19 Questions to Ask when buying a House
When you find your perfect home, you might be in a rush to put in an offer. Whether this is because you are excited to buy or you want to beat another buyer, rushing into a big financial commitment like this would be a mistake.
Before you pick up the pen to sign your purchase offer, you need to ask the right questions and get answers to.
If you don’t find out much about the home you are about to buy, you might have many regrets later on. Buying without asking questions could mean a greater chance of unexpected bills and unwanted problems. And you might also pay more for the house than you need to.
We look at the best questions to ask before buying a home.
Why Has the Seller Put the House on the Market?
Knowing why the home is for sale can help show if they are in more of a hurry to sell. If there isn’t any urgency because of their reason for selling, they’re more likely to wait for the right offer. But if they need to move soon for work or are keen to move into their new place, they may be willing to make more compromises if you can help them meet their timeline.
What is the Value of the Home in the Current Market
Deciding how much to offer for a home is difficult. You want the seller to agree to your offer, but you don’t want to spend more money than you need to. If you know the current market value, however, you are more likely to get the result you want.
Before you put in an offer, you should find out what the market value of the home is. Your agent can help you get a comparative market analysis that uses recent sales data of similar homes in the same area. This should help you understand the value range and give you a good idea of how much to offer for the home.
What is Happening in the Local Market?
Does the local real estate market favor sellers or buyers? Knowing the state of the market will play a large role in how you approach making an offer and whether you bid above or below the asking price.
For example, in a seller’s market, where buyers often have to compete when making an offer on a home, you may have to offer more than the listed price.
The market absorption rate is a statistic that shows the remaining time the homes currently available will take to be sold. If the market absorption rate is 4.0 or lower, this shows it will take 4 months or less to sell the current inventory, normally indicating a seller market. If the rate is above 6.0, the area is likely a buyer’s market.
What did the Seller Pay for the Home?
If you know how much they paid for the home, it can help you make an appropriate offer. While changes in the market will have altered the value, does the asking price accurately reflect that change, or is the sale price a lot more?
If they have owned the home for only a few years, and the price they are now asking is considerably higher than the amount they paid, is this justified? If they have made upgrades to the home, perhaps it is. But if that isn’t the case, it might be an indication that the property is overpriced.
Has the Seller Already Had Offers?
Knowing this information can help you when creating your offer. While you won’t be able to find out how much these offers are, just knowing there were offers can be useful.
If the seller has turned down offers, is it because their price is unrealistic, or was someone trying to lowball them? Perhaps the previous offer included too many contingencies, which could mean the seller is looking for a quick sale.
Does the Seller Have Other Current Offers?
In a seller market, homes are more likely to attract multiple offers. If you know you have competition, you can get advice from your agent on how to make your offer as attractive as possible.
How Many Days Has the Home Been on the Market?
The longer a house has been on the market without finding a buyer, the greater the chance that the seller will be willing to compromise on their price.
Your real estate agent can check the days on the market and see if the home has been relisted. If the home has been on the market for 5 or 6 months, there’s a good chance they will be more open to lower offers.
The pricing history could also reveal if the seller has reduced the listing price, an indication that the property was overpriced. But even if the home appears overpriced, there’s no guarantee that the seller will see it that way. Some sellers fixate on a certain price and will stubbornly refuse to change their opinion even if it attracts no offers.
Is Anything Else Included With the Home?
Usually, the real estate listing will mention extra things included in the sale. But if you have seen an item of furniture or window treatment that you would like to stay in the home, you could always ask in your offer if the seller would want to include that in the sale.
Are There Any Problems with the House?
Before you decide to put in an offer, you should find out if there are any problems with the house. Some homeowners might be tempted to hide any serious problem their home has, but there are usually legal disclosure requirements that the sellers are required to fill out.
Disclosure laws vary between states. In some states, the seller is only required to disclose a particular problem if asked a direct question about it. Ask your real estate agent about those requirements in your state.
Even if the laws are quite stringent, you will still need a home inspection as the seller can only disclose things they know about.
