Once you’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage and know how much home you could afford, it’s time to go shopping. You’ll likely schedule several tours with your real estate agent and may also get a chance to attend a few open houses. Keep the following questions in mind to help you narrow down your list of potentials.
When was this house last updated?
Could the interior paint use a refresh? Does the carpet need replacing? Whether it’s the flooring, roofing or something in between, it’s important to get accurate information about a home’s current condition. Be sure to also ask how old the major appliance systems are, including plumbing, wiring, water heater and the HVAC system. The idea here is to keep tabs on the things that may require attention, should you choose to buy.
How much are utilities on average?
Your new mortgage payment isn’t the only monthly expense to consider while house-hunting; there also are utility bills to budget for. Get ballpark estimates for what you can expect to pay for electricity, gas and water on a month-to-month basis. Remember to ask about seasonal fluctuations when your heating and cooling system would be working overtime. You’ll also need information on what options are available for cable and internet services.
Why did the homeowner decide to sell?
Has the seller outgrown the home or accepted a new role in another city? Are there larger issues at play that have everything to do with the property and nothing to do with a personal milestone? Ask for context around what or who is motivating them to sell at the moment — this could make or break your decision to submit a purchase offer.
How long has this home been on the market?
A newly listed home can have a significantly different appeal from one that has been sitting on the market for weeks. However, if an older listing catches your eye, do some digging beyond the surface to find out what could be stopping the home seller from closing the deal. Perhaps a previous buyer backed out for personal reasons, or the seller refused to make repairs based on what was spelled out in the home inspection report.
What’s the seller’s closing timeline?
It’s best not to make any assumptions about how soon a seller is ready to part ways with their home. Ask when they anticipate making it to the closing table, and whether the home will be move-in ready at that point in the process. You’ll also need to be upfront about your own timeline and decide if it aligns with the seller’s before you move forward.
Would you share more about the neighborhood?
This question allows you to get some intel about what life is like locally on a daily basis. What amenities are nearby? How far do you have to travel to get groceries or run errands? How close would you be to health care or the interstate? If you have little ones, you’ll want to gather more information about the school system.
Additionally, ask the seller about their experience with the neighbors and to describe the overall culture of the neighborhood. Is there a strict homeowners association with too many rules and overpriced dues? Is the community pet-friendly? Questions along these lines can help you determine if the home you’re eyeing fits your needs.