When buying a home — one of the biggest purchases one will ever make — oftentimes we find ourselves falling in love with the high ceilings, updated kitchen, and hardwood floors. We fantasize about the family gatherings we’ll have in the dining room or the cozy nights in front of the fireplace. But how many know ignorance is not always bliss, and what you see is not always what you get? Knowing the right questions to ask your realtor before you make the purchase can help put you in a position to make an informed decision that could wind up saving you not only heartache; but time and money.
1. What’s wrong with the house?
While it’s always a good idea to get an inspection, it is also a good idea to obtain as much firsthand knowledge about your prospective property as you can. Has the boiler recently had issues, or are the gutters shot? No one wants to buy someone else’s lemon — unless you’re into flipping…and even then, you should go into the situation being as well informed as possible. So be sure to get as much info as you can…that way you’re not wasting their time or yours.
2. Are there any foreclosures for sale in the area?
Know going in that sellers (and their agents) aren’t going to like this question all that much, but it’s still worth asking. After all, you can use this for leverage. A foreclosed home in the area is generally going to cost less, and that sheer fact introduces the opportunity for price competition that may allow you to offer up less of your own money. Score!
3. What is the neighborhood like?
While you’ll want to be sure to visit your prospective neighborhood on varying days and times (Tuesday morning is going to be a totally different vibe from Saturday night), it’s always a good idea to ask the realtor for their take on the neighborhood. Having other properties in the area, they will know a few things that won’t be apparent to an outsider. The realtor will be able to tell you if the neighborhood is family-friendly, or if more shops and restaurants have been coming to the area, or if new housing developments are possibly on the horizon.
4. Why is the owner selling?
Now, of course the realtor doesn’t have to answer, but…if the stars align just right you may be able to get them to hint at the circumstances. Are the homeowners finally retiring to Florida, have they found a new home and can’t carry two mortgages, or are their neighbors just unbearable? Again, it is best to try to feel out a situation and figure out what is motivating these sellers to vacate — pronto. Who knows… if they do need to ditch one of their mortgages, they just might be motivated to sell more quickly.
5. Is there anything you would want to know about the house if you were buying?
Everyone’s wary of buying a home with a huge negative that they wished they had known about prior to purchasing. Are some high-rises going up that will soon block skyline views, is there a nearby dumpsite opening up nearby, or was the home a former crime scene (hey, it happens)? Sometimes there are things that have happened in homes that new families come to habitat uninformed, but would have probably loved to know what happened there formerly. If you’re curious about the home you’re looking at, try reaching out to a neighbor or checking in with a local shop owner to see what advice they can offer up.
6. How long has the property been on the market?
The length of time a property has been on the market has a huge and direct impact on a seller’s motivation to sell. For example, an owner whose property has been listed for six months (and seen by every agent in town) is more than likely going to be more motivated to sell over someone with a listing that’s only been up a week. If you find out up front how old the listing is, you just might wind up saving yourself thousands of dollars in the process.
7. Exactly what is included in the sale?
Are those great shelves in the garage going to be there when you move in — or that chandelier you’ve mentally planned your dining room around? Never ever assume a fixture (not even cabinet knobs) will automatically come with a home. Ask the realtor exactly what items will be included in the purchase of the home, and have those items outlined in the final contract. Doing this will put everyone on the same page and should be confirmed before closing the final deal.
8. Has property repeatedly changed hands?
Is there a new owner every 3 or 4 years? One can’t help but ask “why” if a home has a high turnover. It begs the question “what did those previous home owners know that I don’t?” Is there a noisy neighborhood bar nearby, does a train run through your back yard, or are the school ratings less than desirable? Again, it behooves you when making such a large purchase to get as much info as you can in order to get the best home for your buck.
9. Have any major works been completed on the home and can you look at the planning and building consents?
You’ll definitely want to ask to see any applicable permits, building consents, or warranties for adjustments made to the home (if available). There’s nothing worse than thinking you have this awesome home with great income property potential, only to later find out that not only will you not be making extra money, but you have to pay to dismantle work that wasn’t even your fault to begin with.
10. Is this the seller’s prime residence or a rental property?
Figuring out if the property is a seller’s prime residence or an income property can tell you a number of things about a home, so it’s definitely worth asking. For example, if the property was used primarily for rentals the home may possibly have suffered a bit more wear and tear and some remodeling and upkeep may have been neglected due to long occupancies.
Brandhyze Stanley is the chief voice of the award winning blog, Frugal-nomics.com; a platform designed to share with women how to live and look fabulous on a dime. A DIY girl at heart—Brandhyze has been featured on The View, The Early Show, The Today Show, InStyle Magazine, Essence Magazine, and MTVStyle. A Wilhelmina Model for over a decade, with a Business Degree from Loyola University Chicago, Brandhyze has been a contributor for the Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, Manilla, Good Housekeeping, and Newsday Westchester, to name a few.