For an investment as important as a house, the smallest details can put a stop to what could otherwise be a big, beautiful deal. Ultimately, though, a buyer needs to think of a home purchase in Latin: caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware.”).
Often, the deal breakers are right in front of you and hard to miss; other times, they take you by surprise, but not if you’re able to work from a deal breaker checklist.
Here are just a few of the most common real estate deal breakers:
A home your client can’t afford
Be careful when a dream home can be acquired only due to nightmare financing. We all know what happened when adjustable-rate mortgages became the norm, and if a house is clearly not fitting into the client’s budget, the deal may need to be broken before it’s even made. Insist that your client become pre-approved (not just prequalified) for a mortgage before you begin your house hunting. This way, you’re both working on that American Dream that’s based on reality.
The home inspection shows problems
No home — not even new ones — are perfect. Prepare your client for issues the home may present, even if they are minor. Here’s a big one: termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage every year, according to PestWorld.org. The cost to repair a termite problem is not often covered by homeowner’s insurance. Termite inspection, extermination and maintenance does not come cheap. Other deal breaker issues can include water damage, mold, structural damage, plumbing and roofing problems. It can be heartbreaking to both of you, but problems like these may make it easier for your client to walk away.
Mold and mildew
This is a sign of bigger problems, like roof leaks, bad plumbing or poor ventilation. You can often scrub mold away with some simple distilled vinegar, but be sure to get to the root of the problem before bringing potential buyers through.
High radon gas detection levels
It doesn’t take much to fix this problem, but it’s a problem. Radon is an odorless gas produced by a breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water; it finds its way into the home through cracks in the foundation and other openings. It’s found in every state and believed to be a cause of lung cancer. Options if the radon is found to be at dangerous levels: ask the seller for a price reduction that covers the cost of the remediation. Some states require by law that sellers disclose the radon level, but it would be good to disclose this in any case.
The appraisal and the price don’t sync
A low appraisal could be a red flag that the home is not worth the asking price. In most cases, a lender cannot approve a loan amount for more than the appraised value of the home. Still, there are steps you can suggest: the seller can lower the asking price, or you can challenge the appraisal.
Believe it or not, not everybody is a pet person. Pets can leave behind damage, odors and hair. It’s often best to not have them around while showing a home. Also: vacuum thoroughly and be sure to purify the air.
Not focusing on future appearance
A property that may not look right at first sight can be a difficult sell to a potential buyer. If a property does not feature enough natural light, or the decor, furniture or appliances are old and outdated, options and vivid descriptions of upgrades can make all the difference.
The home has an unsavory history
This won’t be a deal breaker for everybody, but often a home that was previously the scene of a crime can be a tough sell. Click here to learn more about that situation, and possible solutions.
Having a sex offender in the neighborhood
Check your local laws, but every state has some requirement about disclosing this type of information. Megan’s Law was passed in New Jersey in 1994 due to the rape and murder of a little girl by a convicted sex offender. The state made it mandatory to register convicted sex offenders with local police departments. A law similar to this was enacted nationally, requiring the Attorney General to give guidelines to states that would ensure similar reporting. Click here to learn more from the U.S. Department of Justice.
It’s easy for clients to get caught up in the excitement of the home buying process, but you can be a great hero if you help them take a rational look at each potential home purchase — and have the guts to recommend walking away if need be. That type of honesty can strengthen your reputation and increase your referrals.
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