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For Sale by Owner Guide

Guide for Buyers

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Learn to Assess Houses


Don't be seduced by one amenity the house offers and give up things that will be more important in the long run. For instance, that little cape cod may be beautifully decorated exactly to your taste, but will be too small in 2 years.


If you are in a seller's market, don't spend too much time in the assessment phase, or someone will buy the house out from under you. Rely on the home inspection to uncover the potential issues with the house.


Resale value is critical. If there is some odd element of the house that doesn't bother you, but probably bothers most everyone else, think carefully. That element is something you will have to overcome when it's time to sell.

Make a list of the amenities you want in a home. Prioritize them according to what you need and what you want. The details will be hard to recall after you've seen a few houses, so use this list and keep track of any houses you like.

Drive around the neighborhoods you like. Go to open houses. Make appointments to see properties selling by owner. If you work with an agent, you can expect them to track new properties listed by agents, and for your agent to keep you informed about agent listed properties.

There are three kinds of assessment: 1) the quick assessment that tells you whether you will consider the house at all, 2) the detailed assessment of a house to determine whether to move forward to a purchase agreement and 3) the final home inspection assessment after the purchase agreement has been signed. We will deal with the first two types in this section and the home inspection assessment in the Place a Competitive Bid section.

Quick Assessment

This assessment is fairly easy, since most people know what they like when they see it. However, try to use your imagination when you look at homes. For instance, look beyond the seller's decorating; consider the appeal of new carpeting, paint or landscaping. If you will have the cash available after settlement, think about renovating the kitchen and baths or taking out walls. Many times, buying a house in poorer condition in a great neighborhood and modernizing it can lead to faster appreciation and a house more tailored to your tastes.

Detailed Assessment

This house has already passed the aesthetics test: you know you like it well enough to seriously consider it. Now, you need to determine whether to move forward with an offer to purchase.

Check this house against your wants/needs list. Ask:

  • Does it offer what you said you wanted/needed?
  • Is it in the neighborhood you want?
  • Are the schools good?
  • Does the condition of the house match your resources?
  • How much money will be needed after settlement for repairs, window coverings, floorings, etc? Will you have the additional resources? Can you live with the house in its current condition until you do have the resources?
  • Does the house make you feel good when you are inside it? If it feels like home, follow your intuition.

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