Buying a House? Ask These Questions Before You Close - CNET - Broadlink Data Services, LLC.

May 10, 2024

Buying and closing on a house is an exciting time. But things can quickly turn sour if your dream home becomes a money pit. Whether it’s poorly insulated windows, stress cracks in the foundation or a flooded basement, you’ll be wishing the previous owner had given you a heads-up on unexpected repairs before you sealed the deal.

This story is a part of Moving Tips, a CNET series that helps you simplify the journey to your new home.

Most states require sellers to complete a thorough disclosure form, where they provide facts about any known material defects as well as a history of repairs and the general condition of the property. 

The goal is to ensure transparency and fairness in real estate transactions. But you might also try to have a conversation with the seller in person. After all, who knows the quirks of your new home better than they do? 

Before rushing the seller out the door, ask questions about your new home. While it can be a breach of etiquette to reach out directly, you may run into them when touring the house or at closing. And you can always send a message through your real estate agent or their agent. Chris Fikkert, the owner of Bottega Real Estate in Las Vegas, Nevada, recommended asking these 13 questions before closing on your new house.

1. Why are you selling the home? 

You may not always get the truth if you ask sellers why they’re vacating, but in most cases, sellers will provide an honest and personal reason that can provide you with peace of mind. 

Fikkert recalls a buyer who thought it was a red flag that the sellers listed the property after only owning it for six months. During the walkthrough, the sellers explained they were divorcing. The buyer was relieved to learn there wasn’t an issue with the property that made the owners list their home after such a short amount of time.

2. What are the neighbors like?

Difficult neighbors can make even the most beautiful home undesirable. When viewing a home, look for signs that could point to potential issues, such as properties positioned too closely together, barking dogs or a neglected front yard. The seller isn’t required to offer any details, but you may get a hint about a particular neighbor or neighborhood dynamic.

3. What home improvement projects do you wish you’d done? 

Because the seller knows the home and layout, they may have insights you wouldn’t have considered. At the very least, they may be able to draw your attention to the areas that could use improvement, saving you the trouble of figuring it out first-hand.

4. When was the roof last replaced or repaired?

Any experienced agent will ask when the roof was last repaired or replaced, according to Fikkert. A leaky roof will drown out the joy of homeownership, and the age of the roof could affect your home insurance premiums. For example, some insurance companies may require you to replace your roof if it’s over 15 years old.

Most importantly, the cost of a new roof can be steep, the average being $10,000. Knowing the lifespan of the roof in advance can help you factor in the cost of an eventual replacement.

5. How much did you pay for utilities?

Finding out how much you’ll be paying for gas, electricity, cable and water can help you budget your new monthly home costs. While you may be able to call the utility company and ask for a property’s historical costs, this information is usually limited to protect the account holder’s privacy. Companies might only be able to offer the lowest and highest bills over the past year. Asking the seller directly could provide you with a more detailed picture of average costs

6. Are the appliances covered under warranties, and do you have the manuals?

Many homeowners don’t consider asking about the appliances until they’re settled and it’s too late to reach out to the previous owner, according to Fikkert. New homeowners are often lost on how to use an appliance or whether it’s still covered under a warranty.

Fikkert suggests asking the seller or your agent about extended warranties or protection programs associated with certain appliances, such as the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher or washer-dryer. It may also be worth asking the seller for manuals, which can come in handy when using your new home’s appliances.

7. Where are the water and gas shutoff valves? 

Knowing how to shut off the water or gas line can quickly reduce major damage if there’s ever a leak. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t know the location of these shutoff valves. The worst possible time to figure it out is during an emergency when you need to act fast.

8. Have any insurance claims been made on the property?

Insurance claims can provide clues about a home’s trouble spots. Weather-related claims, such as water and hail damage, are among the most popular homeowners’ claims filed. 

Determining if your home is at risk might affect your homebuying decision. You might also consider getting better insurance coverage or asking your home inspector about ways to prevent damage in the future.

9. Was the HVAC system serviced regularly? 

The average cost to replace a HVAC system is $7,000. Regular maintenance includes an annual inspection and regular replacement of air filters, which can help extend its life. Inquiring about the HVAC servicing helps you to determine if the system was properly maintained to keep it running as efficiently as possible or if it may need to be replaced in the future.

10. Have you done any renovations or repairs?

DIY projects are popular but could cause trouble down the road, particularly if they aren’t executed properly, and some renovations can lead to code or permit violations. Even if a renovation or repair was completed by a pro, it’s good to know what types of updates have been made. In the case of a repair, the issue may have been fixed, but you’ll want to monitor the situation to prevent it from happening again.

11. How are the schools in the neighborhood?

Even if you don’t have kids, it’s important to look at the schools because the next buyer may have children. A good school could be a major selling point later as homes in desirable school districts tend to sell for higher prices. 

And if you have kids, you’ll want to find out about the school system upfront, not after they’re enrolled.

12. Are there contractors or repair services you recommend?

Finding a reliable handyman or contractor isn’t always easy, especially if you’re new to the area. The previous owners may have worked with a specific contractor for years who already knows your home. Ask for reputable contacts for common home repair services such as plumbing, gardening and general contracting to keep your home properly maintained through the transition of owners. 

13. What do you love most about the house?

Finding out the seller’s favorite aspect of a house can be eye-opening. Maybe there’s a feature many homes don’t offer, like a laundry chute or Dutch doors. Perhaps the location is a big selling point, which might be helpful if you’re new to the area. Finding out the answer could encourage you to see the home in a new light while unlocking valuable information about the property. 

When in doubt, your agent can be a resource

Talking to the seller directly can be valuable, but it’s not always possible. Your real estate agent may be able to find the answers to many of your questions by reviewing public records and talking to the seller’s agent. Don’t be afraid to voice additional queries for the seller to your agent. 

An experienced realtor will be happy to help and can even offer their own professional advice on potential property issues.

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      New York Office:
      244 5th Ave,
      New York, NY 1001

      India Office
      Office-S-2 Second Floor,
      Yashwant Plaza
      Opp.Railway station, Indore(M.P.)

      Broadlink Development (Guyana)
      6&7 Fellowship
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