There are many questions you can ask when you are looking to buy a home. Use the answers to make decisions that are in your best interests.
1) How Much Home Can I Afford?
This is the big one. Speak with mortgage professionals to get the answers you need. Ask them to explain which loan plans you are eligible for and what the terms of each plan mean to you. If this will be your first home, you might want to find out about some of your options by contacting the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
2) Do You Represent Me or the Seller?
You will, probably, work with a Realtor. Realtors can represent the seller or the buyer. If they represent the seller, they owe a fiduciary responsibility to the property owner not to you. The Realtor Code of Ethics requires them to treat you fairly, honestly and respectfully. An important point to remember is that, to you, finding your new home is a very personal journey, but the Realtor sees it as a business transaction. Ask your Realtor to explain how the business relationship will impact you, and ask them to explain the Code of Ethics to you.
3) May I See the Seller’s Disclosure?
When you see a home you like, it is time to get serious. Sellers are required to disclose anything detrimental about the property, so prospective buyers can make knowledgeable decisions. You cannot rely, totally, on the disclosure because some things are not obvious, and the seller just may not know about them but it is a good place to start.
4) Is the Home Built on Clay?
This is a great question. Many homes in northern Texas are built on clay. Clay acts like a sponge, so it expands when wet and contracts when dry. Continual movement can damage to the home’s foundation. A damaged slab can be an expensive problem that will require professional foundation repair.
5) What Kind of Foundation Does the Home Have?
This is another great question. Homes built on pier and beam foundations are more likely to suffer damage than homes built with waffle slabs.
6) Does the Home Have Any Foundation Protection?
One way to minimize the likelihood of damage caused by clay expanding and contracting is for it to be kept moist. Drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses can keep moisture at a satisfactory level. If the home you are interested in does have irrigation, check the drainage. You want the water to drain away from the home not puddle against the walls.
7) How Close is the Landscaping to the Home?
Trees and bushes can have two damaging effects. They both have roots which seek out moisture, so they could dry the clay out more quickly. The other potential problem is that tree roots can grow far under the home and weaken the foundation.
8) Is There a Root Barrier?
Beautiful landscaping makes a home more attractive. One way to inhibit root damage and reduce the amount of moisture those roots take from the clay on which the home stands is to install a root barrier. The barrier will help stop the roots from getting too near the home. Older barriers often used charcoal, but newer barriers tend to be made from nylon or metal.
9) Where Can I Go for Professional Advice?
Your mortgage lender will arrange to have the home appraised and surveyed. You are responsible for choosing your own home inspectors. Hire the right home inspector, termite inspector and foundation inspector.
10) What Happens After We Sign the Contract?
This is a huge question. The contract assigns rights and responsibilities to you and the seller. Make sure you know them and make sure you work to them so everything goes smoothly. Good luck, and happy house hunting.