- Buying a home is an extremely important decision, and there are many questions a prospective home buyer should have for the homeowners.
- We asked real estate agents to list the most pressing questions you should ask the owners of the home you’re buying while you have the chance.
- They recommend asking about neighborhood noise levels, the house’s maintenance and repair history, and other topics.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important purchasing decisions a person will ever make.
With the median home listing price in the US at nearly $230,000, it is no wonder the process can be stressful. It requires a long and sometimes tedious process of market research, saving, negotiating with homeowners, and doing your due diligence to know the current real estate market like the back of your hand.
There are important questions to ask a homeowner before signing on the dotted line and purchasing a home. You’ll want to know about repairs that have been done on the home or those crazy neighbors who wake them up in the middle of the night. Remember – this is your future home, so you shouldn’t be afraid to pry a little.
We asked real estate agents to list the most burning questions you should ask the owners of the home you’re buying, if you get the chance.
Here are the most pressing questions.
Why are you selling the home?
Yes, it’s OK to ask. It’s actually necessary for you to decipher if there are any red flags before you make a down payment on a home.
It’s one thing to relocate for the purpose of a new job or growing family. However, if there are other (more hidden) reasons like maintenance concerns or negative occurrences that have happened in the home, it’s good to know before signing on the dotted line.
If you don’t get a direct answer, then don’t be afraid to ask more than once.
How long have you lived in the home?
This question can be a good indicator of how much they enjoy living in the home.
Have they only lived there for a few months or is this a house they have made their home and built a life in? Allow the homeowners to tell their story and paint a picture. Let them really sell it to you. Listen closely for red flags or reasons why the home may not be a good fit.
Has there ever been water damage?
This question is an important one, as water damage is one of the biggest threats to homeowners.
Water damage can flow throughout a home causing multiple areas of damage. It can lead to mold in hidden places. Ask about any leaking issues in their washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator, or other appliances.
“Knowing if (a home) has had previous water issues will help you determine if you’re buying a gem or a lemon,” Andrew Helling, real estate agent and owner of REthority.com, told Business Insider.
What is the surrounding neighborhood like?
Ask about nuisances in the neighborhood. Are the neighbors friendly or noisy? Is the neighborhood involved, perhaps with holiday gatherings, block parties, or events for kids? Any of these things can be a blessing or an annoyance depending on your personal preferences.
Ask the current owners about neighborhood safety. Does the area have a lot of robberies or vandalism? Is the street well lit at night?
“The best questions to ask the previous owners are about the neighborhood,” Clever Real Estate co-founder Luke Babich told Business Insider. “While online statistics and your realtor may be able to provide some information, no one can speak to neighborhood details better than someone who’s lived there.”
What maintenance work has been done on the home?
Just as when you are buying a new car and you read through a Carfax report for a detailed history of accidents and damages, you’ll need to know about a home’s maintenance history and costs. These costs affect the value of the home.
It is important to know if the roof was replaced recently or if the water heater is on its last legs. Ask the current homeowners about the regular maintenance costs and any repairs they have done since living there. An older home might require more upkeep, and over time, the maintenance costs can add up.
What is your favorite thing about the house?
Remember – the house you are buying is their home. They know it more intricately and personally than a realtor ever could. Every home has character, whether it is the swinging bench on the patio or the secret entryway in the back.
Ask the homeowner what they love about living there. This could be a great opportunity to learn hidden details about your potential future residence.
What are the monthly utilities?
One of the expenses to prepare for when buying a home is monthly utilities. Don’t shy away from asking the average cost of living in the home. Utility bills, like water and electric, can vary by hundreds of dollars each month.
Depending on a home’s size, layout, or energy efficiency, bills can vary drastically, and you don’t want a shocking bill you weren’t prepared for. Ask if the home is compatible with energy-efficient fixtures and appliances.
“Ask the current homeowner for a copy of the past year’s utility bills,” said Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers. “This will provide you with an average monthly cost, which allows you to budget accordingly.”
Are there any furnishings the homeowner plans to keep?
When selling a house, it is normal for the new homeowners to get anything affixed to the walls, floors, or ceilings, unless otherwise specified. However, it never hurts to ask when viewing a home. It’d be awful to walk into your new home on the first day expecting to see that lovely chandelier in the hallway entryway that you loved so much, only to find it missing.
“State laws vary as to what is and what is not included in the sale, so be sure to be explicit about whether an outside bird bath, playground sets, wall mounts, light fixtures or any other item that are only semi-attached are included in the sale,” real estate attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com David Reischer told Business Insider.
When you visit an open house or schedule a walkthrough, be sure to ask the homeowner what stays and what goes. Asking clarifying questions never hurts.
What is the lowest price you are willing to sell for?
It is important to know what the seller’s bottom price is. In your conversation, work your way there by asking what repairs they are willing to do. Use the money you save to furnish your new home.
“Never leave money on the table,” Jason McGory, a realtor with the Redbud Group at Keller Williams, said. “Ask if they’re willing to provide painting or flooring allowances, provide closing costs, or pay for a home warranty.”
Do you have contact information of professionals who previously serviced the home?
While it’s preferable to continue using the same professionals to service your new home once you move in, this is not always possible. It is helpful to have their contact information to learn about the work that was done and to ask questions if something breaks. If it is possible, by all means, stick with the same maintenance team.
“You want to use the same HVAC guy, because he already knows the system,” RE/MAX Elite real estate agent Russell Volk told Business Insider. “You want to use the same pest expert that already serviced the home in the past.”
Is noise a concern?
The vroom of car engines speeding down the road, the clatter of accidents on a nearby highway, the roar of planes taking off – how often will you hear these sounds, and how close are they?
If you live right near a highway or nearby a plane runway, these things are to be expected. You want to ask the homeowners about any hidden noises. Be sure to schedule multiple walk-throughs at different times of day so you are able to get a sense of the noise levels for yourself.