Regardless of how easy real estate agents say it is, the home buying process can be such an overwhelming process if you do not know which questions to ask. If this is your first time buying a home, you should keep so many things in mind before making a buying decision. As it is your first time, you know just a few things about buying a home, even if you use a real estate agent or go house hunting by yourself.
This guide gathers all the relevant questions to ask when buying a house.
These questions will help you make the right choice as you go house hunting with your real estate agent and also help you save money and time during the process. These questions will cover all aspects of the home buying process like finance, inspection, neighborhood checks, budget, insurance, and more.
1. Why is the house up for sale?
There could be so many reasons why the house is up for sale, and it is pertinent to find out either from your real estate agent or the seller’s agent. Most home sellers sell their homes because it has become too small for them, and they want to move into a new house. Another percentage of sellers sell their homes because of relocation or moving closer to their family and friends. A few more move probably because they are tired of the neighborhood and long for a change in environment.
Whichever might be the case, ensure you get to the rock bottom of why they are selling the house. The information you get from the digging process can be a great resource to help you determine if the house is the best fit for you. It can also come in handy during negotiations. You can leverage why the house is up for sale and get a fair price for it.
2. How long has the house been up for sale?
This is another trick to get yourself a good deal during the home buying process. By looking at the listings, you can get information on how long a house has been put up for sale. Although, your real estate agent will tell you the exact amount of time it has been up for grabs. For many people, a house that has spent a lot of time on the listing is considered a bad deal. Most times, houses stay in the market for a long time due to the high price placed by the sellers. If the house you intend to buy has experienced a series of price cuts over time, that’s a sign that it has been on the market for quite a long time. You can use this knowledge to your advantage when making negotiations for the house.
3. How much are homes in the same neighborhood selling for?
There’s no overstating the importance of comparisons when buying a house, especially for the first time. Your real estate agent should know the house asking price in that area. He can draw up possible comparisons for you to check how many other homes in that neighborhood cost. Knowing this will help you determine if you are on track with expenses or overbilled. It will also be helpful to find out how much the house has been sold for in the past by the previous owner. You will see that this information can be an excellent resource for you to negotiate the price to suit your budget or even lower.
4. Any problems with the house?
Sometimes you need to do a thorough home inspection before getting all the answers to this question. However, your motivated seller is expected to release a checklist of all known issues in the house. But who knows? They might mistakenly leave out one or two details, and that might be a significant concern for you. For example, the house might have some pest issues, and the seller might be hiding it from you. Getting hold of this information can give you an edge during the bargaining process.
5. What is included in the sale?
You don’t want to pack into a house and find out that certain essential things are not included in your purchase. You’ll have to spend extra bucks to get them if you don’t ask this question right on time. All fixtures like cabinets, window blinds, and facets are included in the purchase.
However, some items you think should be included might not be, sometimes due to the laws governing the state or neighborhood. Generally, the house listing should tell you all that the house comes with, but sometimes it is not as accurate as they say. Take your time and ask the seller about the house that comes with it. If there are extra things you want to be included in the house like a dryer, water heater, or washer, you can discuss that with the seller too.
6. Any major renovations I should know about?
Many times home buyers have seen situations where the details on the listings don’t match up with the accurate details and aesthetics of the house physically. During a home purchase, sellers might hide details of significant renovations and major repairs on major systems of the house while listing it on the market.
A house might be listed on the marketplace as having 3 bedrooms, while one of those rooms results from a major renovation and sometimes does not follow the local building rules. Ask if there have been any major repairs since the house was built. Also, if there are appliances that have been replaced, ask for the original warranty from the manufacturer. The information you get from this question will let you decide if it’s worth the price you are paying for it.
