Homeownership has always been considered the icon of the American Dream. However, many of today’s fluctuating markets and headlines tell us everything from “Now is the perfect time to buy a new home” to “Why buying a home in today’s real estate market isn’t a good idea.”
But before getting into the financial questions of buying a home, start by asking, “Is owning a home your dream or is it just what your parents and grandparents did so you are going to do it too.”
Deciding what you want now and for the future is the first step toward understanding the financial commitment homeownership involves. With that question answered you can move forward to purchase a home now, or put off buying a new home for a few more years. Either way, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with homeownership and review all of the expenses involved.
Buying a Home is More than the House Itself.
Cost of the home is any home buyers first thought and you’ll want to make sure your offer is on target. Most people buying a new home are focused on items like the roof, foundations, and overall structure, however, before you even begin the negotiation process it’s a good idea to also take a look at the age of the major appliances that will come with the home, as well as other systems and amenities such as a/c units, washer/dryer units, ice makers, grills, etc.
Based on appearances alone you might assume that the appliances and systems are relatively new but that assumption could cost you big dollars and frustration down the road when you find you have to replace large ticket items like a new refrigerator.
How can you find the age of appliances?
Ask the Seller
The first thing to do is simply ask the seller. If you are not meeting face to face, ask your buyer’s rep to get the information from the seller for you. Many sellers will remember when they replaced a major appliance or they may be one of those highly organized people and be able to provide actual invoices or sales receipts for these items.
All states have their own laws on buying and selling a home, and every state requires a seller to disclose any problems that are known with the property in a Property Disclosure statement; however, the extent of what must be disclosed varies from one state to the next. It is your buyer’s agent’s job to secure this document and any other information you may be entitled to receive from the seller. Let your agent know that you specifically want to know about the age of the major appliances and the home systems.
As a home buyer, you have the right to inspect the home for problems before you close the deal. In many cases, the buyer hires a professional home inspector for this duty. In most cases it’s always worth having the home inspected professionally. In other cases you might be able to conduct what’s called a “pre-inspection” so that everything is on the table in the first round of negotiations, instead of initially negotiating on price and then needing to come back to the table a second time.
Highly organized sellers may have all the serial numbers of the appliances already on a list but if not, with the owner’s approval, you or the owner could retrieve the serial numbers from the appliances this way you’ll be able to find out exactly when they were purchased.
What is the lifespan of Major Appliances?
The lifespan of an appliance is going to depend on the quality of the appliance, how well it has been maintained and how often it is being used. As an example, a washing machine in a household of one or two people with two or three loads of laundry a week is going to last longer than the same washer used by a family of four or six who is using it on a daily basis.
Consumer Reports lists the average life expectancy of several major appliances:
Washing machine – 10 years
Dryers – 13 years
Refrigerators – 13 years
Freezers – 11 years
Dishwashers – 9 years
Kitchen ranges (electric) – 13 years
Kitchen ranges (gas) – 15 years
Central air conditioners – 15 years
Furnaces (electric) – 15 years
Furnaces (gas) – 18 years
Water heaters (tank) – 10-11 years
Water heaters (tankless) – 20+ years
Other Items to Consider
Other big-ticket items to consider are wood decks, roofing, inground pools, hot tubs, sprinkler systems, exhaust systems, security systems, garage door openers, central vacuum systems, and outdoor cooking appliances.
Following some of these simple steps before you submit an offer will give you a good picture of any significant expenses that might be needed for your new home and lessen the possibility of any unexpected surprises. Your buyer’s agent will be able to help you factor in these decisions and add them to your negotiating strategy.