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What to know before buying a home according to an expert

Buying a home is the biggest investment most people make, so it’s important to get the right advice. We asked a leading real estate agent, Tammy Laverty Hall, for the top things every homeowner needs to know. 

What’s the first thing a buyer should do once they are ready to enter the market?

TLH: Get preapproved. There’s no harm in looking around online, but if you don’t know your financial position, you may look in the wrong direction. Your realtor and mortgage broker also need clarity on how much you can afford, so they can factor in the extra expenses that come up, like lawyer’s fees, storage rental, moving costs, etc. You may be preapproved for $850,000, but that doesn’t mean you should be looking at places that cost $849,000. 

Hot tip: Once you’re preapproved, and your interest rate is protected, you must buy within a 90- to 120-day timeframe, so don’t make any other major purchases like a boat or car or a trip that will affect your preapproval amount. 

Checking Insulation During House Construction
Highwaystarz-Photography | iStock

During the pandemic, people skipped home inspections. What’s your advice on getting one done?

TLH: I’m glad those days are behind us so buyers can have all the information they need to make their purchase. For older homes, it’s also a great idea to do a presale inspection. That involves a special tool that shows a host of potential issues you can’t otherwise see, like moisture, mould, and water damage. Is there vermiculite in the attic? Is there old knob-and-tube wiring? It would give you a list of things to address before selling and give a buyer information about what to expect. If a seller has owned the home for a long time, some things are grandfathered into home insurance, so when there’s a title change, you could run into issues getting insurance. 

A good realtor should also ask for a list of the updates. Is there a warranty for the roof? Is there an ESA on file? If you are buying a condo, ask for the status certificate, which is a snapshot of the condo’s monthly report and how healthy the reserve fund is. If there is a special assessment in the pipeline, like window replacements, a new roof or parking garage updates, you need to know that cost is on the horizon. 

Any advice on home insurance?

TLH: It’s really so important. People don’t realize that if one thing goes wrong and they’re not covered, they may not be able to afford the repairs. It protects you from so many unknowns. Always shop around. I’ve had clients stay with one insurance company for 20 years, assuming they’re getting a break on price for loyalty. That’s not the case. 

CAA Insurance¹ offers very competitive rates on Auto and Home Insurance. Another important point is that you should make sure your policy is annually up to date. When updating or renovating your home such as installing a security system, you could get a better rate when you notify your insurance agent.

1 Auto and Property Insurance are underwritten by CAA Insurance Company.  

Certain conditions, limitations and underwriting guidelines apply. 

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