Buying a house is an exciting experience, but it’s not always straightforward. Soon enough, excitement can become stress as you go through the tricky process of purchasing property. As one of the most expensive transactions most of us will ever make, getting it right is of the utmost importance.
So, before you put any cash up and sign on the dotted line, it’s in your best interest to find out as much as you can about any home you’re planning to buy. But knowing what questions to ask when buying a house can be tricky. Getting it wrong can lead to purchasing a home that isn’t quite as great as it seems.
With that in mind, here are 12 things to ask the seller or their agent to ensure you get the house of your dreams:
1. What Exactly Is Included in the Sale?
Usually, fixtures, such as toilets and other items that can’t easily be removed, will be included in the sale, but this is by no means always the case, and it’s well worth checking — the last thing you want is to move into a home without a sink or toilet!
Meanwhile, fittings, such as free-standing furniture, are often taken by the seller to their new home. But again, this isn’t always the case, and they may well leave the couch behind. Be sure to figure out exactly what will stay and what will go so that you know what you need to buy in advance and won’t be caught short on moving day.
The same applies to appliances. Again, large appliances such as fridges and washing machines will normally stay, but it’s not always the case. Finally, ask about property boundaries and whether there are any easements to be aware of.
2. How Old Is Your Home?
Older homes tend to have higher maintenance costs, so it’s essential to find out the age of any property you’re prospecting. For example, a good roof can last well over 50 years, but even the best will need repairing or replacing eventually, which can cost thousands of dollars.
So, be sure to check not only the age of the house but also when elements such as windows, doors, electrical systems, HVAC units, roofs and plumbing were installed. Ideally, you don’t want to be replacing many of these as soon as you move in.
3. Have You Carried Out Any Repairs or Upgrades?
While it’s good to know when various renovations were made, it’s also essential to know who carried them out and whether the correct permits were obtained. An ambitious DIYer may well have successfully rewired the home previously, but if they did it without a permit, there’s a good chance the bank will reject your loan application.
4. Is There a Septic System?
Most homes either use a sewer or a septic system, and it’s important to find out which one the home you’re prospecting has. If it’s a sewer system, all maintenance and repairs are taken care of by the local authorities. However, it will be your responsibility to maintain a septic system.
5. How Much Do You Spend on Monthly Utilities?
When you’re budgeting for a new home, it’s just as important to factor in the ongoing living costs as it is the mortgage repayments. So, it’s essential to speak to the seller or their agent to find out how much they are currently spending on energy every month.
Make sure you get the figures for the most extreme weather seasons so that you don’t get caught out later. It’s also helpful to find out how many people currently live in the house so you can compare the circumstances. Finally, find out what type of heating system is in use, be it gas, electricity, or even solar power.
6. Is There Any Risk of Natural Hazards?
It’s relatively simple to figure out if a particular area is prone to natural hazards such as tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes or flooding. However, it’s also important to find out if your potential home is particularly at risk of more localized issues. This knowledge can help you figure out what type of What is homeowners insurance? Homeowners insurance covers damages and losses to a home and the... you’ll need to take out, but also whether the risk is worth it for you.
7. Are There Any Health and Safety Hazards to Be Aware Of?
From What is asbestos? Asbestos is a collection of six naturally occurring minerals comprised of tiny,... More and radon to lead-based paint and mold, there are various health and safety hazards to consider when moving into a new home. Not only can these things be bad for your health, but they can also cost a lot of money to put right. Depending on local laws and regulations, sellers are obligated to disclose many of these hazards, but this is not always the case.
8. How Is the Neighborhood?
If your dream home is ticking all the right boxes so far, don’t be tempted to dive in right away. Next, you need to know about the neighborhood. Be sure to find out about the local What are amenities? Amenities are characteristics that increase the real or perceived value of a... More on offer, such as schools, public transit, shops, and parks. Also, ask about things like the crime rate, parking problems, and traffic issues.
It’s also worth enquiring about any local development projects. Be on the lookout for things that could potentially lower property values in the future, such as noisy power stations, smelly landfill sites, or sketchy entertainment venues.
Finally, try and find out about your neighbors, or even better, talk to them yourself to get an idea of the people you could soon be living among.
9. Is the House Part of a HOA?
It’s important to know whether your new home is part of a homeowners association (HOA), as you’ll need to be aware of any rules and regulations they enforce, as well as the required fees. There are pros and cons to being in an HOA, but ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to go that route.
10. What Is Your Reason for Selling?
There are many reasons to sell a home, but by asking why, you might be able to create room for negotiation. For example, someone who is relocating across the country may be more likely to agree to leave their appliances and furniture behind. Meanwhile, a seller looking for a quick sale may be more accommodating of your requests to drop the price.
11. Is This a Stigmatized Property?
By asking this, you can find out if the house has any disturbing history, such as being the scene of a crime, or whether it has any supernatural rumors attached to it, like being a haunted house. You yourself might not be bothered by these things, but again, they can help you negotiate a better price. It’s also worth bearing in mind that stigmatized properties may be more difficult for you to resell for a fair price later on.
12. Has the House Been on the Market Long?
It’s good to ask the listing agent this, as they can normally give you an exact date. A property that has been on the market for a long time can raise red flags, but it can also be an excellent opportunity to negotiate the price down. Just be sure to ask the previous questions to ensure there’s no reason why you should avoid the home.
For an overview of the real estate market in popular areas across Canada and the U.S., visit the links below:
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