Avoid heartache when buying a home

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Buying a home is an exciting adventure, but it can quickly turn to heartache.  Angie's List says before you fall in love with a home, line up a team of reputable professionals that will work for you.

Homeowner Brenda Payne says contractors have done tens of thousands of dollars of repair work for problems that surfaced after she closed on her home.

Payne says her problems stemmed from using a real estate agent who represented both the buyer and seller — something experts say buyers should avoid.

That same agent also arranged and paid for inspections – another big no-no, according to Angie's List.

"Over the years, the one thing I have learned is people tend to wait until the last minute to make a decision about finding a home inspector, for example. You want to do that at the beginning of your home search - before you're under the time crunch of having to get the home inspection done in a certain number of days.  You know you're going to need a home inspector. Find out who you want to work with before you're under the gun," advised Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Hicks says homeowners have a lot of research to do before they start setting up home showings.

Finances: Secure pre-approval

Get pre-approved for a loan before you start your home search – that way you won't run into any surprises, particularly in light of increased government regulation in recent years to tighten runaway lending practices, including the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, which took effect in January. Though aimed at protecting consumers, increased regulations mean would-be buyers need to meet more stringent financing terms, such as lower debt-to-income ratios, and pay more in closing costs.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring Professionals

  • Real estate agents: All states require licensure for real estate agents and most have sites that provide information on any disciplinary action taken against those licensed agents. Look for a professional who belongs to the National Association of Realtors, which requires members to follow a code of ethics. Avoid using an agent who represents both the buyer and the seller.
  • Mortgage lenders: Look for a responsive lender that keeps the terms of the agreement consistent, giving fair warning, if those should change. Look for a lender who reaches out early and often to secure paperwork in a timely fashion, experts say.
  • Home inspectors: Look for inspectors who go beyond state regulatory requirements, do continued education and belong to organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). Regulations vary by state and not all require licensure for home inspectors.

So how can you protect yourself? Independently evaluate everyone involved in the home buying process before you start looking at houses. Don't go with a lender or home inspector just because your real estate agent recommends them.

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