If you are thinking about buying a home, you are not alone. According to the New York Times, more Americans are getting home-buying fever.
With all of this good news about the housing industry over the last few years, prices are inching up but mortgage interest rates remain low, making this an ideal time to make the transition to homeownership.
As you gear up to find a home and prepare for the home-buying process, you might already have a list of questions to ask a real estate agent to make sure you’re getting the best deal. But you also shouldn’t forget to pose hard-hitting questions to others, too, from the previous homeowners to the neighbors, and even yourself.
GOBankingRates has the perfect home-buying guide with 10 of the most important — but often forgotten — questions to ask when buying a house.
Questions to Ask When Buying a House
1. Is renting or buying a better option?
Before you spend too much time looking for your dream home, you need to weigh all your options. David Bakke from the website Moneycrashers.com suggests you ask yourself the question, “Is renting vs. home buying a better option?” Depending on your situation, you might not be ready to buy, might need some time to save for a down payment, or might live in a more expensive housing market.
“If you have a lot of debt, a low credit score, or don’t have much money saved up, renting may be a better option,” Bakke said. Someone with these factors might have to wait a few more years to be in a better financial situation before he is able to obtain a mortgage loan.
2. What is the neighborhood’s crime rate?
The second thing regarding what questions to ask when buying a house is the safety of your neighborhood and town. David Bakke sums it up great, “What is the crime rate in the area?”
3. What are my home needs and wants?
According to Steve Aaron, a Beverly Hills realtor featured on HGTV’s “Selling LA,” “No property is perfect. What are your deal breakers vs. your wants? Where are you willing and able to compromise?” The point here is to have a shorter check-list of must-haves when looking at potential homes.
4. Where is the seller’s disclosure?
Even if you fall head over heels for a house, don’t be punch drunk in love with it. Unlike a person, a home is just four walls — and there are plenty out there with many more being built. Aaron recommends, “Ask[ing] the listing agent if there are any seller disclosures (known defects of material facts that can affect desirability or value) before you write an offer.”
Just like a relationship, you need to take time to know your future partner, or in this case, your future home.
5. Can I make the needed home renovations or additions?
If you are looking to add on to your home or do renovations, it is wise to check the house’s zoning or area disclosure.
“Know if the property is located in any type of historic or preservation area or area disclosure,” Aaron said. “There may be limits on adding on, aesthetics etc.”
Based on my personal experience from litigation and headaches caused by neighbors, homeowners’ associations and local, state and federal government regulations, a little homework goes a long way. You should also look into your finance options to figure out how to pay for home renovations.
6. What home inspections are available?
Have your home thoroughly inspected.
“You should perform as many inspections as possible in addition to a general” Aaron said. He recommends getting chimney, sewer line, pool and spa, geological, and drainage inspections (where applicable). It’s worth the bit of extra time and effort to make sure you won’t have costly problems down the line.
7. Why is the House for Sale?
Aaron points out an obvious, but often overlooked question: “What is the motivation of the seller? … Why is he selling?” He points out that by asking this question, “This may give you additional information that [is] helpful in writing an offer.”
Sometimes the simplest questions garner the most important information.
8. Has the property been tested for radon?
Bill Redfern, founder and CEO of A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspections recommends asking, “Has this home had a radon test recently?” Having a potential home inspected for radon can be a literal life saver; according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer.
9. Are smoke detectors properly installed and located?
Redfern also recommends checking the smoke detectors of any home you’re interested in purchasing. Don’t think if smoke detectors are put anywhere that they will be effective. Rather, he explains, “Smoke detectors save lives. It is important to put smoke detectors in the right places in your home – and you may not know if the home seller did that.”
10. When was the last time this home had a mold inspection?
Mold can be a health hazard causing an array of health problems, from itchy eyes to permanent lung damage. Bill Redfern recommends to make sure the house is free of mold by asking, “When was the last time this home had a mold inspection?” Finding out when there was a mold inspection lets you to see the home’s history and better determine if the property is right for you. If there is mold present, it will also help you determine how and by whom it will be taken care of.
Photo credit: American Advisors Group