you “needed” to make to it.
Realize first that those changes are “wants” and not “needs” overspending right now can you lead you right back on the path to being an apartment dweller by defaulting on your loan. Remember the Les Brown quote; “the quickest way to get back on your feet is skip two car payments!”
Believe me I get it the shag carpet is horrible, the velvet Elvis is permanently mounted to the wall, and the grey flowered wall paper absolutely has to go. Keep in mind you just made a huge downpayment, paid for a home inspection (if you were smart), and have all these maintenance items to care for first.
Bottom line her is take care of your maintenance items and savings account first, then you can begin your upgrades.
Leading us to the second point… Maintenance!
I cant tell you how many homes i’ve inspected that simply have drastic deferred maintenance with them. I’ll write a brief maintenance article over the next few weeks but in short don't forget that your HVAC filters need to be changed monthly, HVAC needs serviced annually, shingles need patched, siding needs cleaned and painted, windows need caulk, the list literally goes on.
These things begin to add up and can cost you a significant amount over the course of the year. In general I budget $100 a month for maintenance, this is excessive for most months but on the occasion where you need a new AC, furnace or hot water heater the money is already there for it. Don't be foolish save the money now and take care of these issues before they become bigger problems.
One thing that no one ever wants to admit they need is an annual maintenance inspection. Most home owners, especially the do-it-yourselfer believes they have the knowledge to identify issues. In part they can, which is why annual maintenance inspection can run significantly cheaper then a standard inspection. In realty, it takes a trained inspector to identify issues you aren't yet having or the ones you cant see… like water leaks behind a wall.
Pay for Quality
When it comes to home maintenance, repairs, and remodels nothing seems scarier or more outside the realm of possible then getting a quote from a qualified contractor. 1st contractors can be hit or miss and they are not created equal (much like home inspectors).
It’s difficult to find good contractors even more so to find good ones with decent prices. As it appears the ones that are good usually know it and charge a premium for their services. I recently had a client that purchased services from a contractor, in short the work was screwed up miserably and the client is facing a lengthy court battle; to win a case that she will likely never see a return on her money because the failure bankrupt the general contractor.
What’s the point here? Shop quality services for your home not price. The same holds true with inspections. People call me all the time price shopping and asking if I will match another inspectors price. I tell them simply ‘no’ because my inspections will be much more thorough and in depth. As an example, I did a home inspection last week that was an average size home with no special features besides a pool to add to the price. That inspection took me 5 hours plus an additional hour to complete the report; had I completed it to the minimum required standard I could have easily been finished in 2 to 2.5 hours. That is simply not the way I do business, I provide a high quality service and charge accordingly.
Track your information.
Keep track of everything in a binder or online (clients of Timberline Inspections receive a lifetime subscription to Home Binder). Save receipts! Save everything! When you come back in 5 years and need to match the paint to fix dings, it will save you the trouble of repainting, try to match a broken tile without it and you'll feel my pain.
On that same note buy and save extra on everything it’s good to have leftover originals to do repairs in 5 or 10 years. Store them in your attic out of the way and leave it if you ever sell the house. Remember products get discontinued and suppliers go out of business, so don't wait until it’s too late to match it. Even if you knew that wouldn't happen it’s still imperative because different batches can produce different coloring and a new one 10 years late likely wont match.
Don't skimp on insurance
Being an inspector I deal a lot with property inspection for insurance claims, some companies are better then others and the only two I would ever use are Nationwide and USAA. Are they the cheapest? Certainly not but guess what! When there’s a claim they just pay it…
I’ve dealt with both companies and both seem to be great, as a Veteran I’m slightly biased to use USAA but having gone through the claims process with them on several occasions they just pay up. Neither of those companies try to sneak by with technicalities and get themselves out of paying you.
Pick a deductible you can afford, if you only have $1000 in your emergency fund then your deductible should be no more then half that. Imagine if you picked it at $5000 and then had a major fire or storm damage... How will you cover the added expense? and even so doing you will then be out of money completely. There’s time to save on the premiums later just get one you can afford now and pay for a disaster.
One question I get asked regularly is, do I need a home inspection with a new construction home? At first glance the answer would seem like a ‘no.’ You're likely thinking you had code inspectors come out and you have a reputable contractor. In reality your assumption could not be further from the truth.
A new construction home actually needs more then 1 home inspection! The first issue here being there’s a significant difference between a home inspection and a code inspection; the second issue is contractors are not inspectors and also have a biased opinion (reasonably so); third it will be beneficial in law suits and home warranty claims.
Code inspections monitor the building process for governing codes, home inspectors monitor buildings for building standards of practice. The difference meaning codes are the minimum requirements while standards of practice are based on best building practices.
Additionally home inspections monitor system functionality. If you imagine building a car the quality control inspector ensures that everything is put together properly and is similar to a code inspection; the home inspection is more in line with a test drive, we drive the car checking brakes, turn signals, transmission function etc. There is some overlap here because best practices aline with codes and home inspectors are reasonably familiar with codes and base inspection on those as well.
I have personally never inspected a home that passed the code inspections but passed the home inspection. The most recent home inspection I did on a new construction home cost the home buyer $385, for their money I found $7,000 worth of defects from a reputable contractor. The contractor now had to fix those issues and saved the client thousands on future repairs and issues when listing the house.
Contractors do inspect their work, but even good crews get anxious at 5 o'clock on Friday. Ordering inspections in process at key stages may cost you an extra few hundred dollars but ensures your home is built properly and issues cannot be hidden. We can also save the contractor money by conducting those inspections so they are not fixing them after it is built.
Small things that the code doesn't require, the inspector can recommend that the contractor fix providing you the ability to get the work done at no cost to you. Codes don't necessarily require counter flashing but the home inspector will require these to be put in. Now you no longer have to rebuild the wall when you go to sell the house because the contractor had to fix it. If he refuses and you have issues in the future you now have a report backing the claim recommending them.
If you order an inspection at 11 months after the house is built you then have a report backing all warranty claims (even things you don't have an issue with yet). For the price of an inspection you saved thousands because you are no longer the one responsible for fixing the issues.
The last issue is some clients ask the professionals they've hired to tell them whether they need an inspection. The professional doesn't get paid until you buy the house so of course they will tell you ‘no’ so they can push the deal through. A decent professional with their clients best interest truly in mind will advise you to get it done; whether that’s the lawyer, insurance agent, realtor, or builder they should recommend you have it performed.
The recommendation for a new construction home is to have several (usually 2) in process inspections, one full inspection on completion, and another full inspection with mold test at 1 year. This can obviously add up but the return in savings is well worth it, remember this is the largest asset you will ever own have the foresight to get it inspected correctly.
I am a United States Army Veteran with over 10 years construction experience prior to my service. After my time in the military I enrolled in InterNACHI's rigorous course work to become a certified member and prepare for the National Home Inspectors Exam. I continue to push inspection courses and education, attaining and exceeding the required continuing education courses