While buying a house is exciting, it’s seldom a straightforward process. There are a lot of processes to take care of, and a lot of money is at stake. As such, it’s in your best interest to find out as much as possible about any home you’re prospecting.
With that in mind, here are ten questions to ask the seller or their agent when buying a house.
1. What Is Included in the Sale?
Fixtures are generally part of the sale, but sellers may choose to take some appliances and furniture with them when they leave. Find out exactly which items are being included in the deal. Now is also a good time to inquire about the actual property boundaries, as well as easements.
2. Is the House at Risk from Natural Hazards?
You’ll want to know very early on whether the house is at risk from natural hazards such as flooding, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes. This will help you determine whether the property is in a high-risk area and the type of homeowners insurance you’ll need to buy.
3. What Health and Safety Hazards Should I Know About?
Even if the house is not at risk from natural disasters, there are several health and safety hazards you may come across within its four walls. For example, lead paint is a common problem in homes built before 1980. Asbestos, radon, mold, and even pest infestations are several other factors that could pose a risk and cost thousands of dollars to fix.
4. How Old Is the House?
The older the house, the higher the maintenance costs. Inquiring about the age of the property will give you a better idea of its upkeep, as well as the cost of potential upgrades. A good roof, for example, can last up to 30 years but can set you back thousands of dollars if it needs replacing. Don’t forget to check the age of the windows and flooring, the plumbing, as well as the electrical wiring and fuse box.
5. What Kind of Repairs and Upgrades Have You Made?
As a savvy homebuyer, you’ll want to know not just whether the house has been renovated and upgraded but also when and whether it was done with a permit. For example, if the laminate flooring or tiles have been replaced recently, they should spare you a headache for at least another 20 years. However, upgrades done without a permit can result in the bank rejecting your loan application.
6. Does the House Have a Septic System?
Depending on the setup, the house will have either a septic or a sewer system. Septic tanks may be cheaper and more eco-friendly, but fixing and maintaining them regularly will be your responsibility rather than the local authorities. Also, keeping the tank and drain field in good condition will directly impact your landscaping and restrict where you can plant trees, shrubs, and even a vegetable garden.
7. What Is the Neighborhood Like?
Even if you find your dream home, you’ll want to make sure the neighborhood also ticks all the right boxes. Ask about local amenities such as shops, restaurants and parks. What is the crime rate like? Does the area get a lot of traffic? What is the local parking situation? If you have a family, you’ll also want to check the local school district. Last but not least, remember that if there’s one thing money can’t buy, it’s good neighbors. Take a moment to talk to the people living nearby and find out if they’re the kind of people you want to live next to.
8. Are There Any Local Development Projects?
The neighborhood may look nice when you move in, but it may not stay that way forever. If you notice vacant lots nearby, find out what the plans for them are. Similarly, it’s worth asking if there are any development projects in the works that could lower your property value in the future.
9. Is There a Local HOA?
You’ll want to know if a local Homeowners Association governs the house you’re prospecting. On the one hand, an HOA ensures access to shared amenities and facilities, as well as a community that aims to protect your property value. The tradeoff, however, consists of higher fees, less privacy and a set of rules you’ll have to adhere to.
10. Why Are You Selling?
People sell their homes for any number of reasons. What you need to bear in mind is that asking why they’re selling can create room for negotiation. For example, a seller moving across the country may agree to leave you with most of the furniture and appliances. Or, if they’re looking for a quick sale, the seller can be persuaded to drop the price to accommodate your budget.