Are There Any Planned Future Developments Nearby?
While the neighborhood might seem nice and quiet right now if there is a large development planned just down the road, that could be set to change. A new development could change the way you feel about the neighborhood and affect property values.
What is it Like Living in the Neighborhood?
If the seller has had issues with nuisance neighbors, it’s something you want to know about. But you should also find out about transport links, parks, and other facilities in the area, as well as the type of people and families living in the neighborhood.
You should find out if the neighborhood is noisy, has problems with street parking, or if some of the homes aren’t cared for. It might be better to find out these things yourself by touring the neighborhood at different times of the day.
Listing agents won’t usually offer information about the crime rate in the neighborhood. If they did, they might be in breach of the Fair Housing Act. However, you can check the crime statistics for the neighborhood online for free.
How Good Are the Local Schools?
If you have or are planning a family, it is an important question. But even if you don’t have children, a good school nearby can increase home values.
How Old Are the Major Systems and Appliances in the Home?
Homeownership isn’t cheap, but you don’t want to buy a home that will soon need a replacement water heater, heating system, or air-conditioning system. Also, when were the roof and windows replaced? And how new are the appliances?
Make sure to ask what the condition of these systems is as well, though a home inspection will assess that. But it is better to find out if the home has any up-and-coming problems before you get to that stage.
Even if systems and appliances are fairly new, it doesn’t mean that they won’t break down. But the older they are, the greater the chance of problems.
What Renovations, Upgrades, or Repairs Have Been Completed on the Home?
If the home has had fairly recent renovations or repairs, it could mean that you won’t have to spend money on that part of the house for a while.
When something like the roof has been replaced not long ago, you are unlikely to need to worry about it for a long time. If any of the important things in the home have been repaired or upgraded, this could mean a saving of many thousands of dollars.
But if it seems like the current owner hasn’t spent much on the property, and it isn’t that new, it might be important to budget for home maintenance in the future.
What are the Utility Costs?
If you are a first-time home buyer, it will be particularly useful to know how much the seller is paying for their utilities.
If you are not familiar with how much it costs to heat or cool a home of that size, this information will help you judge what your monthly expenses will be. And if you know your monthly outgoings, you can see how much money you will be left with after your housing costs.
Is the Seller Ready to Move Out, or Do They Need More Time?
If you know what their timeline is, you can do things to make the offer more attractive. If you have some flexibility and they are ready or need to move quickly, matching your timeline with theirs can make your offer more attractive.
Is the Home at Risk From Natural Disasters?
You can ask your real estate agent if the home is in a flood or earthquake zone if you don’t know the area. But you can also do some research yourself. If you are serious about a home, check the FEMA flood and seismic maps for the area. You might find additional things by doing internet searches about the area, that could reveal other hazards.
Have There Been Any Past Insurance Claims?
You might receive information about previous insurance claims in the disclosure statement, but you might not. To be sure, it is better to ask the seller to provide any information on insurance claims to give you more details about the home and its history.
How Much Will Closing Costs Be?
Before you commit to an offer, you should have an understanding of how much you will be paying in closing costs. Your mortgage originator should give you the details of what costs will be due at closing.
Along with the down payment, you could be expected to pay fees for an attorney, mortgage origination, property taxes, appraisal, home inspection, homeowner’s insurance, and more that might be due when you close on the home.
Getting answers to these crucial questions is highly recommended.
Summing Up Important Questions to Ask Before Buying a House
Buying a home is one of the biggest financial commitments most people will ever make, so it’s critical to be sure to ask some questions when buying a house. The answers you receive might make you think twice or even decide that the home isn’t for you. In this case, you may decide to start house hunting again.
Even if the answers don’t change your mind about your purchase, they will still help you decide on the amount you should offer. They should also give you more confidence about your decision to choose the home, with a better idea of what it will be like living there and the likely costs you will face.
About the author: This article was written by Luke Skar of MadisonMortgageGuys.com. As the Social Media Strategist, his role is to provide original content for all of their social media profiles as well as generate new leads from his website.
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