7. Is the area prone to natural disasters?
Disaster-prone areas are those places likely to experience floods, earthquakes, other natural disasters, etc. Find out if the house is located in a federally designed high-risk flood zone because that will need some flood insurance covers. You can find out using FEMA’s flood map service. If you want to buy a house in a disaster-prone area, you should consider getting homeowner’s insurance. Ensure the insurance covers the cost of rebuilding the house if there is any major disaster. You will have a massive bill for repairs if the house is under-insured.
8. How old is the roof?
It can cost a lot of money to renovate or change your roof if it is nearing the end of its life span. Roofs are essential and expensive as well, so if the house you are about to buy has a roof nearing the end of its lifespan, then you might be spending a lot of money shortly when you move in. This is one of the essential questions to ask your seller so you don’t get into unforeseen expenses shortly. Ensure the listing gives details of how long the roof has stayed to avoid incurring unforeseen expenses.
9. How old are the gadgets and major appliances?
You must know the lifespan of those essential gadgets and effective systems that come with the house. How will you feel moving into your new house to discover that the gadgets are almost spoilt? What if you don’t have enough money for replacements? You will feel bad. It is essential you know the lifespan of appliances like the water heater, air-conditioner, washer, stove, and dryer. Pro tip: ask the seller for a home warranty that will cover the costs of replacing those appliances if they get worse.
10. Why is the seller leaving?
There are quite some reasons why the seller might be leaving the property, and you should know this as a home buyer. Sometimes it might be because of a new job relocation or homeowners because they want to explore a new neighborhood. An excellent real estate agent will get hold of this information so you can know how flexible the seller will be to negotiate. A seller who just listed his house is less likely to give a fairer price than a seller whose property has been on the listing for a long time.
11. What about health or safety hazards?
Find out if there are health hazards in the house before proceeding with the negotiation. You can do this by conducting a thorough home inspection. Check for molds, lead paint, radon, and other significant health hazards, which can be quite costly to address when you get into the house. Ask the seller for documentation to prove such hazards have not been bound in the house before, and if they were, the seller should outline the steps they took to get rid of them.
12. How good is the neighborhood?
The neighborhood is a significant factor to consider before making any down payment on the house or signing the purchase agreement. You should ask many questions about the neighborhood and know the kind of energy and feel in the neighborhood. Some places have high crime rates, according to crime statistics.
If the seller takes too long to answer, it could be a bad sign because if they have something good to say, they will say it without hesitation, likewise, if you get a limited response. Chances are, the seller is hiding some things from you. Do quality background checks, ask other people in the neighborhood. If possible, you can come later and make your findings.
13. Any problem neighbors around?
You will not be comfortable if you pack in and discover your neighbors can be problematic. Neighbors with unsafe and unpleasant behavior can put you at risk. It might be easier to handle minor nuisances, but what if it escalates shortly? Remember to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
14. Is there any stigma on the house?
This is one of the essential questions to ask before buying a house, and I will tell you why. A stigma refers to anything that gives the house some lousy review. Anything ranging from reports, paranormal activities, haunting, illegal or unsavory activities. You should ask the seller directly and get first-hand information.
A house with stigma can sell below the fair market value, and you can take advantage of that. However, know the kind of stigma that comes with the house and be specific if you can cope with it or not. If you can, then you have an edge on the bargaining table. If you cannot, you should ask your real estate agent to check out other properties for you.
15. What’s my budget for the house?
Your list of essential questions to ask isn’t complete without this question. Okay, the first step to buying a house is to ask yourself how much you can spend, what’s your budget? How much monthly payment can you afford? If these questions are not adequately addressed, you might not make a headway in your home buying process.
Unless you are paying for the house with cash, the asking price on the house when you see it on the listing is not the price you will pay. There will be more costs in cured on that house, and you should make sure it fits within your budget. You might not even know the total cost upfront because there are so many additional costs that go into purchasing a house.
The total costs of acquiring a house might include the following:
Appraisal costs are costs for an expert valuation of the property’s value. You might pay some hundred dollars on this.
