Chances are if you’re working with a Realtor, they won’t immediately have the answers to these questions because it’s likely that he or she is not the listing agent but asking these questions will prompt your Realtor to find the answers for you.
1. What does the seller love most about living in their home?
Asking this question gives you the opportunity to find out something positive about the home, neighborhood, or even the community that you may not have known, had the sellers not been asked. You may find out about awesome neighbors, community events, an awesome local park, or even seasonal activities.
2. Has the property had any major repairs or updates? If so, who did them?
Many times, sellers boast repairs and updates, but these end up being botched DIY’s than can really cost you money in the future or, even worse, these could be hazardous to your safety or health.
Many licensed pro’s guarantee their work so if you hear from the seller that their new roof has a 10-year warranty, be sure to get the name and contact information of the roofers.
Have a garage that was turned into a family room or any other major additions going on? Be the seller can produce permits, as many towns require these and if they weren’t obtained that could hold up your closing and potentially be a very costly problem. If the seller’s cannot produce permits, make if your job to check with the local building department to make sure code requirements are met.
3. How old are the major ticket items?
Be sure in inquire about the roof, the heat system, the cooling system, electrical and plumbing. If there’s a septic tank, find out the age of the system and how frequently it’s all been serviced. Don’t be afraid to ask for receipts, warranties, etc. It’s not a guarantee that the seller’s can provide these but it’s good if they can.
If the major ticket items are very old, you can use the potential costs to replace these in your decision-making process or negotiating tactics.
4. Have there been any problems with the house in the past?
Of course, in NYS, we have disclosures. READ THEM. Here’s the thing, if a previous problem was fixed, the seller doesn’t have to disclose it. It’s important to know about past problems because, depending on whether it was fixed correctly, it could lead to problems in the future. If there was a leak in the roof, they may have replaced the roof or patched the roof, but is there mold in the attic? It’s important to assess how these problems were remediated. Again, always ask about who did the job.
5. Are there any current problems with the home?
Disclosure requirements vary by state or by county. Be sure to come right out and ask if there are any problems with the house, currently. Disclosures are meant to help protect the sellers but there may be problems with the home that are not ‘legal disclosure requirements’. Regardless of what the disclosures indicate or what the seller’s say, ALWAYS GET A HOME INSPECTION. I could go into great and lengthy detail on the home inspection and what to expect so I will write about this another time. Trust me. Do it. And don’t expect that nothing will come up on the home inspection because if that’s the case, your inspector didn’t do their job correctly.
Good luck in your home search endeavors and remember that no question is a stupid question. Stay informed and advocate for yourself!