Buying a home happens in a series of steps. Sometimes those steps happen quickly, other times they seem to drag along. Either way, when it’s time to buy a home you’ll start with the basics: the home search, the financing, etc. And then, once all of that is sorted, you’ll start viewing homes to find the one that speaks to you.
When this time comes, you want to be prepared. You want to walk into each viewing with a list of things to look for, including your wants vs. needs and any deal-breakers. You’ll also want to walk in with a set of questions that will help you make a more informed and confident decision about each property.
Here are the six questions all first-time buyers should ask when they view a potential property
When did this house go up for sale?
This is a very important question and should be one of the first things you ask when viewing a property. If a home has been on the market for a while, you may want to do more digging to find out why. Maybe the price is too high, maybe the seller is unmotivated and unwilling to accept anything lower than the asking price. A home will sit on the market for a while if it’s hard to show, if it is for sale by owner, or if the local economy is experiencing a seller’s market. A home that has been on the market for a while isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s definitely something worth looking into.
What can you tell me about the neighbourhood?
When you commit to a property, you’re also committing to the neighborhood. This is why asking the sellers about their opinion of the neighbourhood is so important. Ask them if they know the neighbors and what they love about living here. Ask about the average commute time to local schools, grocery stores, and your place of business. While you can do a lot of research on your own about the local area, it’s helpful to hear insight from the seller to make sure you feel comfortable committing to a specific neighbourhood for the long term.
What are the average utility costs?
One thing first-time buyers will learn quickly is that the cost of the house is not the only cost to consider. There are closing costs, moving costs, and other agent fees that will increase the overall amount you pay. If you’re moving into a bigger home, remember that it will take more energy, water, electricity, and gas to run the home effectively than a smaller home. If the home has other features, like a swimming pool, hot tub, it can drastically affect how much you’re spending each month.
The sellers should be able to give you an accurate estimate of the monthly utility costs so you can factor that into your budget.
What issues should I be aware of?
There’s no such thing as a perfect property. Every home has some quirk or characteristic that will need to be addressed, even if it’s something small like a door that creaks or a window that is hard to open. If the seller is adamant that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the property and nothing you should know, it could be a red flag. Some issues don’t even need to be fixed, they’re just part of what gives the property character. Other things will need to be addressed, and it’s helpful to know these things upfront.
How old is the roof?
The roof is arguably one of the most important systems in the home, and one of the most expensive to fix. When you’re buying a new home, don’t forget to look up. Look for signs of aging or damage to the roof, and ask about the age of the roof. Roofs should be replaced every 15-20 years, and if the previous owner hasn’t done it, you can expect to add that to your list of home improvement projects to anticipate. An old roof can be used as a negotiating tactic.
Why is the seller leaving?
This is a question that often comes up naturally when touring a home. A seller may be moving because they want to downsize or be closer to work. Knowing their reason will help you gauge how motivated they are. If the home has been on the market for a while or they need to sell the home quickly, they may be more flexible when it comes to selling.
It’s critical that first-time buyers work with an experienced agent that can help them navigate these questions and get them the answers they need. As a buyer, it’s your job to ask as many questions as you need to feel confident about these big investment decisions. Asking the right questions will help you feel more in control of the buying process and help you find the right home for you.