When you’re house hunting, there’s a lot to take into account.
First, you need to figure out what type of home you want, which location suits your lifestyle and what you can afford. Once you’ve narrowed down the selection, it’s time to hit the open houses to view some likely prospects. But don’t just wander around aimlessly and take some photos, you’ll come away none the wiser. Instead, do your research and know what questions to ask in order to be an empowered homebuyer.
Experienced real estate agents are a valuable source of information. At Pro Team, we encourage our clients to ask the right home buying questions. That way, you can glean all sorts of insights into whether the property is a good deal or not, or whether it's the right home for you. You may even gain an advantage over other buyers if you’re in-the-know and save yourself a lot of money in the process.
To help, we've compiled a list of ten questions to ask your agent when buying a home:
1. What is the age of the big ticket items (appliances, roofing, windows)?
Nothing last forever, especially the fixtures of a home. Just like a car, any existing home has periodic maintenance. You will want to determine if appliances like the furnace, air conditioner, the water heater were replaced in the last ten years. If the appliances are on their last legs, then expect to shell out some large sums of money in the next couple years. In Minnesota, roofs can be serviceable around 20 years, so if the roof is older be aware, this could be an added expense later on.
2. Are there any existing water-related problems?
It is crucial to get ahead on this one, especially for homes in Minnesota. Heavy rain and snow year-round can take a toll on a roof. Basement sump pump systems are also widespread in Minnesota. You can ask if there have been past flooding issues or if there are known leaks from the roof.
3. How long has the house been on the market?
Ask the agent how long the property has been on the market to determine its popularity. Hot properties get snapped up in a couple of weeks or less. More than three months on the market could mean there are issues with the property that potential buyers have discovered. Then again, perhaps it’s just overpriced, and the seller would be happy to accept a lower offer. Always get a professional home inspection to be on the safe side.
4. When do the sellers have to move out?
If the sellers have put in an offer on another home on the condition of selling their own, then they’ll be wanting to sell as quickly possible. If they’re selling before they’ve found something else, they’ll be keen to get a high price. Make sure their timetable doesn't affect your plans, especially if you need to be out of your current living situation at a specific date.
5. Is the house priced well?
Ask the agent for information on recent sales on similar houses in the area to gauge whether the property is priced right. If homes are selling for less than their asking price you could have quite a bit of negotiation power at your disposal (and may even be able to offer less than the asking price).
6. Are the sellers excluding anything from the listing?
Get a list of any items the sellers intend to bring with them after closing. Perhaps they have a shed or storage unit in the yard that they will move to their new home. You will want to know in advance of the closing of these items and to consider them in your offer and negotiations.
7. What’s the local neighborhood like?
If you’re not familiar with the neighborhood, then ask for the highlights. Realtors may tell you where the nearest schools, shops, and transport links are but they’re not going to tell you if there’s a high crime rate. It’s best to do some independent research. A solid tip is to get out and walk around the neighborhood to get an in-person feel for the area.
8. Has there been work done on the house?
Many buyers take on a property without realizing that updated appliances and systems are still under warranty. If something needs repairing down the track, then this could save you money. Ask the realtor if there’s a copy of the paperwork or who installer was in case you need to follow-up.
9. Is there negative history associated with the house?
It pays to ask about a house’s history before you buy. You may find out later it was a crime scene, owned by someone infamous or involved in a natural disaster. In some states, realtors are legally obligated to tell you, but in others, they’ll only tell you if you ask.
10. Is the seller open to paying some or all of the buyer closing costs?
In a hot seller’s market, this may not happen frequently, but it is always worth asking. Seller paying closing costs will help reduce the cash you will need to bring to close.
Even if you fall in love with a house at first sight, it’s wise to find out as much information as possible. Like people, homes aren’t always what they seem. While this can sometimes work to your advantage, it can also mean buying a dud.
We hope these tips were helpful as you begin your home buying journey! For more tips and tricks, check out: Tips on buying your first home.