Do Your Research Before Closing

The city where the home is located keeps records on each home. This information is available to the public and typically available in the building department of the city. The city will keep a record of all permits and inspections preformed as well as calls made to the city by the property owner.

The city often gets called when a sewer backup exists. I have seen cases where a seller checks "no" as to prior sewer problems on the disclosure form, only to find out that he called the city six times in the past year to snake out his sewer line due to backup issues.

If the seller had improvements made to the property, check to see whether permits were filed. This will let you know the city was involved in inspecting the work performed. If no permit was filed then you have no guarantee that it was performed properly.

Some owners will do work on their homes or have their friend perform the work. Sometimes this work is well below code, requiring thousands of dollars in repairs to make it safe. Ask the owner about improvements made to the property, then check with the city to see if permits were obtained and inspections performed. Also check records for sewer problems and complaints.

Following the above advice won't guarantee that you buy the perfect home, but it will seriously reduce your risk of buying a problematic home.