Ask These 9 Questions Before Buying a Home

(Making sure you're fully prepared)

Girl questioning buying a home

When you are buying home, there are many questions to ask. To determine what questions are the most important, you should consider a number of factors. From common questions to uncommon ones, knowing the right questions to ask, and what a good response might entail, will help you purchase the home of your dreams. 

You may think of other questions along the way, so be sure to have a real estate agent who is easily accessible, and who will provide you with useful information to make the buying process go as smoothly as possible. This guide details questions you should ask when buying a home.

Questions to Ask When Buying a Home

There are a number of common questions to ask when you are considering purchasing a home. Although some may seem obvious, they may touch upon something that you hadn't yet considered, ultimately helping you buy a home. 

Coldwell Banker Burnett realtor Sonja Dalbey provides a closer look at some of the most common questions she receives and how she answers them, as well as good questions to ask if you want to be a savvy consumer. Knowing what questions to ask, and the answers to these questions, can help you make a more rounded and educated decision on your next home.

To begin with, she recommends asking yourself:

1. How much can I afford?

Although you may be longing for a large home in the suburbs with acres of land surrounding it, the truth is that buying a home such as this could be out of your price range. Dalbey said, "One of the first things to do when purchasing a home is to talk to a mortgage lender and get pre-approved. Find out how much you can afford before you start looking at homes." 

It can be disheartening to find a home that you really want only to find out later that you can't afford it, she explains. For buyers who are interested in a certain home, she said, "You will want to ask how much money you will need to put down, how much might you expect to pay in closing costs, and whether you qualify for any down payment assistance."

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2. Can I get assistance?

For those who qualify, there are both federal and local programs for home buyers. Dalbey also suggests asking the seller to pay your closing costs when buying a home, noting, "You can ask the seller to pay for up to 3% of the purchase price, so a portion, or all, of your closing costs may be covered."

3. How important is location?

This may seem like an obvious question to many, but it forces you to take a closer look at your specific needs and desires. For example, if schools are important to you, it can be a good choice to buy a home near the schools your children will be attending. Some careful research can help narrow your list down to the most desirable schools and neighborhoods. 

Lifestyle factors and preferences are another major influence. Although the suburbs offer more space and are generally quieter, the city can be a better option for those who prefer to be around entertainment and activities.

4. What are my main interests?

Depending on how you answer this question, your interests can play a role in determining where you decide to purchase a house. For example, if you want to be near parks, trails, golf courses, or open spaces in general, suburban or even country living may be the best option. However, if your interests revolve around nightlife, dining out frequently, and exploring new places, the city is more suited to your needs.

5. What are the drawbacks of this location?

For some homes, the drawbacks can harm the resale value, potentially costing you money when you go to sell. Before you move, Dalbey recommends looking for any drawbacks, such as a dump site located on your way home or a nearby freeway. She notes that any drawbacks should factor in when you are making an offer on the home. 

Finding the perfect location with a less-than-perfect house on the lot may not be a deal breaker. She explained, "… if you find a fantastic homesite with a not quite perfect home, you can always consider making changes to the structure. However, it is extremely hard to remove the train tracks from the backyard of what seems like the perfect home."

6. How much under the list price should I offer on the home I am interested in?

She suggests getting started by consulting a thorough and competent sales agent. Dalbey notes that, "A real estate agent who represents the buyer in the purchase of a home should prepare a comparative market analysis as if they were listing the home for sale." Together the prospective buyer and the agent should use comparable sales to determine the home's value, which will lead to the best strategy to use when making an offer on the home.

7. Can I make an offer below the list price?

Dalbey highly encourages home buyers to go ahead and make an offer that is lower than the list price, explaining that, "In some cases you may offer below the list price, and the seller may have priced the home perfectly, warranting a full price offer." She also says that some situations may actually cause the buyer to have to make an offer above the current listing price.

8. How can I figure out a good price to ask?

Teamwork is crucial in order to determine an appropriate price, says Dalbey, who explains that, "Looking at list to sale price ratios and average price per square foot information with your agent can help provide a baseline for an offer.

9. How old is the furnace (and other key appliances, parts, and structure)?

Dalbey suggests that you begin by asking questions about the condition of the home. For example, she said, "Look at the Seller's Disclosure to see what types of problems they have had, and how they have dealt with them. If they have had water in the basement, ask what they have done to correct the problem. 

Look at the age of the roof, furnace, A/C, windows, etc. to determine which items you may need to budget for in the next few years." She also recommends an inspection, and advises prospective buyers to "consult with the inspector to see if any corrections that the sellers have done were appropriate. The house may look beautiful, but look beyond for any issues you may need to deal with."

Keep in mind that you need to factor in payments beyond mortgage, repairs, and utility bills. One cost that can make home buyers hesitate is home insurance. Fortunately, you don't have to settle for a pricey plan, as there are homeowners insurance plans available that cover you just as well but won't break the bank. You can get started by contacting a friendly and helpful independent agent, who will give you various quotes and plans.

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