Whether you're buying your first home or you're upgrading, purchasing a home is a big decision. It isn't enough to just love the home. You must consider your budget and many other factors that can affect your decision. We've compiled a list of questions you should consider before signing on the dotted line of a contract to purchase.
How’s the neighborhood? Drive through the neighborhood at different times and on different days. You’re looking for traffic issues, a neighbor who parties loudly, and the activity in the neighborhood. If you’re a growing family, do you want to be in a neighborhood with mostly retired-aged couples? If you’re empty nesters, are you interested in having neighbors with teenagers?
What school district are you in? If you have children, this may be a key determining factor in where you choose to look or purchase. Also consider the distance to the school or bus stop.
What is property worth in today’s market? Although, ethically, your agent cannot tell you how much to offer, they can help you determine a reasonable range to consider by pulling comparable home sales in the area or “comps”. This will give you an idea of the prices of similar homes nearby, along with high-low range for your area. You can also ask questions of your real estate agent like how long the property has been on the market.
How many offers have been made on the house? Some houses generate multiple offers resulting in a bidding war. Don’t back away from this situation if the house is perfect for you; just be sure to provide your strongest offer up front.
What’s wrong with this house? Every house will have some hidden costs or issues, even new construction. So, just make sure you’re direct about how much you’re willing to take on. Some states require disclosure of problems, others do not. Make sure to get the house inspected and discuss any potential issues that arise with your agent. There’s a major cost difference between a few minor issues and having to replace a foundation or roof. Also, don’t automatically assume you can deduct the price of repairs from the asking sales price. It may already be adjusted for that.
Is your potential home in the flood zone? Living in a flood zone can require flood insurance, which can greatly affect the cost of living in that particular home. If your potential home is in a flood zone, you need to know the flood plain rating and use that information to determine how much insurance will cost. Also, in the event of a flood, are you willing to take on the efforts and money required to repair damages to your home?
What are the ages of the appliances and does the seller have paperwork on each appliance? There’s no requirement that a seller provide a purchaser with that information, but it can be helpful to have on hand in the event of an issue. If the AC unit is brand new and having issues, you want to make sure you aren’t paying out-of-pocket for repairs that should be covered under warranty.
What are the average monthly utility costs? These costs are based on many factors, including the type of energy sources the home uses. Once you understand the average (not lowest) monthly cost, you can determine if this house is still in your budget, and if any upgrades to appliances might change those costs. For instance, in an older home, new windows may be an expense upfront, but could pay for themselves in heating savings over the course of a few winters. Older appliances upgraded to energy efficient ones can save energy costs as well.
Are there any family pets buried in the yard? This may seem strange, but you may go out to the back yard one day to plant some flowers and unearth Fido. Surprise! If the answer is yes, you can ask where the animal is buried and avoid that spot when gardening, ask the current owners to remove the remains or remove them yourself. Bear in mind that most states allow the burial of pets in yards, and you really have no legal right to demand the animal’s removal. But, you can ask!
This is hardly an exhaustive list of questions you should ask when considering the purchase of a particular house, but it should give you an idea of questions to ask. While the answers may scare you off or make you rethink your bid, they can also make you feel more confident that you’re making the right move!