10 Common Questions to Ask When Buying a House
Here are some important questions for a prospective home buyer to ask a realtor during a tour:
- Why has the seller decided to sell? Knowing why the homeowner wants to sell can significantly inform your decision. If they’re selling because they’ve taken a new job in another city, they may be hoping to sell quickly and willing to lower the asking price. If they’re selling because there’s an issue with the house, you may be able to get a better deal or pass and avoid buying a house that can end up being a money pit. If they’re selling for a location reason—maybe school districts have gotten worse, crime statistics have increased, or the house is on a flood plain—you can factor those variables into your decision, too.
- How long has the house been on the market? The length of time that a house has been on the market may indicate that the price is too high or be a sign that the property has a major issue. The answer to this question can help prospective home buyers determine whether the seller is desperate to sell and likely to accept a lower offer.
- What’s included in the sale? When buying a new home, it’s crucial to know what comes with the home purchase. It’s standard for most attached hardware to come with the house—like cabinets and faucets—but appliances may not. Ask the seller about refrigerators, ovens, washers and dryers, and backyard features, so you know what to expect if you decide to make the purchase.
- Has the house had any major renovations or additions? Ensure the house is up to code before making an offer to avoid any big surprises when the home inspector does their walkthrough, or your lender conducts their appraisal. Securing information about any renovations or additions the seller has made (and whether they got the correct approval and permits) is vital because it’ll let you know if it’s a temporary DIY fix or completed by professionals and likely to last a while.
- How old is the roof? The roof is one of the most expensive parts of a house and a common deal-breaker during house sales. An old roof—anything over 20 years old—may need costly repairs sooner than later, depending on the level of care. A well-installed and well-maintained roof can last for 30 years or longer, while a poorly installed or poorly maintained roof might need replacement after five or 10 years. Look at the roof carefully for signs of wear or damage—missing roofing tiles, sagging, or leaks—and keep an eye on issues listed in the home inspection.
- How old are the appliances? Appliances—and major systems like air conditioning or heating—have finite lifespans, and it’s important to know how old they are to gauge how much longer they’ll work before they need replacement. Ask to see warranties, if the seller has them. Most appliances (ovens, refrigerators, washers, dryers) and systems (HVACs, furnaces, and water heaters) can last 10 to 15 years if they’re well-maintained. If the house’s appliances are at high risk of failing soon, you may be able to negotiate a better deal or have the seller cover some of the closing costs to make up for the price of repairs or replacement.
- How much do the house’s monthly fees usually cost? While you may have an idea of your monthly mortgage payments, it’s essential to factor in other costs like monthly utility bills, property taxes, and fees from the homeowners association (HOA). Ask the seller’s real estate agent to break down these potential costs.
- Is the area prone to natural disasters? Most states in the US have flood disclosure laws that determine how much information a seller must give you about the likeliness of flooding. Still, it can be beneficial to ask if the house is in a flood zone and requires flood insurance. In addition, ask about earthquakes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters; if the house is in a high-risk zone, your homeowner’s insurance premiums may be more expensive than you were anticipating.
- Are there any safety hazards? Some older houses have certain safety hazards—like lead paint, radon, or mold problems— that will affect their price. Ask about those problems upfront to get a better deal or to determine whether you should move on to see other listings.
- Does the house have a history of insurance claims? Past insurance claims can reveal a lot about a house—for instance, if it’s been damaged by weather or broken into consistently. Request a copy of a comprehensive loss underwriting exchange (CLUE) to see any insurance activity from the past seven years and ask the seller’s agent about past insurance claims.
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