Approximately four million home buyers will purchase a home this year. Some will make that decision in less than 20 minutes.

Those of you who fall in love with your homes may be setting yourself up for a huge headache after closing if you don’t spend the time it takes to really check out the home and neighborhood before you buy.

Sometimes, new home owners find that the homes they bought aren’t really in the terrific shape they appear to be in and need a tremendous amount of work. Or, they find that one renovation project uncovers a series of home construction errors, all of which need to be corrected. Either way, your new home can quickly feel like a lemon.

One couple discovered on the third showing that the stairs led directly into the bedroom. Amazingly, they had not noticed this obvious design flaw. After they bought, they decided to move the stairs. Each renovation continued to uncover more design mistakes and poor construction techniques. Eventually, they sunk about $300,000 into a home that appeared essentially redone.

Would this couple have bought the home if they had realized what a minor renovation would have entailed? Of course not. But they, like many other home buyers who “fall in love” a home, didn’t even think to have a proper home inspection.

“My wife likes to say that love fades,” says Steve Thomas, host of PBS’s “This Old House,” as he and master carpenter Norm Abram were getting ready for an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Thomas says that home buyers who let emotions overrun common sense are setting themselves up for a big fall.

“It’s important to include the cost of maintaining a home with the other costs of homeownership,” Thomas notes. “A lot of times people don’t remember that they’ll have to pay someone to really fix a problem.”

“People see that they have a leak in the roof. So they think that’s all there is to it, just that water dripping down. But that leak may have caused more damage than you think, especially if you didn’t take care of it right away,” says Abram.

Both Thomas and Abram recommend finding qualified professionals to help you handle major improvements and maintenance to your home.

“I think a lot of folks can handle paint and wallpaper and (their homes) will come out looking fine,” said Thomas. “But you should think twice before you start reroofing your home.”

Thomas and Abram also believe a lot of problems can be avoided by having the homeowner disclose any problems there are in the home. In the latest issue of “This Old House” magazine, there is an article that discusses seller disclosure.

“Most states require sellers to give some sort of written or verbal disclosure about problems in the house,” says Thomas. He and Abram recommend buyers ask the seller specific questions about the condition of the home.

The best way to avoid buying a lemon is to spend some time going through the home carefully before you buy it. You should look for signs that the home may have either structural or mechanical problems, such as bowed basement walls, basement moisture, brown water marks in the ceiling, large cracks in the walls or foundation, and soft flooring in bathrooms or the kitchen.

Whether or not you notice anything wrong with your home, you should hire a professional house inspector or a structural engineer to thoroughly examine your home before you buy it. Make sure your offer to purchase is contingent upon your acceptance of the inspector’s satisfactory report.

When you move into your new home, you want to feel as though it will last as long as you plan to live there – and beyond. You don’t want to have happen to you what happened to one luckless homeowner just a couple of months after moving in: He put his leg right through a rotted floorboard.

Published: Mar 25, 1996