You’re Ready to Move in New Jersey – But is Your Dream Home Move-in Ready?

When you’re buying a house, unless you’re into flipping investments or you crave big DIY and home renovation projects, you probably just want to unpack all your boxes and start enjoying your new “home sweet home.” But before asking your real estate agent to show you “move-in ready” properties, you should be aware of what that phrase actually means.

It turns out that, like beauty, “move-in ready” is in the eye of the beholder. To you, it might mean everything not only works, but it also matches your style, right down to the door knobs and paint colors. To a lawyer using Black’s Law Dictionary, though, it simply means that the municipality has approved the property as a place approved for people to live – the plumbing and electricity are up to code, the windows and doors lock, and no pesky pests are creeping around within. And yet, to the seller, it could mean the kitchen was recently remodeled – but there’s only one tiny bathroom, and the living room still sports ‘70s orange shag carpeting in passably good condition.

So rather than get tangled in terminology, here are five things to keep in mind when you’re doing a walk-through on that “move-in ready” property.

  1. Start at the Bottom: Flooring
    You may have opinions on whether you prefer carpet or hardwood, but regardless of what is on the floor, make sure it’s a solid base for your new home. That means no peeling tiles, no ripped or odorous carpeting, and no ominous creaks. And here’s an insider tip – bring a marble to place on the floors along your tour. If it rolls a lot, the floors may be uneven, indicating potential issues with settling or even the actual foundation.
  2. Plumb the Depths: Kitchens and Bathrooms
    Though a stainless-steel refrigerator, granite countertops, and a double vanity may be high on your “must-have” wish list, what makes a house move-in ready is ovens and dishwashers that work and toilets that flush. Make sure the faucets don’t leak and the water pressure is good. Ask about the capacity and age of the water heater and any pumps to be sure they can handle your family’s needs. (Most water heaters should last eight to 12 years.) Poke around the cabinets to see – and smell – that there’s no water damage or mold hidden among the pipes, and that nothing is rusted. Taste the water – if you move in, you’re going to be drinking it for a long time!
  3. Don’t Be Shocked: Electric
    Check the wiring to be sure your hot property isn’t a fire hazard. Confirm with the seller’s agent that everything associated with the electrical current is indeed current and meets the local codes. There should be no archaic knob-and-tube wiring in the walls, the breaker box should be powerful enough to handle the load, and the outlets and switches should all work without any issues.
  4. Take Comfort: Heating and Cooling
    Pause during your house tour, and just breathe. Are you too warm? Too cold? Or, like Baby Bear, do you feel “just right?” Ensure that there’s proper insulation in the attic and around the heating ducts and water pipes. Find out how old the furnace and HVAC systems are, too; their average lifespan is about 15 years.
    Make sure the windows open and close easily, and whenever possible, look for double-paned windows for the double benefit of protection from both temperature and noise.
  1. Think Outside the House: Roofing and Siding
    Don’t go through the roof – figuratively or literally. Find out how old the roof is; a roof typically lasts about 20 to 30 years depending on what it’s made of and what climate it has faced. Do at least a visual check for leaks, loose or missing shingles, or areas where the structure might be sinking a bit. Similarly, examine the siding and window frames for discoloration or warping that could indicate not simply water damage, but also underlying mold and other costly concerns.

 

You should always engage the services of an experienced home inspector to thoroughly examine these and other elements of the property to be sure your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare. And whether your house hunt takes you to New Jersey’s friendly southwestern suburbs, its gorgeous northern mountains, the bustling outskirts of New York City, or those sunny beaches down the shore, Veitengruber Law can help with title searches, title insurance, and due diligence to help you turn that “move-in ready” house tour into a “we’re really moving!” experience.

 

Understanding a NJ Home Inspection Report

For those who are looking to buy or sell a home, the home inspection is a crucial part of the process.Whether you are the buyer or the seller of a property, you must have a solid understanding of all of the details found in your New Jersey home inspection report. This report will ultimately determine the overall condition of the property in question, and will specifically itemize any problems, both large and small.

Typically, the home inspection is ordered by the home buyer after they have signed a purchase contract. It is important to work with a professional, licensed and well-respected home inspector to ensure that nothing substantial is missed.

While the seller is required to disclose any and all existing issues with the house, they can only disclose problems that they are aware of. The job of the home inspector is to dig beneath the surface to find problems that may not be visible to the untrained eye, such as damage to any area of the home including: the foundation, pipes and plumbing, HVAC system(s), electrical systems, roof, walls, attic, ceilings, floors, doors and windows.

After he has inspected your potential future home, your NJ home inspector will provide you with a detailed report. This report will explain any and all findings of the home inspection. Some home inspection reports can run upwards of 30 pages, which can be a little bit intimidating to the novice home buyer.

