Before making an offer on a house, you want to be absolutely sure that it’s “the one.” But with so many options out there, for seasoned houses, how do you find your perfect match?
Finding the right home involves research, so you’ll need to ask the right questions. That way you know you’re making a competitive offer on a home that you can afford — and one that meets your long-term needs.
To clear out the doubts here are a few crucial questions to ask when buying a house.
WHAT’S MY BUDGET?
Don’t waste your time looking at houses without first understanding how much house you can afford. There are additional costs to consider beyond just the sales price, such as property taxes, homeowners insurance, ongoing maintenance and any renovations you want to do in the future. Keep in mind, If you want your offer to be accepted, you must show the seller you have the financial means to buy their house. This means getting preapproved for a mortgage.
WHY IS THE SELLER SELLING the house?
Understanding why the seller is moving whether it’s due to downsizing, a job relocation or as a result of a major life event might help you get a better deal on the property. A good buyer’s agent will try to find out this information for you and gauge how flexible (or not) the seller might be during negotiations. A motivated seller who needs to move quickly or whose home has been on the market a while is more likely to work with you than someone who isn’t in a rush to move.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE SALE?
Anything that’s considered a fixture is typically included when purchasing a house — think cabinets, faucets and window blinds. However, there could be items that you think are included but actually aren’t. This depends on your state’s laws. The listing description should spell out anything the seller is not including, but that’s not always the case.
So make sure to ask in your offer what is (and isn’t) included with the home. Do you really want that washer and dryer, or that stainless-steel refrigerator? Confirm whether the seller is willing to throw these items into the deal.
ARE THERE ANY MAJOR RENOVATIONS DONE TO THE PROPERTY?
In some cases, property records and listing descriptions don’t always match up. For example, a home might be advertised as having four bedrooms, but one of those rooms may be a non-conforming addition that doesn’t follow local building codes.
Find out what major repairs or renovations the seller has done since owning the home. It’s also smart to request the original manufacturer warranties on any appliances or systems that have been replaced. Knowing a home’s improvement history can help you better gauge its condition and understand the seller’s asking price.
HOW OLD IS THE ROOF?
Let’s face it: Roofs are necessary, and expensive. If a home’s roof is at the end of its lifespan and you wind up having to replace it shortly after move-in, you’ll be shelling out thousands of dollars. Ouch. And if the roof has existing damage, the lender may require that it be repaired in order to approve your loan. If listing description doesn’t list the roof’s age, make sure to find out so you can avoid a costly home-improvement headache later.
ARE THERE ANY HEALTH HAZARDS?
Issues like lead paint, radon, mold or other major hazards can be costly to address and can hold up your loan approval. Ask the seller to provide documentation if there have been past issues, and find out exactly what was done to resolve those problems. If you suspect hazardous problems — or a home inspector suggests additional testing — you might need to pay extra for those specialized services.
HOW OLD ARE THE APPLIANCES AND MAJOR SYSTEMS?
Again, understanding the anticipated lifespan of essential systems and appliances — like the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, washer, dryer and stove — can help you anticipate major repair or replacement expenses. If these items are already at the end of their lifespan, or near it, ask the seller to purchase a home warranty, which can help cover the replacement costs in certain instances.
HOW LONG HAS THE HOUSE BEEN ON THE MARKET?
The longer a house sits on the market, the more motivated the seller will likely be to make a deal. This means you might find flexibility to negotiate the price, contingencies, terms and credits for replacing outdated carpet or other noticeable issues.
Many times, a home will languish on the market if it was priced too high at the onset, resulting in the need for multiple price reductions. A listing that shows multiple price cuts and has been sitting on the market too long may give buyers the impression that something is wrong with it. And that gives you a prime opportunity to negotiate a deal.
DO YOU HAVE NEIGHBORHOOD COMPARABLES TO SHOW ME?
Understanding the current local market will help you determine whether a seller’s asking price is reasonable — or way too high. Your Realtor can pull the comparable listing data for similar homes that are currently on the market, and ones have sold in the last six months or so, as a basis for comparison.
ARE THERE ANY INSURANCE CLAIMS?
Get a copy of a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE report, from the seller to see if there have been any homeowners insurance claims filed in the last seven years. This report can give you insight into what, if any, damage the home has sustained from a weather event or vandalism that a home inspection doesn’t catch or a seller fails to mention.
Sellers are required to provide a disclosure form listing any known defects. But what they don’t disclose — and you don’t know — can lead to major issues later. That’s why it’s critical to get a home inspection done by a professional home inspector as soon as a purchase agreement is signed.
The inspection report outlines the home’s overall condition and can help you negotiate future concessions, such as repairs or seller-paid credits, before closing the deal. If a home has too many problems and you included an appraisal contingency when you made an offer on the home, you’ll be able to back out of the deal without penalty and (in most cases) get your earnest deposit returned.