Was this House Remodeled? How to Spot Home Repairs When You’re House Hunting

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Searching for that perfect fixer-upper to call home can be a bit overwhelming, can’t it? As a prospective buyer you’re really forced into some heavy duty priority juggling. Neighborhood, sale price, house features, yard features, cost of improvements and as-is condition are just a few of the big ones.

What about identifying problematic old repairs? What was done? Was it done right? Is something being covered up?

Even if you have a real estate professional on your side, and you should, the decision as to when and where to make an offer falls squarely on your shoulders. Once you’ve made your offer and the seller has accepted it, chances are you’re in for some expenses. Home inspectors, termite tests, surveys and more are usually at the buyer’s expense.

What if you had a little bit of knowledge that could help you narrow the field? What if you could recognize potential problem areas before making the offer and investing in an inspection?
While certainly not a comprehensive list, there are a few things that might alert you to a previous repair.

Wall or Ceiling Texture
Wall and ceiling surfaces can be very hard to match exactly. Look closely at the texture on the walls and ceilings, both within a room and from room to room. If you see a difference, you’ll know that someone did some wall or ceiling replacement somewhere along the line.

Mismatched Floorboards
Another hard-to-match surface is hardwood floors. Pay close attention to the floors as you walk through a prospective purchase. Look for “lines of demarcation” that show a difference in flooring. Look at the color, the wood grain, width of planks, visible nails, etc. Even a perfectly repaired floor usually leaves some telltale sign.

Newer Electrical Switches and Outlets
Also take a look at components like electrical outlets and switches. Are they different from one room to the next. If so, it’s a sure sign some remodeling or repair work has been done.

New Roofing
Sometimes it pays to have a closer look at things that are seemingly “wonderful upgrades,” such as a new roof, new siding, etc. These are certainly good things in and of themselves, but not if they are merely a Band-Aid atop a more serious problem.

What You Want to Know
You may be wondering what the point of all this is. The bottom line is that these little indications just give you something to ask about. They give you a reason to learn more about the house itself and the work that has been done. The more you know before you make your offer, the less likely you’ll be to get into a contract on a house that you really don’t want.

If there’s been a new roof, ask if there were leaks. Ask to see up in the attic and look for large sections of replaced roof decking. If you see that, look closer for rotten framing or damaged ceilings below.

If a wall or ceiling looks to have been repaired, ask why. What was done? Was there damage repaired or was it a remodel? Was the contractor who performed the repairs licensed and did he or she offer any sort of warranty on the work? Is that warranty transferable to a new owner?

Avoid Putting Sellers on the Defensive
One word of caution: Be careful not to sound like you’re just looking for a problem for the purpose of beating the price down or making trouble. It’s a fine art to ask about these things without putting the seller on the defensive. Once that happens, the deal can go south very quickly.

It’s worth the risk, however, to really know what has gone on and why. So keep your eyes and ears open! Previous repairs and remodels are part of a house’s history (if it’s more than a few years old), so don’t let your newfound eye for detail turn you away. Just enjoy the process of learning the history of a house.

~Tim Layton, RealEstate.com

5 tips for making an offer in a hot real estate market

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Steady demand. Limited supply. That’s what we are seeing in real estate markets across the country right now. Inventory is particularly tight within the lower price ranges. “The starter house is nearly missing in some markets,” according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for the National Association of Realtors.

Conditions can vary from one city to the next, but the overall trend in housing markets across the country is that supply is still falling short of demand.

Given these conditions, it’s important for home buyers to make a strong, smart offer when the right house comes along. Here are five tips for doing exactly that.

1. Understand the supply and demand situation in your area.

According to housing experts, a so-called “balanced” real estate market has five to six months of supply. This means it would take five or six months to sell off all homes currently listed for sale, if no new properties came onto the market.

Many real estate markets across the country have less than a three-month supply right now. And some cities have less than a two-month supply.

The first step to making a strong offer is to understand the supply-and-demand situation in your area. We are still seeing sellers’ market conditions in many cities, as of spring 2018. And this could persist for some time.

2. Study recent sales prices in your area.

This is something a real estate agent can help you with, but you can do some of it for yourself. The idea here is to get a good understanding of recent sales prices in the area where you want to buy.

This will help you in a couple of ways. It will save you time during the house-hunting process, by eliminating the need for repetitive research and pricing “sanity checks.” It will also help you make a strong, realistic offer backed by recent sales trends. And speaking of offers…

3. Make a strong and timely offer, backed by comparable sales.

In a slow housing market, where sellers are ready to jump on the first offer that comes along, home buyers have the luxury of taking their time. A buyer might start off with an initial offer below the asking price, just to open negotiations. The seller would probably come back with a counteroffer, or accept the first offer.

But it doesn’t work that way in a more competitive real estate market with limited inventory. In a tight market, buyers are better off making their first offer as competitive as possible. Otherwise, the house could go to a competing buyer.

4. Consider writing a love letter to the seller.

A house love letter, that is! Recent studies have shown that buyers in competitive real estate markets can improve their chance for success by writing a heartfelt letter to the seller. Sure, real estate is a business transaction. But there’s a personal side to it as well. Writing a personal letter to tell the sellers what you love about their home might just tip the scales in your favor.

5. Get an agent on your side.

It’s always a good idea to have help from a local real estate agent. It’s even more important in a tight market with limited inventory. An agent can help you move quickly, putting together a strong offer that’s supported by recent sales data.

~MetroDepth