So you bought a what?
January 28, 2015 12:30 PM   Subscribe

We bid on a house, our offer was accepted, the inspector comes in a week to view said house. Assuming all goes to plan and house is not secretly falling apart, what should our priorities be between the confirmation signing and the closing date?

Here's what we have scheduled so far: the home inspector, an HVAC guy because we have questions about the thermal pump the house has, at least three plumbers for estimates on the ONLY thing we're going to renovate before moving in (the house's sole full bathroom, but maybe the half bath downstairs depending).

All our financing ducks are in a row, we are currently living in a two bedroom apartment and our stuff has been radically downsized because we moved out of a two bedroom house last year, so what are we missing that will need to get done before we move in on April 1st?

Because my husband has a full time job, I will be taking on the majority of the responsibility for stuff, but he can assist me if I have questions or problems. Also, we have no kids and three cats, so I think we should probably Feliway the crap out of the house to ease the stress for kitties.

So give us your expertise on what we should tackle in a timely fashion, big or small!

(I am a first time homeowner; my husband is not.)
posted by Kitteh to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In our process we have learned that getting a person out to scope the sewer is separate from a home inspector. Basically they have a camera on a long wire and they put it through the sewer to see if there are any blockages or things that could break. It's a $250 inspection that could save you tens of thousands. It's like a colonoscopy for the house - you even get to watch the video if you want.
posted by matildaben at 12:42 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Have one of the plumbers put a camera down your pipes to see if replacing the sewer pipe is in your future. My story about that is legendary. Also, sewer pipes need permits and inspection!

It's easier to paint and deal with flooring when the house is empty, so if those things are on the agenda get them done before you move. If you're doing carpeting, make sure it's covered because the movers will track mud in like crazy!

Hire someone to deep clean the new house. You'll be too tired to do it and with everything on your plate it's worth $100.

Get some overlap between your apartment and house. When we last moved, I moved the whole kitchen over before moving day. I did it in the car, and it took a couple of trips, but how great was it that it was all organized and that I could cook, even though the rest of the house was full of boxes. Put toilet paper in all the bathrooms.

On moving day, clear out one bedroom in the apartment and put the cats in it. Get everything moved over, then get the cats. We did this for our move and it was working great, right up until I went to check on them and Malcolm streaked out and hid in the rafters of the basement. Good times. We finally got him back to the room, but I learned my lesson.

Keep the litter boxes with their scent in them. So they know where they are in the new house. Our cats adjusted beautifully, but I soft-heartedly let them sleep with me, now it's a permanent thing.

I recommend You Move Me for a local move. They did a great job moving us from our house to our apartment in Atlanta. They're part of 800-Gotjunk. Just excellent!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1. It will help to know that often, things will go wrong between now and the closing and that 99% of the time, the deal will still go through. But...the inspection may uncover things and you need to renegotiate, at the closing a broker may not have the right paperwork, etc. Practice patience. It will all go through.

2. Don't buy any new furniture or flooring yet. Wait until the new place is yours and you've gotten a feel for the space.

3. I'd hold off until after you've moved in for the bathroom renovation, unless there are literally no working bathrooms. Once you're in the place, your priorities may change and what was once a "have to fix bathroom" may get pushed way down on the list after you do other things, and you'll be annoyed that you spent 5k on a bathroom when the roof, HVAC and chimney needed repair. Waiting a year is a good rule of thumb before renovations.

4. People say you don't need a lawyer to represent you, but in my mind, it's been worth it every time I've purchased property. They will ensure all local legalities are covered; that the title is clear, etc. Maybe $1000 for protection and when one day you want to sell the place, you'll have all the right paperwork.
posted by kinetic at 12:55 PM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I regret not making a bigger stink over the crap the previous owners left behind. If that house is not spotless when you move in, if there is one bottle of cleaning fluid, a wood pile in the garage, whatever - call up your realtor and freak out until the previous owners send out a 1-800-GOT-JUNK person to remove it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:58 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Are you renovating the bathroom because of a problem with the plumbing? Or is it just something you want to do?

Any defects found by the home inspector that you consider must-haves should be presented to your seller -- get three estimates to fix each problem and give the seller only the highest estimate. The seller should either fix the problem before you move in or give you a discount on the sales price by the amount of your estimate (that way you're not spending more money to get the house up to your definition of livable). Your Realtor (if you have one) should be able to help you with this and guide you through the process.

