What’s Up, Holmes?! DIY’s Mike Holmes on How to ‘Buy It Right’

HOME FREE: HOME FREE, a new competition series that will feature never-before-seen twists and plenty of surprises, as couples vie to win their dream home. Pictured: Famed proffessional contractor Mike Holmes (“Holmes on Homes®”), the eight-episode unscripted series breaks ground Wednesday, July 22 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

When it comes to handymen, few get the job done as well (and on schedule) as Mike Holmes. A contractor since the age of 19, the Canadian-born tradesman has made a name for himself as host of DIY’s Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection and Holmes Makes It Right, as well as Fox’s Home Free competition. Last week, he returned to our screens with Buy It Right, his new DIY series in which he teaches prospective buyers exactly what to look for before booking the moving trucks. And according to Holmes, there’s a lot of learning to be done!

With all of the home shows on TV, it seems like folks still don’t know what to look for in a house.
No, they don’t. First, there’s not a show out there [to educate them]. I mean, the one that’s closest is House Hunters. It’s an absolute hit, but there is no information on how to buy it right.

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They don’t do home inspection shows. And home-inspection must be the most nerve-wracking thing for a homeowner.
Oh sure. For years and years and years, do you know how many people have bought a house and emailed me begging me to come help them fix the house? You know, “we didn’t expect this.” “The roof caved in.” “It floods.” “The electrical caused the fire.” I mean, the stories I’ve heard are depressing. It was time to do a show that actually put the horse before the trailer, and that’s to teach people how to buy it right.

Buy It Right is one-hundred percent real. It is not staged in any which way and I would never do a television show that wasn’t real. The great thing about this is that it could be someone who’s bought ten times or a brand new couple who have never bought before and I encourage them. I want them to find three favorite houses in their area. The ones that they actually want to bid on and then we’re gonna go through it and look at the home totally different.

Let’s remember some things about how almost everyone out there buys a home: One, it’s the single most expensive investment of your life. Two, it’s usually a subject between husband and wife. “You know what, you know I saw a house down two blocks over and it was really nice.” And it becomes a conversation of, “Well let’s go take a look at it.” This now becomes a buying experience. They don’t even realize it, because everything’s by impulse. The impulse is, “Oh my god. I love the kitchen. I love the property.” He sees the garage. So let’s do a quick equation. If you go into a bakery, what type of cake would you buy if you knew nothing about the cake?

The chocolate one that looks the best.
It’s the one that looks the best! [Laughs] It’s not like we took a bite of it first or we had a sample of it to say, “Okay, I definitely want this cake.” That’s the greatest example I can say of a home buying experience. After picking their three favorite homes, I will stand them in front of the house. House number one, “Okay, tell me why you like this house. What do you like about the area? What do you see?” And I get to know them based on that alone. They start pointing things out that they like, then I’ll say, “Do you see anything wrong with the outside of the house from the front?” and then most people say, “Actually, no. It looks fine,” and then I start to point things out.

Now, I never take them to the front door like a real estate agent. I take them around the house, because I want to identify problems that I see from the outside, which will lead me to the inside to look into that area. And I gotta tell you, there isn’t one house in all of this season that didn’t have problems. I think it would make people panic if home sellers were to know Mike Holmes was going to their house. “Oh my god, we don’t want him in the house!”

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Because they’re kind of hiding the damage?
Well most of them aren’t hiding it. Some of them do. [Laughs] Most of them don’t even know they have the damage, just like the people that are buying it. So, there’s gonna be a fear that I’m going to point things out. Truth is, they shouldn’t be afraid, because what I’m doing is educating everyone including home sellers. You know, do a home inspection first and then sell your home so you have a documented package. What is wrong with the house and how much is it going to cost? What are the immediate repairs that need to be done? How much does that cost and which can you do down the road? What you’re gonna find in the show is how their favorite homes have suddenly changed.

What are your top five things a buyer should look for?
Number one: Never buy by impulse. That’s the biggest mistake you could ever make. Number two: Educate yourself. If you love the area, get to know more about it. Are there termites in the area? Did you know you can check that?

It’s whether or not the termites have gotten into the home. You can look for track signs of the outside of the home. They’re very distinct, so get to know about termites. You can actually Google each and every area. Are there termites in this area? That’s part of education. Each home, in different areas across the United States, never mind Canada, are going to give you possible problem areas. Are you buying in a flood zone? Don’t ever buy at the bottom of a bathtub. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I really don’t. “Oh, we bought the house and it flooded.” Education is the key. Get to know that area. How old is the home? Anything before 1980 has a possibly of asbestos or lead in the paint.

Ok, that’s two.
Number three: Don’t be afraid to look at many homes. Stop the saying of just three houses. It can take a hundred houses. Don’t be in a hurry to buy wrong. If you’re in a hurry, odds are you will buy the wrong home. Number four is have a professional with you. This is a really important thing. You don’t have to but everyone makes the first mistake of trying to find the home inspector after they picked the home, rather than finding the home inspector before they pick the home. That’s a large mistake. And that leads to number five, which is just don’t be afraid of every single home just because there’s problems. You’re gonna learn in the show what can be an immediate fix and how much money it’s gonna cost and what you can do down the road as a wonderful investment on a huge return. So, this is again, it’s no longer buying by illusion, it’s buying with intelligence.

Say you walk through a house and find a disaster. What’s the one thing that would convince you to tell the potential buyers to walk away now?
Trust your instincts. You know, trust your instincts. I don’t want to say if the house smells, ‘cause smells can be fixed. If the house is leaning, well, you know that’s a different story. If the wall is bulging, you know structure is easy to fix, electrical you can replace. Average electrical rewiring is ten thousand dollars. Plumbing can be fixed. I don’t want to scare people. I just want them to buy smarter. I want them to buy it right. And this has been a wonderful experience. I get the homeowners crawling through the crawl space. I get theme to go into the attic. I get them to dissect the home like they’ve never done before.

Finally you get a show where you don’t have to be swinging the giant hammer and tearing down walls and all that! This is actually probably the most comfortable job you’ve had.
It is! I don’t have to fix crap. I just have to educate other people on how they can fix it. [Laughs]

Holmes: Buy It Right, Tuesdays, 10/9c and 10:30/9:30c, DIY Network