Client asking Real Estate Agent questions

What To Ask When Buying A House: 15 Questions To Consider

Erin Gobler9-Minute Read
January 06, 2022

The home buying process is an exciting time, but it’s also a nerve-wracking one. For such a major purchase, it’s critical that you do all of your homework and find the right home for your needs. To ensure you find the right home, there are several questions you should ask your real estate agent, the home seller and even yourself.

9 Questions To Ask Your Real Estate Agent Or The Seller

Your real estate agent will be an important resource for you during the home buying process, helping to answer questions or advocating on your behalf. Additionally, a home seller can be a great resource to answer questions specific to the home. Here are a few questions to ask your agent or the seller before buying a home.

1. Are There Any Homeowners Association Fees Or Additional Insurance Required?

Many neighborhoods are overseen by homeowners associations (HOAs), which are community organizations that regulate and serve the neighborhood. Unfortunately, if your home is located in a community with an HOA, membership is required.

Not only do HOAs set regulations in the neighborhood and possibly limit what you can do with your property, but they also require fees from their members. HOA fees can add up to several hundred dollars per month, so you’ll want to know upfront if you should plan for this expense.

HOA fees aren’t the only added cost you should ask your agent or the home seller about. It’s also important to ask if there’s any additional insurance required. This may be the case for homes in flood zones, where owners are required to purchase flood insurance.

2. Are There Any Known Problems With The House?

The last thing you want is to purchase a home, only to find out it needs major repairs. During the home buying process, be sure to ask the seller about any known problems with the house. Depending on where you live, sellers in your state may be legally required to disclose these conditions. Potential red flags include foundation damage, mold and water damage.

In addition to asking the home’s seller about any known problems, you can also work with a trusted inspector. An inspector’s job is to look for anything that might be wrong with the house, and purchase agreements often include an inspection contingency so you can renegotiate your offer or back out altogether if major issues are brought to light.

3. Is The Home Being Sold ‘As-Is’?

As we mentioned, an inspection can help you learn about any potential problems with the house. If there are issues that need to be addressed, you can often negotiate with the seller to determine who will cover the costs. But in other cases, the seller may claim the home is being sold as-is.

When a home is being sold as-is, it means the seller is stating upfront they won’t make any repairs, renovations or improvements to it before closing. In some cases, buying a home as-is isn’t a problem. But if the house has major issues, it could cost you thousands — or even tens of thousands — of dollars to be on the hook for those repairs. If a home is being sold as-is, it’s more important than ever to have a home inspection done so you can find out what repairs you might be facing once you move in.

Depending on the type of loan you have, you may not actually be able to buy a home as-is. For example, qualifying for an FHA loan requires a thorough inspection of the home, and the home must be structurally sound and safe before the lender will approve the loan.

4. Which Appliances Are Included In The Home Sale?

When you walk through a home, it’s likely the major kitchen appliances and washer and dryer will still be in the home. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the seller intends for them to be a part of the sale.

Before moving forward with a purchase, it’s important to ask the seller what appliances – if any – will be a part of the sale. If the seller doesn’t plan to leave the appliances for you, it may be worth using that as a way to negotiate a lower price, since you’ll have to pay for new appliances out of pocket.

5. How Long Has The Seller Lived In The Home?

It’s worth asking a seller how long they’ve lived in the home for a couple of reasons. First, if the seller has been in the home for many years, then they can probably share a significant amount of its repair history. They can provide information about what repairs have been done, what appliances have been replaced and what improvements they’ve made over the years.

It’s also important to know if the home has a high turnover rate of homeowners. If more than a few people have owned the home over the past decade, it may be worth exploring why that’s the case, and whether the house or neighborhood is the problem, or if it’s simply a coincidence.

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6. How Long Has The Home Been On The Market?

Just as it’s important to ask how long the seller has been in the home, it’s also important to ask how long the home has been on the market. The longer a home has been on the market, the more suspicious you’ll be, especially in today’s competitive housing market. Even more critical is finding out if there have been any offers that have fallen through. Find out what went wrong with those deals.

The longer a home has been on the market, the more likely it is that the seller will want to make a deal. If you have the funds to make necessary repairs that might have been the reason for the hold-up, you might be able to negotiate a lower sales price.

7. What’s The Property Tax?

Your property tax bill is one of the largest new expenses you’ll have when you buy a house, and it can often add up to thousands of dollars per year.

Before buying a home, find out how much you’ll owe in property taxes each year. You could simply ask the current owner how much they pay annually, or you can find this out by looking up the most recent assessed value of the home and multiplying it by the current property tax rate.

Once you know how much your expected property taxes would be, you can compare that number to the local, state or regional average to determine if it’s a reasonable amount.

