Find Your Starter
If financing your first home seems a daunting undertaking, never fear. With good guidance, you can afford the place of your dreams.
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Check various neighborhoods until you find ones where you feel most comfortable. Research the area’s crime rate. (Every county has data, as do local police.) Look on the websites of the local school districts. Drive around the area at various times of the day and night. “You’ll want to find such things as are there going to be 50 million kids on your street when school lets out,” says Roark. And make sure the surrounding properties are well maintained.
If you want a first-hand perspective of neighborhood life, you might want to knock on a few doors and speak to some of the residents. Get an idea of the market values of the neighboring homes. (Thomas recommends using the website zillow.com to get a rough idea, but “it isn’t always 100 percent accurate.”)
Choose a Realtor who specializes in first-time buyers, says Linda Felicetti, broker associate at Patterson Schwartz Realtors in Hockessin. “Ask family and friends to make suggestions based on their experiences,” she says.
Before you sign on the dotted line, get a qualified home inspector to closely examine the roofing, heating and air conditioning systems, structural integrity, siding, windows, plumbing and electrical systems. You may want to add checks for radon and termites. If there is well on the property, a water check would be a good idea (a condition of certain government loan programs). In some cases, you can use the inspector’s report to negotiate a better price or require the seller to make repairs.
Because Delaware does not require licensing for home inspectors, it is best to look for one who is certified by the American Society of Home Inspectors. ASHI certification, the organization says, requires its members to have a minimum of 250 professional fee-paid inspections, adhere to strict standards in practice and ethics, and maintain continuing education courses.
ASHI-certified professional Donald Pyle, president of All-American Home Inspection Services in Newark, quotes a range of $300 to $500 for a home inspection. Todd Tuvell, another ASHI-certified inspector and president of A-Pro Home Inspection Service, also in Newark, gives an average of $315 to $360, with an additional $65 for termite, $135 to $145 for radon, and $45 to $135 for water inspections, depending on the depth of information require.
“Make sure your inspector offers the report in narrative instead of, or at least in addition to, checklist format,” Tuvell says. “You also want to have photographs included with the report.”
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