Questions To Ask When Buying A House

The PropertyClub Team
Jul 17th 2020
There are a ton of questions that you can and should ask before buying a house. Here are the most important ones for each step of the process, from choosing a realtor to searching for a home, to making an offer.

For most people, a home will be the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make. It’s an investment, a way to build equity and also find a place to live. Needless to say, this is not the type of purchase that should be made lightly. That’s why knowing the questions to ask when buying a home is so you don’t end up with a bad buy.

Here are the most important questions to ask when buying a house, grouped by the type of questions they are. 

Questions To Ask Before Buying A House

Before you can actually start touring houses, you need to ask yourself a bunch of questions. Some of the most important ones are:

  • Can I afford to buy a home, and can I qualify for a loan? If you’re going through traditional lending methods, you need to be able to prove that you have enough income to afford a house in your area. A home affordability calculator can help, as can using a credit score calculator. 
  • Can I afford a house’s total cost? The cost of the property isn’t all you need to pay for. You will need to pay for real estate agents, appraisals, certifications, interest, insurance, HOA fees, as well as the taxes.
  • Am I going to need a bigger house down the line? If you’re planning to have kids, you should consider looking for a larger home than what you currently need. After all, your kids are going to need a place to sleep!
  • How much should I save for moving expenses? A small home move can easily cost $2,000 or more. If you have a lot of stuff, moving expenses can top $7,500. 
  • Do I need to save up for a down payment? Some loans won’t require a down payment, but most will. A minimum of 3.5% is required for the majority of FHA loans, while traditional loans will require 20% or more. 

House-Specific Questions To Ask When Looking At Homes

Each home will have its own history and quirks that you need to be aware of before you plunk down any earnest money. Knowing what you should expect is essential.

  • Why is the house for sale? A house that’s on sale as a result of a foreclosure may be a high-risk property. A home that’s on sale as a result of a fix and flip is a better bet.
  • Hold old are the roof and appliances? Nothing is worse than getting a new home, only to find out that you have to pay $30,000 or more for a new roof. Finding out the roof’s age, as well as the age of appliances like the boiler and stove, can help mitigate that risk.
  • How many days has the house been on the market? A house that has sat on the market for a long time may have problems with it that you should be aware of. Knowing this can also help you figure out how much negotiating room is on the table. 
  • What’s the house’s history of insurance claims? This can help you glean how much of a risk owning the home is, as well as important issues that may not immediately be visible.
  • How much would the utilities cost? This is an often-overlooked aspect of home buying that needs to be brought up more often. A high-cost home is not going to be a good investment. 
  • What’s included in the sale? Are you getting a townhouse, plus a shed? What about the land near the lake? Does the property include free parking or passes to the nearby beach? These are good questions to ask that might sweeten an otherwise bland deal. 
  • Is there a stigma associated with this house? Though this isn’t always a deal-breaker, homes with tragic tales (such as a murder) tend to attract the wrong type of attention. If you are concerned about buying a “haunted” house, then this is a great question to ask.

Area-Specific Questions To Ask When Looking At Homes

The place that you choose matters, too! 

  • Is this home in a floodplain? If it is, you might want to consider passing on it. 
  • How much do other houses nearby cost? If your house is vastly below cost, you should raise an eyebrow and ask why. 
  • What are the schools like in the area that I want to move to? Parents already know the importance of good schooling, but it still remains important to people who don’t have kids. Excellent school systems tend to coincide with good neighborhoods and prestige. 
  • Does this home (or neighborhood) have any other risk factors that wouldn’t show up on the inspection report? Things like asbestos, lead paint, and other issues should be brought up.
  • Is this neighborhood safe? This is one of the most important questions to ask when buying a home. You don’t want to move into a dangerous town, especially if you have kids. 

Questions To Ask A Real Estate Agent When Buying A House

Your realtor will be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to your homeownership journey. Knowing what to ask about the house and the process is crucial to getting the most for your money. Here’s a quick laundry list of good questions to ask.

  • Are you familiar with the area? This is one of the most important questions to ask when buying a home. You don’t want to work with an agent who isn’t used to your area since they might not be able to answer all the questions you have.
  • How responsive is your mortgage broker? On average, it takes 42 days to close on a home. If your realtor’s broker is less responsive, this can seriously eat up precious time and make a deal fall through. 
  • How long have you been a realtor? This is an excellent way to glean how much experience they have and how capable they’ll be working with you. 
  • What’s your availability? If they are a part-time realtor, you may have a hard time booking viewings or getting in touch with your agent. Knowing when you can call is a must. 
  • How can I best reach you? Some agents are email-based. Others operate via text or over the phone. There are even some that may ask you to call their office.
  • How many homes have you sold? A realtor with no home sales won’t be able to offer advice when it comes to the basics. You should also know whether they work with buyers, sellers, or both. 
  • Do you have any references that I can call? You have a right to ask for references. After all, you want to know they’ll do a good job. 

Questions To Ask While Buying A House

Let’s say that you found the house, found the realtor, and now are ready to plunk down money to make a house yours. Not so fast! You still have some questions to ask.

  • Can you explain to me the home buying process? If you are not fully aware of what will go on, then the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask the agent to give you a play-by-play of the home buying process. 
  • Do you have a real estate appraiser that you suggest we work with? This is a good way to make sure that you get the right price and that the appraisal will be a good one. 
  • Are there any waivers in the offer that we should add? Things like repair conditions, any special requests, as well as legal stipulations, should be brought up before you put in an offer. 
  • How much earnest money are they expecting? 1% of the asking price is the norm, but in areas like New York CityCIty, you may be expected to put down as much as 10%. 
  • How can you help me compete in this market? Not all markets are going to be a buyer’s wonderland. Knowing how you can get ahead with a realtor is important, especially if there are multiple bids. 
  • What price would you guarantee this house? Let’s say you see a home you must have. If you want it that bad, you should be able to ask what the “guarantee buy” price is, and where negotiations might open up. 

Conclusion

If you aren’t sure about any detail of the house, the best thing to do is ask. People who tend to forget questions about the home when they’re with a realtor should have a question checklist to bring to them. 

There’s never such a thing as a bad question, especially when you’re dealing with a transaction that can easily exceed the six-figure mark. A good real estate agent will know that and give you the answers that you need to make an informed buying decision. So, go ahead. Ask that question. It will only help you in the long run.