10 homes first-time buyers should avoid

From hidden damage to crummy neighbors, beware these 10 signs that your dream home may turn into a nightmare -- before you sign the contract.

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Jul 20, 2012 9:42PM

Don't buy your first house.  Buy your first neighorhood.  Location is everything, whether its your first house or your  tenth.  Walk around the block at different times (nights, weekends, after school)  before  you sign on the dotted line.

Jul 26, 2012 12:24PM
How can the software be so stupid that it can't detect looking for love, lonely and such as the crap you see on these sites that is just spam encouraging you link to some nefarious web site, which you are too smart to do, but it's annoying for them to take up space.  C'mon MSN, you can do better.
Jul 26, 2012 11:47AM
i just bought my first home and i am 62, also a vietnam vet. i went to an area i wanted to live in and started my search. i had used the internet to find at least 50 homes i wanted to see, my agent than made up a list on the homes that i could easly get into with my veterans loan. from that i slected 3 homes i would see again and then decide on one. after i signed my first offer the process was on, which took 2 months, than i get the escrow closed and i moved in. thats when i started finding all the problems that the owners covered up. dryrot in the bath and laundry room, with a leaky water line to the washer thats been leaking for years, why did the inspecter not find this? then more dryrot in the master bedroom. this has the rear side of the house pulling away from the house, there is a 3 inch wide and 4 feet long gap from the main house and the master which was an addition. then i started to look for more rot and found more, this is in the master but the front window, which leaked soo much i pulled all rot out with my shop vac. from the bottom of the window to the corner of the building. now both sides of the master is failing and all are on the back side which makes the whole room falling away from the house. had the inspecter found this i could not buy this place the va does not like to see is dryrot and will not approve of. i called my agent about this and she asked if i had called the inspector, i said  this is the person she always uses and that she is the person to call, no one has shone up, called or even cared, the agent got her money, the inspector got his, the bank got their pasty and i get screwed. after the sale no help, call and ask for help and get none. when i complained that the new carpet is not new and is really dirty, she says i know a guy who will only charge you.......... this is what she has said to me ever since i moved in, never taking the responsability of the fraud that not only had she done but the inspector, escrow, the va, the bank all refuse to help me get the house I BOUGHT WITH THE READY TO MOVE IN, NEW CARPET AND IN PERFECT SHAPE EVEN THOUGH IT WAS BUILT IN 1952, i cannot get any information on this house but find signs of a fire, other dryrot that was repaired, the 4 year old roof was a major repair and cannot get anyone to tell me why was the roof repaired, the floors should have the old wooden floors, in the back two bedrooms that is there, but no where else, not in the master bedroom, the front room i have not inspected, but the bath has been rebuilt and plywood has been layed down over the old floor and i am afraid if i look any more i will lose the use of the bath, i have only one.  i have been in this house only 3 weeks and i am so depressed i cannot finish what work i have started. i used to work as a flooring installer, we use the pore in system, but before we can pore we had to fix, when you use a push broom to remove the floor its bad, with my experance i can fix every thing wrong with this house, its just i cannot afford these repairs and most need it fixed now not next year. had i known any of these problems exited i would not have bought this house, i just hate it when someone says TRUST ME, I KNOW WHAT I AM DOING. i now cannot trust anyone now and feel that the fleecing of my trust and monies should be treated as a crime and those people who has lied to me spend time in prison, maybe then the system thats in place now will be change to profit the buyer not the agent or the banks and ifd something thats wrong with the house is found after closing be fixed through the buyer,agent and bank to bring the houdse up to code.
Jul 26, 2012 10:47AM
Jul 26, 2012 2:22PM

Most home inspections aren't worth the paper they are written on.  They are usually required by the lending institution, but the guy who inspected my house wouldn't have been able to see a three-inch wide crack in the wall.  I found more things in the first week than he found, and he's supposed to be an expert.  You would be better off to find a friend who is a contractor or at least knowledgeable about home construction.  If you buy an older home, absolutely look for and verify the following:


1.  Does it have adequate insulation?


2.  Has the plumbing been updated?  Copper plumbing is good.  Plastic will even suffice.  But if the plumbing is steel pipe or, heaven forbid, lead, avoid the house like a plague.


3.  Have the windows been updated?  Storm windows over the old windows may be OK for awhile, but windows have improved radically over the years.  New windows are a definite plus.


4.  Has the wiring been updated?  Is it grounded wiring?  Is it copper wiring?  Aluminum wiring can be safely installed, though it is seldom if ever used anymore, but the problem is that most switches and light fixtures have copper or copper coated connectors.  The difference in the chemical composition between aluminum and copper causes metal migration, leading to shorts, leading potentially to fires.


5.  What kind of shape is the roof in?  When was it last replaced?


There is a lot you can't see in a house.  Make sure what you can see looks sound and has not just had a cheap band-aid fix applied to it.  Things like paint colors, carpet, light fixtures, etc. can be easily replaced.  Even if a house has orange carpet, old light fixtures, and rooms painted black, it still may be a sounder house than one that looks better, but has hidden bad bones underneath.