Property cost: This is the home’s purchase price, the tremendous amount of money you see on the listing sites. You must have in mind your down payments and your monthly payments. Make proper calculations with your payment calculator and know how much down payment you can afford to drop. You don’t want to go broke by making a larger down payment. Once you know your capacity, discuss how to go about your monthly mortgage payment with your mortgage lenders.
Inspection cost: the home inspector check’s the value and condition of your future home. It is a more thorough process than an appraisal. A home inspection is for identifying anything that’s not in good working condition in the house and might cost you extra expenses in the future.
Mortgage Payment: Your mortgage is the loan you take against buying the house, and you will have to make monthly payments against it. Be sure your monthly mortgage payment is less than 25% of your disposable income.
Mortgage insurance: Your mortgage lender might demand you get mortgage insurance monthly. However, this can be negotiated if you have a good mortgage broker.
Mortgage interest: if you are buying the house through a mortgage or taking a home loan, you’ll have to pay interest on it. The interest rate might significantly increase the final cost of your future home. Although you might be lucky to get a mortgage lender with a lower interest rate, it is always essential you factor in the costs into your calculations.
Homeowners insurance: It is usual for your lender to require you to carry your homeowner’s insurance if you’ll be using a mortgage. Asides from that, you’ll want your assets and possessions protected, and that’s where the homeowner insurance costs come in.
Property Taxes: Every homeowner is liable to pay property taxes yearly, although it’s calculated every month. The property taxes cover things like road maintenance, local schools, and other essential services in your area. You’ll have to ask the current homeowner about the property tax situation on your future home.
Homeowner’s association fees: Although not every house has a homeowners association, it’s becoming prevalent in most areas. They channel the fees towards maintaining various community amenities and neighborhood development. You can look at paying up to $300 monthly on homeowners association dues.
Although some of these costs are highly negotiable that’s when you need to show your bargaining skills to get a fair deal for yourself if you are new to the house buying game. These costs add up to the closing costs of getting your future house, so you have to be sure of your long-term plans for the house. As usual, detect the type of mortgage you go for and save you a lot of money in the long run.
16. How about my moving expenses?
How do you intend to move your property is from your old location to your new home? If you are moving in with logistic companies, you should factor in moving costs unless you have friends willing to help you out with the transition process.
17. How about other utilities, decorations, and furnishing?
This is one of the important questions to ask if you are buying a home for the first time. Many people might take a loan against getting furniture but trust me being in debt is one of the greatest mistakes you can make when buying a house. Either you keep the equipment you have already, or you save up and get new ones as time goes on. It would help if you also considered other utility bills, window treatments, and any retouching you might want to make on the house when you move in.
18. Are there any past insurance claims and history?
Some homes might have experienced severe damage and vandalism, which cannot be supported even with a thorough home inspection. Also, the seller might not want to review this information to scare you away from purchasing the house. This is why you should use this method to spot out if there has been any major issue with the house, as they will be recorded in the insurance claims.
You must get a copy of the comprehensive loss underwriting exchange from your seller or your seller’s agent for you to see if there have been any homeowners insurance claims filed between the past 7 to 10 years.
19. What are my total closing costs?
Aside from the final down payment you will be making on the closing day, there are other closing costs you will have to pay, and it is important to factor them into your calculations. Things like loan origination fees, third-party fees for title research, paperwork processing fees, appraisal fees, utility costs, and administrative tasks fees can eat up around 2% to 5% of the home purchase price. Is pertinent you have these fees in mind so as not to be caught unawares of them.
20. Are there any good schools around?
For many people, the quality of the school district and the school’s convenience are significant factors for choosing a home in a neighborhood. Many recent home buyers are reluctant to compromise the quality of the schools and the distance after school today at homes.
If you have kids on your plan to have, then the type of schools in your potential neighborhood and how easy it is for your kids to get there should be one of the questions to ask. Even if you do not plan to have kids shortly, it can be worth your while to know that homes found in areas with good schools can be more valuable when you want to sell.