It is IMPERATIVE to establish a relationship with one and do what they say. Too often buyers make ill-advised decisions with their bank accounts and finances during the process of buying a house. Your lender is like your preacher, you tell them everything and then you do what they tell you. They can only help you if you are open and honest on your financial situation. No need for surprises along the deal because some information provided was misleading. Get this handled ahead of the house hunt. Once armed with a strong approval letter, you are ready to look with your agent and your negotiating power becomes much greater.
This too is EXTREMELY important as bugs and pests are very hard to discern for the layperson. This is a relatively inexpensive inspection that brings volumes of information on the residence to the forefront. For sellers, this can be a very worthwhile report to get ahead of listing the house so you know in advance what to expect and then can share it with all prospective buyers ahead of receiving their offers. Buyers are thrilled when a pest inspection is provided by sellers or previous buyers who have cancelled. As a buyer, you want to know of any pest related problems ahead of time. It will help you decide to move forth with the purchase, renegotiate the price, or abandon the prospective house.
This is a more costly inspection as the focus is on the entire structure but it is worth every penny. For more specific information, you might additionally hire a roof inspector, a contractor to advise on the foundation, an air quality inspector, and/or an electrician.
If the property resides within city limits, it is most advisable to visit the city planning and building departments during your physical inspection period to ensure there are no outstanding code violations. Similarly, when the property is located outside of a particular city, it falls under the domain of the county permit and resource department. Sonoma County is far ahead of Marin County in that they have made great strides in putting parcel information online that is easily accessible for the public to view.
The county has many zoning designations so be sure to investigate what the letters for the prospective house's zoning mean. An example is RR5 which means rural residential 5 acre-minimum. In Marin, you will need to visit the county planning department in the Frank Lloyd Wright Civic Center building to view records on specific properties. I am not sure why they are behind Sonoma County in this regard but they are.
The Sonoma County website is just full of useful and interesting information. The official website for Sonoma County is www.sonoma-county.org/Services which is all about the government and business within the county.
For detailed information on specific properties in Sonoma County, you can visit the permit and resource management department website at this link. This site has enormous information and is a terrific resource for most things related to property.
For flood maps, please visit this link where you will find an inordinate amount of information.
The state of California has mandated sellers of all property sold within the state to provide buyers with a "Natural Hazards Report". Some companies that provide these reports are JCP, Property I.D., and First American Title.
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