If you're home shopping and you find a home that piques your interest, how do you know if it's a good house? Easy: ask your agent! If you're working with a real estate agent, you can ensure that the home is a good fit for you and your family by asking these 10 questions. The best home warranty company (Landmark!) has researched the best questions to ask your real estate agent to make sure you don't have any unforeseen problems when you purchase a home.
Why is the owner selling and how long have they lived there?
Is the seller moving because they took a new job overseas, or is it because the home is slowly sinking into the ground? Asking what the motivations are behind the seller's move will help you gage if the home will be a good fit for you. If the seller is moving because he or she has to be somewhere else within a predetermined time, they may be more willing to negotiate on price. Finding out how long the sellers have lived in the home may be helpful information to gather as well. Are they moving because they can't stand the neighborhood, or are they taking a sabbatical in another country?
What is the market like in this neighborhood?
Nobody wants to move into a neighborhood that's moving into a stretch of foreclosures. It can be obvious with some neighborhoods by the abandoned houses and for sale by bank signs throughout the streets, but other times, the neighborhood may be in decline and you won't know it until a few months after you've moved in. Ask your real estate agent about the neighborhood market, specifically if there's any concern that the neighborhood may decrease in desirability.
What is this property worth?
Your real estate agent can't tell you what you should offer, but they can help you to compare similar homes in similar neighborhoods to see what price they sold for. By asking your agent the high and low price for similar properties (otherwise known as "comps" or comparables) you can make an educated offer on a home.
Is the seller flexible on their asking price?
If you make a lowball offer on a home, you could offend the buyer and lose your chance at purchasing the home. Talk to your agent or the listing agent to ask if the seller is wiling to negotiate on their asking price.
Are there any seller's disclosures?
Legally, a seller has to disclose any problems with the home. Ask your agent for these disclosures so you can know what's going on with the home and what state its systems and appliances are in before you make an offer.
How often has this property been sold?
If the property has been on and off the market multiple times within the last 10 years, it could point to a problem in the home that the owners discovered. It may be the location, neighborhood or the house itself. Check with your agent to see how often the home has been moved out of, and if the number seems high, ask why.
How long has the home been on the market?
Having a home that is on the market for a longer period of time could point to problems in the home or a seller who refused to change on the asking price. Ask your agent how long the home has been on the market, and if it has been on the market for a long time, why.
When do the sellers have to move out?
Are the sellers trying to move quickly to get to a new job in a new city? If so, they may be pressed to sell quickly and may take a lower offer than their asking price. If the sellers have no pressing deadline to get out of the home, you have more time to inspect the home and ensure there are no major issues with the systems and appliances.
How much are the property tax and utility bills?
It's always a good idea to plan a budget with your money to make sure you could afford the home itself. Obviously, get prequalified for a loan from your bank so you know what your monthly mortgage payment would be, but knowing some of the extra costs involved can help you plan ahead. (You can find the best home warranty company's worksheet about calculating how much you can afford to spend on a home here.) Asking what the property tax and utility bills cost for the house can help you ensure you can afford the home with your mortgage.
Is there paperwork for the mechanical systems?
Hopefully your seller is organized, because it will make your life much easier, especially if you end up purchasing the home! Ask for the paperwork on the mechanical systems and appliances throughout the home. There are so many horror stories of brand new homeowners who don't have any documentation on their systems and appliances within their home and something breaks down. If they don't have paperwork on the systems and appliances, it's hard to know if the mechanical systems are under warranty, or what they need for repairs and parts.
If the home comes with a home owners warranty, proper paperwork on all of the mechanical systems and appliances is imperative. Think of this home owners warranty as home repair insurance "“ it will take care of the systems and appliances that fail for a small service call fee, but they have to have failed from normal wear and tear. Without property documentation on those systems and appliances, it's hard for home warranty insurance to know what caused the failure.
When the state of the home's systems and appliances are documented, homeowners can relax, knowing the home is in good shape, and if there does happen to be a failure, their home warranty plans will cover the failure.
For more information on home warranties, go to www.landmarkhw.com.