8. When Was The Home Last Inspected?

We’ve already mentioned home inspections, but they’re worth discussing again. First, it’s critical that when you’re buying a home, you have a home inspection done. While inspections aren’t 100% accurate – it’s possible the inspector could miss something – they can definitely give you some peace of mind.

In addition to having your own home inspection done, you can also ask the seller if they’ve had any recent inspections (or when the last inspection was). Some experts recommend all homes go through a thorough inspection every 5 years or so, and certain parts of the home should be maintained more often than that.

If the homeowners have never had a home inspection during their time in the home, it could be a red flag that underlying issues have had time to fester, making your own inspection all the more important.

9. Are There Any Other Offers On The House?

Due to the competitive housing market of the past couple of years, it’s not uncommon for a listed home to get multiple offers. In fact, it’s become the norm for sellers to receive multiple offers on their homes.

If you’re planning to make an offer on a home, ask the seller if they’ve gotten any other offers. Their answer could help guide your offer and give you an idea of whether you might be heading into a bidding war. Bidding wars are usually favorable to the seller because they can ask for more money, higher earnest deposits and possibly waive contingencies, which can hurt the buyer.

6 Questions To Ask Yourself When Buying A House

In addition to the things you should ask your real estate agent or the home’s seller, it’s also important to ask yourself a few questions to ensure you’re making the right decision.

1. Can I Afford This House?

Your budget is one of the most important considerations when buying a house. Housing prices have been increasing rapidly over the past couple of years. Before committing to a home, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend. Not everyone’s income and bills are the same, which means the house you like and the house you can afford might not be the same.

Before you start looking at homes, finely comb through your finances. Review your monthly bills and estimate how much you can afford to pay each month towards your mortgage, as well as your new home costs.

When buying a home, you’ll also have to consider whether you can afford the down payment. Having a down payment of 20% isn’t a requirement, but it does help you substantially save on your monthly payment. In fact, the more you pay upfront, the less you’ll pay over time.

Many lenders will work with you if you have as little as 3% – 5% for a down payment, but keep in mind that a down payment below 20% will require that you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) as a part of your monthly payment.

2. Does This House Meet All Of My Needs?

Before you start the home buying process, make a list of everything you need in a house, including square footage, location, number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms. Also, separate your list into wants and needs.

For example, maybe you’d prefer to have four bedrooms, but at least three is a must-have. You can automatically eliminate any homes with fewer than three bedrooms. Knowing just what you need from a home will make it far easier to eliminate those that don’t check all your boxes.

3. Is The Location Close To My Job And Loved Ones?

Consider a home’s location in proximity to places you frequently go to. If you have a job outside the home, calculate what your commute would look like and whether it fits with your lifestyle.

Also consider how long it would take to drive to see loved ones or get to the grocery store you prefer. Additionally, look at whether there are any nearby attractions or locations that might cause heavy traffic during certain times of year that would increase your travel times to get to work or see friends and family.

4. Can I See Myself In This Neighborhood?

It’s critical that you research a neighborhood ahead of time to determine if it’s a good fit. First, consider the vibe of the neighborhood and whether it has amenities you prefer like sidewalks, bike lanes and parks. Next, when you visit the neighborhood, pay attention to the activity going on.

Does it seem like people are friendly? Do you see neighbors socializing? Do people feel comfortable letting their kids play in the front yards?

Other factors to consider in terms of the neighborhood include:

  • The proximity to schools
  • Local grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities
  • The neighborhood crime rate
  • Average neighborhood home prices

5. Will My Belongings Fit In Here?

For many people, buying a new home means upgrading their space. But some people may find themselves moving into a home that’s either a similar size or smaller than their current home. In that case, it’s important to ask yourself whether your belongings will all fit. Pay attention to the storage space available throughout the home. And if you aren’t sure if your belongings will fit, ask yourself whether you’d be willing to get rid of some of your belongings or pay for a storage unit to store extra items.

6. Will This House Function For Me Long-Term?

Ask yourself how long you plan to stay in the home and make sure the house will meet your needs throughout that timeframe. Maybe the home is big enough for your family today, but will it still be big enough for your family in 5 years? Is there room to expand your family if you choose to? Is the backyard big enough for any landscaping you hope to do?

It’s also important to consider the home’s function if you plan to retire in the home. While a multistory home might seem attractive when you’re younger and have kids, stairs might be more difficult when you’re older, and having everyone on one floor might make more sense.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Be Afraid To Ask The Tough Questions

Buying a home is a huge decision, and it’s important to have all the information. A trusted real estate agent can help you answer all the questions on this list and can help simplify the home buying process. If you’re ready to move forward with your home purchase, connect with a real estate agent who can help answer all your home buying questions.

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Erin Gobler

Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance expert and writer who has been publishing content online for nearly a decade. She specializes in financial topics like mortgages, investing, and credit cards. Erin's work has appeared in publications like Fox Business, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more.