You’re dressed up in your best “I’m responsible and ready to buy a house” attire. You’ve crunched the numbers to have a pretty good sense of what you can afford. You’ve scoped out the neighborhoods you like. And when you sit down for the first time to work with your realtor, you…
What kind of questions should you remember to ask? Here are the six most important questions to ask your real estate agent when buying a house.
Why are the current owners selling?
This will give you information on two things: first, are there any major flaws with the home that are driving the owners to sell? And second, if they have already moved for a job or overseas, they may be more motivated to negotiate to sell quickly. Though some realtors may be hesitant to share this information, especially if it is a more “personal” reasoning, you might give yourself a leg up – or avoid a possible disaster.
How long has the home been on the market?
This is one of the key questions to ask a broker when buying a house and negotiating prices. They know that once a house has been on the market for more than 60 days, it becomes harder to sell and it is likely the price will need to drop. If the home has been listed for a while, find out what the original asking price was.
But you also want to find out: why has it been on the market for so long? If the owners are just having a hard time finding a buyer, you may have more leverage to negotiate that lower price. But if the owners are fairly unmotivated to sell, you might have quite a struggle on your hands.
What is the market like in this neighborhood?
If you are planning on making a counter-offer, your agent can provide information about comparable homes in the neighborhood and what they sold for. This can help you make an intelligent offer as well as give you a well-informed argument for your price. This will also give you the necessary red flags if the neighborhood’s home prices are actually declining, signaling a bad time to invest in that area.
Did the seller provide any disclosures?
Legally, sellers are required to disclose a wide range of things when selling a home. Ask your realtor to see the list of disclosures and, if you don’t understand something, ask them to clarify. This will alert you if, for example, there is known contamination from lead paint, asbestos, or other known toxins in the home.
How much are the property taxes in this area?
Surprisingly, property taxes can vary greatly by seemingly-random geographical divisions. Since a big part of buying a home is financial planning, having this information in-hand will help you to be prepared with a more accurate sense of the costs of buying a house. Make sure you have this on your list of questions to ask a real estate agent.
Is there anything else I should know?
Find out if the seller is well-organized. Do they have things like paperwork for all of their mechanical components, records of when major home systems like HVAC and septic were last serviced, and good maps of the water lines or other underground systems? Are there any major limitations if I wanted to renovate or add an extension? If you have questions specific to your personal home goals, make sure you ask them all!
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