If you are considering dipping your toes into the home-buying waters and are ready to start looking at houses, it helps to prepare a list of questions to ask your real estate agent throughout the buying process to ensure that the home is a good fit for you and your family-before you get too attached.
Open communication about what is important to you can help your agent succeed at finding a dream home that you will continue to fall in love with over time.
How long was the home occupied, and why is the owner selling?
If the owner is selling because their family has outgrown the home or they are moving to another state, that is likely a good sign that the property doesn't have any glaring issues. If the house has bounced hands and been on the market frequently, however, this might be an indicator that each of the home's owners saw something problematic that is worth looking into.
What would be the ideal offer that would guarantee me this home?
In a seller's market, home buyers often do not have as much leverage to negotiate prices and conditions, as many listings have multiple offers within days of the home hitting the market. Ask your real estate agent what your strongest offer would be to guarantee you the home, and then decide if that is something you are willing to do. If you are concerned about making a winning offer in a seller's market, you can check out our blog on the topic here.
What is the market condition in this neighborhood?
If the street the home is located on is "shoulder to shoulder" with multiple houses in foreclosure, there may be a greater cause for concern. Even without this telltale sign, it is essential to find out what other houses are selling for in the neighborhood to get an idea of the health of the market in the neighborhood, and if the homes are appreciating in value over time.
What are the seller's disclosures, if any?
Sellers are required by law to list any known issues with the home, in what is called a seller's disclosure-items such as structural issues, lead paint, toxin mold, pests and insects and more. This can be your road map to the condition of the home, from those who know it best, though it should not be used to replace an inspector.
What happens if the inspection goes downhill?
If you think you've found your dream home, and then the inspector discovers something problematic, that does not mean you have to completely scrap the home and move on. Sometimes, conditions can be negotiated where the seller will handle repairs, to make up for issues found during the inspection that they failed to disclose.
How much will my closing costs be?
If you have been budgeting for your down payment and think you have just enough put back to buy the home, make sure to talk to your agents about closing costs - additional fees from your attorney, title and lender - so that you won't be significantly surprised when you close on the home.
Finally, do any red flags jump out at you?
Your real estate agent sees a lot of homes, is an expert in the local market, and can be an incredible resource when it comes to seeing initial red flags. When you find a home that checks all of your personal boxes, it can be hard to remove yourself from the situation and notice problems that could arise down the road. Working with a real estate agent who has your best interests at heart, but can also point at things you may not have noticed before, is the most important step of the home buying process.
If you are ready to start looking for homes and seeking a trusted neighborhood expert to help, check out this link to browse our buying guide and team up with one of our best-in-class real estate agents in your neighborhood.