Understanding Your Home Inspection Report

Home inspection reports can also come in different formats. Some home inspection teams report with a checklist, while others use a summary along with a longer narrative portion explaining the summary in detail.

Typically, home inspection reports will include a table of contents for ease of navigating through each portion of the report. Professional home inspection teams will include an introductory portion that provides important industry definitions along with details about the report, including: date completed, home address, age of the home, weather conditions during the report, and people who were present during the inspection.

Following any introductory sections will be the meat of any home inspection report. This portion of the report should be divided into areas of the home or home components that the inspector evaluated. Here, notes will be made and details will be listed about the condition of each home area/component (roof, plumbing etc.) along with suggestions, recommendations and any applicable photos and or videos that the home inspection team acquired during their review of the home.

Is a Home Inspection Really Necessary?

It is extremely important that anyone looking to purchase a home invests in a home inspection during the contingency period of the home purchase. Any New Jersey real estate contract/purchase contract is conditional until the home inspection has been completed. This means that the contract is not official until after the home inspection and can be terminated if there are significant issues discovered by the home inspector.

Many times, minor issues can be negotiated between the buyer and the seller, allowing the sale to proceed. Aesthetic changes, such as fresh paint or minor kitchen repairs can be added to the contract as the seller’s responsibility. Before closing, the buyer will have a final walk-through of the home, at which time they can determine whether or not all of the requested repairs have been made as agreed to in the contract.

 

Image by Andy Piper – licensed under CC 2.0

Hiring the Right Professionals for Your NJ Real Estate Purchase

When it comes time to purchase a home, whether you’re a first-time home buyer or an experienced home buyer, you want to put together a superior professional team. In doing so, you will give yourself the best chance at landing the home of your dreams within your price range and ideally, within your desired timeframe.

Living in the technology era makes it extraordinarily easy to access information regarding almost any topic – and this includes the real estate market. While any tech savvy home buyer can access a home’s stats, asking price and any other information associated with the listing, does this mean that you don’t need to hire a realtor? And while were at it, who else do you need to hire help you bring this thing “home?”

Real estate professional/agent

While it’s true that you can easily access listing information about virtually any property that is listed on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), it is imperative that you take the time to research, interview and select the right real estate agent.

Real estate agents have so much more to offer you than what you can find with the click of your computer mouse, namely: experience. The right real estate agent for you will become your advocate and will help you get the best deal possible. Experienced real estate professionals can also make the home buying process more effective by helping you narrow down specifically what you are looking for in a home.

While it is possible for you to go it on your own without a real estate agent, it is not advisable unless you have solid experience in the real estate field yourself.

Lending agent/mortgage company

Naturally, you’re likely going to need to mortgage this significant purchase, and choosing the right mortgage company can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction with the home buying process.

Look for a lender who is highly reputable in your area and has solid reviews from customers as well as a good BBB rating. The ideal lender will present you with a variety of different mortgage programs and down payment options. They should be able to tell you rather quickly how much house you can afford. Quick response time and a history of in-house processing, underwriting and funding are also important factors that many home buyers find invaluable.

Real estate attorney

The process of buying a home is a very serious transaction with a plethora of details and minutiae. A financial decision as large as buying real property has many legal issues that only an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney is qualified to answer properly. No real estate agent should be giving you legal advice about your home purchase. Everything from translating legalese within the purchase contract to tax obligations and any existing or surprise property liens is best handled by your lawyer.

Working with a real estate attorney is especially crucial if you are purchasing a home via NJ short sale or Sheriff’s Sale (foreclosure). The added legal implications surrounding these types of home buying cement your need for a New Jersey real estate attorney who also specializes in foreclosure defense.

Title agent/company

Most experienced real estate attorneys can also perform title searches, but title companies have one job and one job only: making sure the home that you purchase has a clear title search. You will probably still want to purchase title insurance, as there is no guarantee that long-lost liens on the property will pop up in the distant future, but this is a decision that your real estate attorney can help you make along with your title agent.

Home inspector

Soon after you sign a purchase contract, you will be given the opportunity to do a professional home inspection on the property before the contract becomes official. In order to avoid making a significant financial blunder in purchasing a house that is wrought with problems, it is essential that you hire a home inspection company or professional home inspector who has substantial experience under his belt. Your home inspector will be able to discover any existing structural problems with the home that either weren’t disclosed by the seller or weren’t known to the seller. You will then be able to work with your real estate agent to either negotiate to have repairs made (at the seller’s expense), or, cancel the transaction if a satisfactory compromise cannot be made.