Critical questions for homebuyers to help avoid expensive mistakes

Key issues to address before making final decision

DETROIT - When you're ready to buy a new home and everything looks good, have you asked all the right questions to avoid an expensive mistake?

Real estate agents say there are key issues that need to be addressed before making a final decision.

Ben and Andie Ten Have are a young married couple with children who decided to buy a new home because they were being driven out of their old home by a lack of space.

"'Cramped' is a good word to describe it," Andie Ten Have said. "We're just outgrowing it pretty fast."

"We are crammed in the house right now," Ben Ten Have said. "Their toys are all over the place."

The Ten Haves are just starting their house search. They're looking for a home with four or five bedrooms, and they're stressed about the whole process.

"It's a huge life decision," Ben Ten Have said. "It's very stressful."

They have a lot of questions.

"I was wondering how old this water heater is," Ben Ten Have said.

"Am I going to have to worry about this (air conditioning) breaking down?" Andie Ten Have asked.

"I was look at this roof and it looks new, but I wanted to make sure it's not something that I'm going to have to worry about replacing," Ben Ten Have said.

"What kind of upgrades does this house have?" Andie Ten Have asked.

"I think it's critical to ask the right questions," said Alex McCauley, of Keller Williams Memorial.

When house hunting, there are a few key questions that need to be asked before buying.

First, how old are the major systems in the house? Will they need to be replaced soon?

"How old is the roof?" McCauley asked. "How old is the AC? Is the foundation in good shape? How old is the water heater? Are the windows recently replaced?"

Secondly, what makes the house a good investment? Buyers don't want to lose money when they sell the home.

"Am I going to get appreciation in this area?" asked Michael Bossart, of Keller Williams Memorial. "Are the schools considered strong enough to help me appreciate in value?"

Third, is the neighborhood safe for a family?

"What we're really looking for is the crime rate -- sex offenders, anything like that," Bossart said.

Fourth, what will life on that street be like? How long is the drive time to work? Which school will children attend?

"Your neighbor across the street may be going to one school that's fantastic, but your street is zoned for a completely different school," Bossart said. "It's important to research that before you fall in love with that house."

The Ten Haves are still on the trail looking for their dream home and shopping for the future.

"We're just looking for a good place for our kids to grow up," Andie Ten Have said.

It's also important for buyers to negotiate a clause that allows for a home inspection within a specific number of days as a contingency to the final agreement. Have the inspector go through the house top to bottom to help spot unexpected problems.

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