Home Sweet Home
6 Tips for first-time homebuyers
1. Old vs. New
Before purchasing a recently constructed home, says Chris Kornman, owner of New Orleans general contracting company Entablature, visit the Louisiana State Licensing Board of Contractors website (lslbc.louisiana.gov). “Just because it’s new doesn’t necessarily mean it’s built well,” he said. There, you can find out if the builder has a residential license. Also visit OneStop (nola.gov/onestop), to verify that the builder has permits, the house’s inspection status and other helpful info. Finally, ask for referrals from previous clients.
2. Simple Solutions
Kornman said a long list of issues from the inspection will sometimes scare off buyers, but many problems have easy, inexpensive fixes. For example, he said almost all old Uptown houses have some form of termite damage to their joists. But unless the joists are almost entirely gone, it’s not an expensive fix.
3. Buyer Representation
Buyers should have a knowledgeable professional looking out for their interests. Matt Davis, a realtor with Amanda Miller Realty Group, said buyer’s representation is not an out-of-pocket expense for homebuyers. The seller pays the commission for both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.
4. Flood Insurance
Davis said many people roll the dice and take their chances if they are not in a zone where flood insurance is required. The zones can vary wildly even in the same part of town and can seem random. Davis bought a home in Chalmette that took seven feet of water in Katrina, but flood insurance was not mandatory for him. He pays $386 a year for his current flood insurance policy. It’s worth it for the peace of mind. “It’s a very cheap policy in areas where it’s not required,” Davis said.
5. Selling Price v. Maintenance
“The real price is the sales price plus the annual upkeep,” Kornman said. New buyers should investigate when the house was last updated. How old is the A/C unit and water heater? A home that was last updated in 2000 will not have as much annual upkeep as a house that was last updated in the 1980s. The energy efficiency will also likely be better in a more recently updated home.
6. Title Insurance
There is a chance when you buy a property that there could be a lien on it. Liens should be discovered in a public records search before buying, but Davis said sometimes a homeowner won’t find out about a lien until after the purchase. If the previous owner did not pay a contractor for work done on the house, then the contractor can get a lien placed on the property, meaning the responsibility is on the new owner to repay him. Title insurance, which Davis said is a one-time purchase of approximately $500, will cover buyers if there is a lien.