Example -- my first house had a radon level well over the safe limit. I had the sellers come off the sale price by the $1,000 high estimate I got to put in a radon remediation system, then I paid $750 to the contractor with the lower estimate (which I kept in my back pocket) to have the work actually done once I closed. Yay $250 ahead.

Make sure you overlap by at least a month on your apartment lease, ESPECIALLY if you are renovating the bathroom and having any repairs done found at your home inspection. It's much easier to have another place to live while that stuff is being done, plus the overlap gives you an extended time to move (bring a few boxes today, a few tomorrow, more over the weekend... all stuff you don't want the movers taking).

I assume that since you have an accepted offer that you have been pre-approved for a mortgage. Apply with that lender AND with two others -- use the mortgage that gives you the lowest rate and best overall terms. Go to to look up mortgage rates in your area. (I see you're in Canada -- I don't know if bankrate works for Canadian locales.)

Different states provinces have subtly different procedures for buying a house -- your Realtor (again if you have one) should be able to advise you and guide you through the process for Ontario. (Example: My first house was in Massachusetts -- offer, then purchase and sales agreement, then inspections, then negotiation, then closing with a real estate lawyer present. My current house is in Maryland -- offer also containing the wording in Massachusetts' Purchase and Sales agreements, then inspections, then negotiation, then closing with no real estate lawyer present but using something called a title company. So I can't say "find a good real estate lawyer" or "find a good title company" because I don't know if Ontario uses lawyers or title companies or something else entirely -- again a question for your Realtor.)
posted by tckma at 1:00 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Quickly --

We have a lawyer! We are also aware that if something should be amiss with the house and we still want it, ye,s indeed negotiation is on the table. Also, this is the only full bathroom in the house, hence our desire to redo it before moving in. It's a bit crappy, which is why we've earmarked for the only reno we would like to immediately do.

And our realtor is a rock star. He's been great!

And if it's not too much ask, please keep suggestions Canada-oriented. US sites don't help me much up here in the Great White North.

And I'm off!!
posted by Kitteh at 1:00 PM on January 28, 2015

Take a last look at the financing documents. We had a banker's repeated agreement that our 2nd mortgage would not be a balloon loan -- and then, the night before closing, we saw that it was. We decided it wasn't bad enough to walk, but it could have been. IMO there's a reason they don't deliver the documents until the very last minute.
posted by LonnieK at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2015

If they aren't included, think through window treatments now (get measurements), particularly for bathrooms/bedrooms.
posted by walkinginsunshine at 1:17 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: Great advice so far with the overlap apartment/house time. This previous AskMe has excellent ideas of how to take advantage of that time.

Do as much as you can before you move in furniture - painting, flooring, etc.. I regret not having the hardwoods refinished when my house was empty and I hadn't moved in yet. I shudder now when I think of all the moving of furniture and all the dust I will have to clean up when I do finally have it done.

The suggestion to wait and get a feel for the house is a good one, but I say to go for it with the bathroom reno, especially if you can afford it now and while the house is empty. I re-did my kitchen when I bought my house because I had the money at the time - it was part of the plan. If I had waited, it still would not be done. Little things happen and cost money. It's hard to save up for the big awesome renovations when the little things nibble away at your savings. I love my kitchen and don't regret it one bit.

Window treatments - the paper stick up blinds work great, provide privacy, and look pretty decent until you have a chance to get a feel for how you want to decorate. I got a four pack at Home Depot for cheap - you just cut to size.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Go carefully over the disclosures provided to you by the seller before you have your inspection, so you will know where your inspector is pointing out something that is different from the disclosures (either in fact or degree). Our disclosures included the cryptic statement "microwave sometimes over-functions." This was a source of some mirth and befuddlement, but the inspector couldn't find anything wrong with it either (we later discovered an issue with the door latch; if the door doesn't seat properly when it closes the light and fan will come on).

I'm not sure what the Canadian law on contingencies would be. Here in DC many homes are sold "as is" so you can walk away from the deal if your inspector finds something you don't like, but the sellers will choose to relist rather than negotiate with you over an undisclosed issue. You may also have a finance or appraisal contingency so if your financing isn't completely locked down you will need to get it locked down. Your lender will send an appraiser to confirm the value of the property.

