Pursuit of Happiness
House-hunting tips from the pros.
AS THE CENTRAL Florida real estate market gradually picks up steam, more buyers are looking for great deals on existing homes. Knowledge is power, so check out these words of advice from five top Central Florida real estate professionals, as they weigh in on what to look for and what to know before you buy.
“A potential buyer should order their own home inspection before making such a large investment,” says Kelly Price of Kelly Price & Company in Winter Park. “The four key components to check are the roof, electrical, plumbing and the air-conditioning unit.” In addition to a building inspection, she says, buyers may want to consider specific inspections for termites, air quality and radon gas.
Michael Kara of RE/MAX Exclusive Collection agrees: “A home inspection will reveal both major and minor home issues. Some flaws you can live with and some need to be fixed immediately. Each home has its own quirks, and it’s important to know about all of them.”
He recommends buyers pay close attention to “wet” areas such as kitchens and bathrooms that can be potential sources of mold and mildew. “Always look at the ceilings for stains, too, as that can be an indication of previous or active roof leaks. And don’t forget to look at the ceilings of closets,” he adds.
“Settling cracks—cracks in the walls, driveways and the foundation of the home—occur a lot here because Florida is a sandy state,” Kara says. “Most of the time, these cracks are not a big deal, but they should be sealed so there is no water penetration.”
Another consideration at the top of every potential homebuyer’s list should be location. “Cosmetic issues can be overcome with some creativity, and maintenance issues can be overcome by engaging a professional or even applying a little elbow grease,” says Michael “Bo” Julian of Julian Properties in Orlando. “However, buying a home with a problematic location can haunt a buyer when they become a seller.”
Lot and location are two factors that can’t be changed and will significantly affect the value of the property. Sue Silberbusch of Keller Williams Heritage Realty advises her clients to be sure they are comfortable with those two elements, as well as the basic floor plan. “If the buyers love the lot and location and the floor plan, everything else can be altered,” she says. “Every home has a ‘but factor’—as in ‘I love it, but…’—and every buyer is going to perceive the ‘but factor’ from a different perspective.”
Location, functionality and price should be number-one priorities for homebuyers, says David Francetic of The Francetic & Heistand Team with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. “If the home has a good location but is not functional for the buyer, it doesn’t matter what the price is and vice versa. A buyer should choose the best location and most functional home at the best price the market has to offer,” he says.
Buyers would also be wise to check out the financial health of the neighborhood homeowner association. Says Bo Julian: “I always advise my clients to do some due diligence regarding the HOA financials, to avoid the surprise of an unexpected, and sometimes costly, special assessment.”
The bottom line is to be patient and not get lost in minor details, says Francetic. “A home purchase is usually a long-term investment and a lot of things that a buyer may think are important now may be of little or no consequence in the future. Houses are listed and sold all the time, and the right home is out there. Keep focused on the big issue and be patient.”