DBTC Law Firm

Checklist for Home Purchasers

Don’t let the American dream become your personal nightmare: Purchasing a home is considered by many to be a defining mark of maturity and success.  It is a complex transaction where very much can go very wrong, where responsibilities overlap, and where important issues can be overlooked among the involved group of realtors, title agents, home inspectors, and attorneys. An attorney should review your purchase agreement and closing documents, but there are lots of other things to attend to; this checklist may help.


1. Have someone (home inspector, contractor and/or seller) familiarize you with the home systems and provide all available directions and manuals for the following:  (a) kitchen and other appliances; (b) water and water shutoff valve; (c) smoke detectors; (d) location of gas supply; (e) alarm systems; (f) HVAC systems, air filters and changing;  (g) fire  sprinkler systems; (h) pool and hot tub; and (i) landscape irrigation systems.

2. Immediately re-key locks upon possession.

 3. Check school boundaries as they exist and as they may be under review, and confirm with local school district in writing.

 4. Carefully read and understand homeowners insurance coverage.

 5. Check neighborhood rules: These may be a result of city ordinances, property covenants or property owners association: (a) architectural controls on exterior colors, siding or roof style; (b) types and height of fences; (c) limitations on number and type of vehicles, such as campers and boats, that can be parked at property; (d) restrictions on businesses that can be run out of home; (e) restrictions on types, sizes or breeds of animals; (f) erection and maintenance of sheds and outbuildings; and  (g) involuntary dues and assessments.

 6. Check on tax exemptions: Arkansas has a homestead exemption from property tax; other states have exemptions for permanent occupants and transfer taxes– check with tax assessor.

 7. Consider a home warranty.

 8. Be aware of income tax benefits of of deducting interest on the mortgage loan and property taxes; however homeowners’ insurance, the portion of mortgage payments that are principal, and many closing costs are not deductible.

 9. If the house is under the care of a landscaper, meet with the landscaper to understand the cost, services and problems relevant to the landscaping.

 10. Purchase of a new home is a good time to reevaluate critical personal documents: wills, powers of attorney, life insurance, disability insurance and auto insurance.

 11. It is generally a very bad idea to use retirement plan funds to purchase a home: It converts liquid assets into illiquid assets; subjects the retirement funds to loss if the residence has significant problems or gets caught in a bad real estate market; and generally indicates that you are spending too much for a home if you have to use your retirement plan.

 12. Expenses of home ownership are almost always greater than anticipated– especially if you are moving from a rental situation. Installation and revision of cosmetic items (paint, wallpaper, floor coverings and wall coverings); landscaping and equipment costs; and home maintenance costs and equipment can be significant, unforeseen homeowner expenses.

 13. Upon moving in, video, save to disk, and put in your lockbox, each room of the house, which creates at very low expense and trouble a very good record of personal property in the event of fire, theft or other insurable loss.

 14. Schedule and monitor your own renewals: Termite, stucco bonds, alarm systems and homeowners insurance will typically notify you of renewal, but if they fail to do so, or you do not receive the notice, you can lose critical coverage that might not be renewable.

 15. Purchase contracts should always have clauses, which buyers should always take advantage of, allowing them to have a professional inspector review the premises and provide an acceptable report before closing.

 16. Procure and carefully read the Title Insurance commitment to look for limitations on this insurance, including the existence of easements (visible and invisible) for drainage, water and sewage lines, power lines and setbacks.

 17. Without a current survey, the proper location of fences and driveways is not assured. If there is any question at all about whether the existing driveways and fences are properly located with respect to property lines, a current, certified survey may be a very prudent investment.

 18. Request copies of utility bills for the prior three years to properly plan for such expense.


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