This may seem like a personal question, but it's a valid one. If the house is being sold because the owners are unhappy with its condition, need for repairs, the safety of the area, or the feel of the neighborhood, you want to know. Your goal is to understand if the reason for the sale is personal or due to an issue with the house or area.
2. Are there any issues with the house?
A selling agent must be upfront with you about any and all deficiencies to the property in question. Don’t be shy about asking the hard questions. Are there any issues concerning water intrusion, termites, foundation or structural issues, plumbing, etc?
3. Has any inspections been done?
Asking for more information will help you determine if the issues have been resolved or would require additional repair or maintenance.
4. Has any renovations been done to the house?
It’s not unusual for homeowners to add a room, upgrade a bathroom, or open up space but renovations should always be done by professional contractors in accordance with local codes. If the home you’re looking at was remodeled by the homeowner, there could be wiring, plumbing and/or structural problems if he’s not licensed. It’s best to know all the facts.
5. If school district is important to you, ask about it.
If you have a family, or plan on starting one soon, it’s a good idea to find out the school district in which the house is located. Also, get a good idea of just how close you are to the school your child would be attending, as well as any other info related to bus routes and pedestrian friendliness.
6. What stays with the house?
To avoid having to purchase brand-new appliances, home buyers often want the existing appliances to come with the house. On the other hand, sellers may choose not to include them. Also, some homes are staged and some are not. It’s best not to make any assumptions about any items, always ask the agent.
7. Ask for a copy of disclosure statements (if any)
Real estate regulations require sellers to list all known material defects in their homes when they go to sell. Often, the agent who hosts an open house will have copies of the disclosure statement and will give you one if you ask. On the disclosure statement, you’ll find such information as the age of the roof, whether the house has ever been treated for termites, and whether it contains lead-based paint.
8. Ask the selling agent specifics about the surroundings, What’s the neighborhood like?
Living in a home is about more than just the physical property. You want to have an idea of what the area is like, particularly the surrounding neighborhood and the neighbors living closest to you.
A home’s asking price may be great, but if the neighborhood crime rate is high, the house is no bargain. Ask the agent hosting the open house if the neighborhood is safe or about any noise nearby. Also find out if he/she knows of any projects planned for the immediate area that will impact the home’s value.
9. What are the average utility costs?
Depending on the size of the home, the HVAC system and how energy efficient the home is, you may be looking at a much higher utility bill than you are used to. Ask for copies of utility bills so you can get an idea of what your costs will be. Utilities can be costly in certain homes and are an expense that you should include in your calculations for what you can afford over the long-term.
10. Is there a homeowner’s association?
Homeowners associations (HOAs) are designed to protect the quality of life and home values in a neighborhood, but they can be overly controlling at times. If the agent tells you there is an HOA, stop by the HOA office and pick up a copy of their regulations. Before you make an offer, you'll want to be sure you can live with their rules.
11. Ask for a copy of the market analysis for the home?
Real estate agents typically perform a market analysis, which compares the house in question to similar houses that sold recently. The analysis helps the agent to come up with a reasonable listing price, and it also gives potential buyers a good idea of how much to offer if they decide to move forward with the house.
12. Has seller received any offers? If yes, how many?
It’s important to know what you’re up against, so don’t be shy about asking what, if any, offers have been made on the property.