For us the biggest thing was just trying not to go nuts. There's a lot of paperwork to sign, a lot of documents that have to be faxed to various people, and then a whole lot of waiting. We found our house when it was relisted after being under contract, and during our inspection the sellers' agent revealed that the original buyers just … missed the closing date. Apparently their lender failed to get their loan paperwork done, and they didn't show up. So we were nervous that our loan would fall through, but everything was fine. I think we called or emailed our mortgage broker at least once a week between when the sellers accepted our offer and we finally closed. "Are you sure we don't need to be doing anything right now?" "Yes."
posted by fedward at 1:42 PM on January 28, 2015

Refinishing floors is easier when the house is empty. Also fumigating, termite proofing, and cleaning the woodwork, walls etc. Unless the previous owners were doing surgery in the living room there's a few years of grime built up on every surface.

And our realtor is a rock star. He's been great!
Unless he is getting paid by you and you alone, and not sharing a penny of the Realtor's premium he is not YOUR realtor. Take this as you will, but his/her raisin detre is to sell that house. The only one working for you is the lawyer you hire ( not the bank) that represents you at the closing.
posted by Gungho at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: We had some dumb problems after we bought our house, mostly the inspector not doing a very good job. That said, we had one MAJOR issue that, in retrospect, I will never let happen again. We actually considered suing the previous owners for skipping this in the disclosures, it's so bad. Somewhere in my history there's a question about it...from like 4 years ago..and that is...

Meet the neighbors. Just go knock and introduce yourself and say you're interested in buying the house and do they have time to tell you anything about the neighborhood. You may learn about parks you didn't know about, or restaurants, or whatever. Ask them about food or whatever, and after you move in, take them a bottle of wine or some cookies or whatever as a show of good faith and as a thank you. Any of that would have saved us from...

The neighbor from hell. No seriously, if there was a contest for worst neighbor, we'd be in contention. He poisons dogs. He throws garbage in the yard. He screams at babies. He calls code enforcement every day for 80 days straight. He attacked the previous owners with a pick axe. He's WELL KNOWN in our small town for being toxic, and police won't do anything. I've now built a massive fence AND installed security cameras just to get a smidgen of peace from him.
posted by TomMelee at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: Make sure you keep your copy of your inspection report in a safe place, to use as a checklist of things to fix when you have time/money (assuming they're not major of course).

If you don't have a safe deposit box, get one. Keep your deed in it, and all of your closing paperwork. Maybe the original of your inspection report can go here too, after you make a working copy.

Check in with your lender and your escrow person / lawyer once a week or so to make sure they have everything they need and all is on track to close on time.

Introduce yourself to the neighbors as soon as possible. After moving is fine, but before you're out of the contingency period is even better in case you have a nightmare neighbor (or on preview, what TomMelee said).

Seconding hiring a professional cleaner. It's not that expensive and it's totally worth it.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:01 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: We bought a house just about a year ago and while there are cosmetic and some structural things we'd like to have done eventually we decided to live in it for a while before diving into those. We've also just lived with our existing furniture (mostly) while we figure out how we use our space. The one thing we did do - and haven't regretted at all - was having the whole place professionally painted before we moved in. It was way easier to do it then while it was empty and while we considered doing it ourselves we just wanted it done as efficiently as possible so spent the extra money on a pro. We painted it all a neutral light grey and it's worked beautifully. We wished we COULD have redone all of the floors while it was empty because that needs to be done and it would have been easier but we couldn't have afforded it at the time. The one upside on that is that we've subsequently basically decided to remove a big wall/fireplace which would necessitate redoing the floor anyway so... worked out to wait in some ways. Don't let anyone tell you you need to furnish it all immediately or so anything that isn't structural maintenance or an emergency.
posted by marylynn at 5:58 PM on January 28, 2015

I think it's important to have a code inspection by your city. I didn't have one when I bought my house and I keep worrying about what terrible things they will find if they do inspect (which could be any time you want a permit).
posted by H21 at 8:29 PM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: Obtain a copy of a recent (recorded) property survey. If one is not provided pay to have it done, money well spent.

Test the basement or lowest level for radon, I assumed it was required as a disclosure, at least in Oregon it is not.

Patience and resilience.
posted by KneeDeep at 7:35 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

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