Jul 26, 2012 8:10AM

Bought a 5 yr. old house almost 3 yrs. ago (Sept. '09). Looked like minor problems if any until we had our first winter/spring. We were so busy inspecting inside the house we neglected to look at the slope of our yard. Beware of DRAINAGE problems!!!! Whoever built this place put it at the bottom of a puddle! Front yard slopes toward house, as well as backyard and part of the side property. So, snow melt and heavy rains flooded our basement with about 2 inches of water. Also, look at the concrete. Ours was not poured properly- no vapor barrier. If there's a white powdery substance (Looks like baby powder) forming on top of the concrete it's bad news. Our inspector either lied to us or was unknowledgeable and said that was from covering the curing concrete with plastic before it was fully set. Not at all- it means your concete is wicking all moisture from the ground and needs to be sealed with a special concrete sealer that also penetrates inside the concrete.   

Aug 29, 2012 6:10PM

I would be very wary of an older home that was being flipped and had been "HGTV'ed" inside.  Don't fall in love with the interior finishes without knowing what was covered up in terms of old electrical and plumbing and no insulation.  If buying an older home, I would much rather buy a solid, unimproved home and have it restored correctly under my supervision than buy it "renovated" and move-in ready.


The best show by far on HGTV is Holmes on Homes, even though on a personal level I'm sure that I couldn't stand Mike Holmes if I knew him.  A lot of his shows are dedicated to ripping apart those cosmetic flips to reveal the concealed and incredibly expensive nastiness beneath.  The show should be required viewing for first time home buyers.

Jul 26, 2012 1:36PM

Congratulations to the writer of the article. They've nailed it, insofar as the most significant home defect possibilities.


But I want to caution sellers, too. Beware of high offers from first time homebuyers. They'll be calling you for every small issue that arises. The buyers are used to calling a landlord for repairs, and haven't quite adjusted to being the one in charge. My last home, the new owners called me about the washing machine breakdown--it came with the house. But I was polite. And then, they continued to call me until,  at last, I changed my cell phone number.

Jul 26, 2012 11:18AM
To home buyers finding the "perfect home", I would advise reading the HOA if it has one.
A Homeowners Association policy can be very invasive and overly restrictive with fines
and rules you may not want to "live" with.

Jul 26, 2012 1:54PM
MSN fix your Spam Problem. All the Pervs are coming to your site.
Aug 29, 2012 8:25PM
I thought this was about houses not old dudes trying to find sex and some place to hang their hat for awhile ...give it up old farts..
Jul 26, 2012 12:19PM

I'm in my first home which was purchased in 2002.  An inspection is required for many types of loans, and we had one.  But the inspection is not always an indicator of some of the things mentioned in these slides.


Our biggest failure was buying an older home - 1978, so not ancient.  As novices we thought that some cosmetic work and fixing up the wild jungle of a yard would make it our dream house.  We underestimated our own time, money and expertise.  A few personal setbacks put our dreams of updates on hold.  And in the meantime, there were things that were ALWAYS requiring our attention and most of all, MONEY to fix or maintain.  Of course, when your AC goes out in June in Florida, that needs your attention immediatelly.


We bought this house because it was spacious with lots of acerage, and the few updates that had already been made to it gave it some appeal.  But now every day I regret buying this house.  The updates and repairs that we need to make just pile up, and we can barely scrape together money and credit to make one or two fixes per year.  Also, insurance - it was fairly easy to get when the house was 24 years old, but now that it's 34 years old, insurers are rare and expensive.


My advise is, be realistic with fixer-uppers.  Also, see the advice of seasoned homeowners and LISTEN.  I sincerely wish that I had.

Jul 26, 2012 9:24AM

There a contractor I think building a home in my neighborhood and noticed one of the corners of the house to have only one 2x4 not even in the corner but rather about 4 inches from it. I took photo and if he does not fix it then I will report him. Once I was have a house built and would go everyday to observe and check to make sure the contractor was following the contract. I noticed when the  cement slap was being done the contractor put rebarb ( metal rods) prior to have cement poured. THe city inspector came over and approved the work. Once the inspector left the contractor took all the rebarb out and poured the cement. I complained and got my deposit back and eventually the contractor got banned from building again.


My daughter bought a house in CT and on my visit noticed there was 3 layers of weather stripping arround her front door. I had a carpenter come over to fix it , but his attempt was fruitless and come to find out the door was to small for the frame.. WHen the carpentor was working after the door there was no insulation at all around the door jam or frame and only two screws holding the the door frame.  I had my daughter put in a new door. There were several other problems with house. WHat pisses me off was that the house had been inspected prior to purchase. In my opinion don't trust inspectors or even realators. The system is set up to rip honest buyers off. Don't get an inspector the realitor recommends. What I don't understand the realator for my daughter was also the realator for the seller.

