When you have found a home you are considering buying you'll need to consider several things:
As mentioned above, always be pre-qualified when you search to avoid later heartbreak.
If you aren't working with a Realtor, you should work with an attorney who is experienced in Real Estate to protect your interests. Here is a link to a series of useful articles on our website.
You have several options here. You may consider hiring a professional and preferably licensed and certified home inspector. If you do, be sure to ascertain beforehand if his inspection carries a guarantee and for how long. If you are experienced yourself you can do it yourself or take another person with you who is experienced. Even then there are a few things you may consider hiring professional help with. The condition of the HVAC system and roofing are hard for an amateur to accurately diagnose. If the home is old and you are not sure if the wiring is updated an electrician may come in handy as would a plumber in an older home. Of course, most mortgage companies will not give a loan without a certified, licensed and bonded pest inspection. If there is a septic tank you may well consider having that inspected as well as that can be an expensive item to deal with later on.
Remember you can always write an offer 'subject to the satisfactory results of inspection.' Be sure to use an attorney to ensure the correct legal verbiage in the offer. A signed offer is a legally binding document. Most states require the Seller to provide a 'Disclosure Statement'. This is a document provided by the seller accurately stating the condition and age of the structure and mechanicals as well as previous pest infestations etc. Be sure to ask for a copy. Also ask if any inspections were recently done and ask to see the results. Do not write your offer without obtaining a copy of all necessary and legally required disclosure statements first.
A few days before the date of closing you will need to make a final inspection of the house that you are purchasing. This is customarily called a walk through. You need to make a thorough job of the final walk-through inspection. Failure to do so could result in hassles after the closing.
If utilities had previously been shut off make sure that all utilities to the property have now been turned on by the various companies in question.
This inspection is to verify that all items for which you have contracted to buy are there, and items that you have not contracted to buy have been removed. Bring with you a copy of your offer to purchase, disclosure statement, a clipboard with paper and a pen. Also advisable are a simple plug-in lamp or night-light to check all outlets with and a flashlight (with fresh batteries) to look in nooks and crannies.
Check the house from top to bottom and don't ignore anything. Pay particular attention to expensive items and things the repair or replacement of which could be very costly.
It is important that you set aside no less than an hour for this inspection. First, turn on the appliances that you have contracted to purchase. Run the washer, dryer and the dishwasher through a short cycle. Turn on the oven and try on the top burners, turn off if satisfied that they work. While the appliances are going through their cycles, walk through the house and inspect it carefully. Examine the floors. Are there damages that were previously covered with furniture or rugs? Are items missing that you were supposed to get with the purchase of the house? Are things still there that shouldn't be there? Remember, you are not expected to take care of the sellers refuse, large or small.
Check all windows and doors, turn on all faucets and check for drips. Look under the sink and confirm that the plumbing is sound. Does the water drain well? Flush all toilets. If possible turn on the air-conditioner and check the furnace.
Keep Emotions Out of This
It is important that you leave your emotions in your car when you do this. Now is the time to remain calm and in control. Do not panic if you find a problem but make note of it call your lawyer as soon as possible. Any problem must be addressed in writing before closing.