Mike Holmes, famous for calling out bad plumbing, woodworking and electrical work on the HGTV show "Holmes on Homes," says there are steps homebuyers can take to avoid many of those problems.
Holmes has a new show on Fox called "Home Free" (airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. CDT.) It's a competition show in which nine couples are challenged each week to restore a run-down home in Atlanta. They must live on the job site and follow Holmes' no-nonsense instruction. Couples whose work isn't up to code are gradually eliminated, with the surprise twist that they are then awarded the home.
Here, Holmes offers some advice for people looking to buy a home. The answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: What's the biggest mistake people make when looking to buy a home?
Holmes: We buy based on illusion. We don't buy with intelligence. We trust a real estate agent that we don't even know. More than anything, we buy by what we see. "Oh my god, it's got new paint. Look at the curb appeal."
I'm trying to impress on people that you need to do as much homework as possible. It's you that gets caught holding the bag. Education is the key to everything. Once you buy that house, it is yours. Nobody else's.
Q: Take me through a typical scenario of someone buying a home.
Holmes: Take a couple we'll call Mary and Joe. They decide to buy a house and they get excited, so all of a sudden their emotions change. Mary and Joe start looking on the Internet, they start driving around and picking a property, and then they look for a real estate agent.
And when they pick the house they want, then they start looking for a home inspector.
If you plan on buying a property, you should look for a real estate agent first. Find the best real estate agent on the market. Before you start looking at a house, find the best home inspector there is.
Q: How do you find the right real estate agent or home inspector?
Holmes: Ask, "How long have you been in the business? What areas have you worked in? How many houses have you sold?" In other words, you start by asking a ton of questions, and you want answers.
"Do you have a list of references?" Call the references and ask, "Were they good? Were they courteous? Did you get (taken advantage of) in any way?"
To a home inspector, ask, "How long have you been in the business? Did you do construction before you did inspection?"
Q: What's the biggest problem in home construction today?
Holmes: Mold is the No. 1 problem everywhere. You can't see it, and if you can't see it, you don't know what you're breathing in, and I believe it's the reason for the rise of asthma and allergies.