Jul 27, 2012 10:39AM

Gotta love those bad neighbors!!!!   Mine are sooooo "Nosy".   I had some concrete poured for the new "Man Cave", my neighbor came over (UNINVITED) to ask questions about the job being done.  He brought his dog with him and the dog RAN THROUGH the new concrete. I still have a dog print we didn't catch, do you think this Jack @ZZ" offered to fix or even appogize for HIS mutt messing up a $3000.00 job?? Nope Natta dime nothing.

So I now lock my gate and put up No Trespassing signs just to keep him out.

I'm still torqued about it.  When he was having his McMansion built I NEVER once went over there with my now deceased dog to see what was going on, over on the other side of the fence.  I didn't care and still don't care how deep in debt he and his wife are.

What I do care about is my place is PAID FOR and they will have to work dang near forever for that big house, 2 new cars, boat, trailer etc. 

Ha ha!!!!!

The one thing I do care about is crime and if it does happen I will expect someone to call 911 if they see something happing to anyones property.

Jul 26, 2012 7:13AM

New home buyers should also make sure they're not expecting more from their home inspector than what their contract provides.  These are all excellent things to bear in mind, but keep in mind most inspectors disclaim them in their contracts.  In other words, we either won't comment on them at all since they're beyond the scope of a home inspection or we will recommend further evaluation by a specialist.  Home inspectors leave things like neighborhood suitability (busy streets, bad neighbors etc.) to the buyers to decide for themselves, and we leave other issues (soil problems, Chinese drywall, meth labs etc.) to specialists.  The key is, if in doubt, don't be afraid to call in a specialist if you really want that house.

Jul 26, 2012 9:56AM
Always have the house inspected by a reputable, certified, insured, building inspector, before closing on Any property.  It will save a lot of heartache.  Many sellers just want to dump a nightmare onto someone else as fast as possible -without a professional inspection.
Jul 26, 2012 9:38AM

Re: No.5: Bad Neighbors.


The absolute best source for information about a particular neighborhood is -- the local POLICE Department. Visit their headquarters/station (preferably with a friend who happens to be a current or former Law Enforcement Officer) and SIMPLY ASK - "What's the crime situation in and around [give them the address]? I usually make an effort to locate the officer(s) - especially "old-timer(s)” - who are assigned to patrol that specific neighborhood on a steady basis. Trust me - the officer(s) will let you know everything there is to know about the area, e.g. whether burglaries, vandalism, auto thefts, shootings etc. is an ongoing problem- and yes, that there are “problem neighbors” near the house you’re interested in.

Jul 26, 2012 9:44AM

Good article for the first time buyer. Any home with a foundation issue is an immediate pass.

Also for the first time buyer, if you are not familiar with the area you are purchasing a home in walk the neighborhood

and introduce yourselft to the neighbors and get there opinion on the area. Realtors, main interest is in selling the house

and getting the sales fee. So, take what they say about the area with a large grain of salt.


Aug 29, 2012 5:44PM
My husband and I bought our first home last year. It's a small bungalow that was built in 1910. Obviously a house that old is going to have issues. But, we knew going into it what we were in for. But, because it's a small house, all of these repairs cost a lot less than if we would have bought a more typical, larger home. For example, we have only one bathroom, it's located right next to the kitchen, and our laundry hookups are located in the basement directly below that. So, we only have a small bit of plumbing, and it's all concentrated in one small location. We got an estimate on completely ripping out and replacing all of the existing pluming. The total cost? About $500. And, yes, replacing ALL of the siding on a large house can be expensive. But, in our case, we have wood siding, and only a few of the boards are bad in spots. (They were poorly sealed on the ends.) Instead of replacing all the siding, we just have to replace the 2 or 3 boards that are starting to go bad. How much that will cost us will be depend on whether we fix it ourselves or pay someone else to do it for us.

The point of all this is, just because a house has some issues, that doesn't mean you should automatically walk away from it. We bought this place because it was in a perfect location, had a lot of character, had all the features we were looking for, it was more than $10k under our budget, and my husband and I aren't afraid of hard work. Of course, if a person is unable or unwilling to put in the time, money, and effort involved in fixing up a home, then they absolutely should NOT get a fixer-upper. But, no matter if a buyer is the type who wants something low-maintenance or if they're someone who who has money and motivation to spare, a buyer should ALWAYS educate themselves and be absolutely certain what they're getting when they sign those mortgage documents. 
Aug 29, 2012 5:03PM
I would suggest knocking on the doors on the immediate neighbors and see if you can find a gossipy neighbor.  There is almost always someone willing to discuss the details of the home you are interested in with you.  It doesn't cost anything and as long as you take someone with you, you shouldn't have to worry about safety.  As far as bad neighbors, barking dogs, find out what the policies are of animal control and who has dogs.  Knowing what is going on in the neighborhood doesn't prevent someone getting a dog the next day and creating a ten-year nuisance the day after you move in, but find out what the city will do about it.  In my neighborhood, they won't do a darn thing.  HOA rules are a real good thing to know about.  What if they won't let you plant flowers or hang out a flag?  It might not bother some people, but whether or not your kids can have a basketball hoop is really an issue to others.  A little research can go a long way.
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