Every home buyer has unique priorities and deal-breakers. Your own needs and wish list will of course determine a lot of the preliminary questions you ask about a home before you consider making an offer on it. But then there are plenty of standard questions to ask before buying a home that everyone should get answers to.
Below are essential questions that a lot of buyers overlook. This is especially true for first-time home buyers, but even experienced buyers can miss at least a few of them. Some of the answers are available from home listings, and hopefully your real estate agent offers all or much of this information unprompted. Still, you may have to ask your agent or the current owners some of these questions.
Being an informed, empowered buyer is crucial when making such a major purchasing decision.
Ask These Questions Before Making an Offer
1. What is the home sale history? Knowing how much the home sold for in the past—especially when the current owners bought it—often gives you a better idea what the owner will be willing to sell for.
2. How much have similar homes sold for in the neighborhood recently? This too gives you a better idea of a fair sale price. Your real estate agent is able to provide this information.
3. What renovations and upgrades have been made to the property, and when? This gives you a greater appreciation for what you’re buying, and it may also help explain an asking price that’s higher than expected.
4. What problems does the home have? While not all buyers will be forthcoming, if you simply work in that problems will come to light during inspections and disclosures, they should be more open. After all, this saves everyone time—even the seller.
5. What problems do you see? This question is for your real estate agent. He or she has useful experience that can help you identify potential pitfalls and inconveniences, and help you get a better sense of what remodeling you could do and what it would cost.
6. How much are the property taxes and utility bills? If your real estate agent doesn’t know, ask the current owners. Along with the mortgage payments, this is key information about how purchasing the home will affect your cost of living and budget.
7. How old is the roof? A new roof is a huge expense, often starting around $11,000. You want to know if a replacement is coming up soon on the horizon. While it varies by material and certain climate considerations, a roof on a home typically lasts 15 to 25 years.
8. What type of foundation does the home have? This provides insights into how easy major plumbing or electrical work might be, possible drainage or dampness issues, and other considerations.
9. How is the home insulated? Find out about all the insulation in the walls, attic, and elsewhere. The better insulated the home, the more energy efficient it is.
10. How old are the windows, and are they drafty? Investigate the windows as well as the insulation for a better idea of the home’s energy efficiency. Replacing windows throughout a home is another major investment, often starting around $10,000.
11. Have there been significant pest infestations? You want to know they were properly dealt with, as was any damage to the home. Beyond that, though, you want to know that the conditions that prompted the infestation were also successfully resolved.
12. Has the sewer line ever backed up? A backed up sewer is a gross, inconvenient, and costly problem (few insurance policies cover it). Has the current owner kept up on sewer maintenance? That usually involves clearing out the line once every year or two.
13. Are any of the major appliances still under warranty? It’s good information to have, and you can make sure you get the necessary documentation.
14. Are there parking rules or restrictions around the home? This is particularly relevant for homes in a downtown or urban area. If you have more cars than fit in the garage, or if you’ll ever have guests visiting, make sure parking won’t be an issue.
15. Are the surrounding homes and yards well cared for? Answer this one on your own with a quick look around. It’s a good way to get a feel for your possibile future neighbors and community. Plus, these things affect your property value.