Buying a home is a big event, and regardless of whether this is your first or fifth, you want to make sure you’re asking important questions throughout the whole process. It can be easy to forget to ask about specific items as you get wrapped up in the excitement of a new house, so keep these questions close by to ensure you get all pertinent information on your possible new home.
1. What is included in the sale?
It can be easy to fall in love with a home that is absolutely perfect and forget to ask what is and isn’t included in the sale. As a rule of thumb, ask the seller to specify what is and is not included with the property if it’s not in the listing details – some items are not included unless agreed upon. Traditionally, anything considered a fixture (items physically attached to the home) is included in the sale* (cabinets, faucets, window treatments, carpet, etc.) but things like appliances (fridge, oven, washer/dryer, etc.) are not and need to be agreed upon or they leave with the seller.
*Laws in each state differ – your real estate agent will be able to provide information on local laws and statutes pertaining to fixtures.
2. Were there any additions or major renovations?
A property record might not always match a listing description, so be sure to ask if there have been any major renovations or additions to the property. Asking not only ensures that you have all important information, but if the property has been worked on you will want to know if the additions/renovations were done by a licensed contractor and abide by current local building codes.
3. Have there been any insurance claims on the home?
It’s common to ask about an item’s repair history when buying something previously owned, and it’s no different when it comes to buying a home. You can ask the seller for a copy of their Comprehensive Lost Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E) report, which details any insurance claims on the property the current owner has had over the past seven years. If there have been multiple owners of the property in recent years, the current C.L.U.E report will not include previous claims, but you will be able to gauge any recent repair work done to the property.
4. Is the home prone to natural disasters?
Depending on where you live, you could be at risk for flooding, earthquake, forest fire, hurricane or other climate event. When it comes to buying a home, you’ll want to make sure you ask about whether the home is prone to natural disasters, as this can dictate the types of additional insurance (flood, earthquake, etc.) you’ll need for the property. For example, if the home is in a known flood zone, you may end up choosing to look at other homes that are not easily prone to damage.
5. What is the age of the major appliances/systems/roof?
Replacing major appliances or home systems can cost a lot of money, and when you buy a new home you don’t want the surprise of needing to replace the furnace or roof the month after you move in. Be sure to ask the seller(s) how old the appliances are, if they’ve recently been replaced, and whether they’ve had any problems with or replaced any major home systems. If the listing description doesn’t mention the age of the roof, ask the seller! The roof is one of the most important parts of a house – even if it looks like it’s in good shape, there could be hidden issues with it. Get as much information as you can in order to make an informed decision.
6. Are there any hazards or safety risks?
Properties can come with a number of risks or hazards, especially when health and safety are concerned. Lead paint, radon, and mold are all common safety hazards, and yes, there are others; the only way to ensure you know about them is to ask. Find out if the seller has ever had to take action for health hazards, and ask your home inspector to be on the lookout for anything that looks out of the ordinary (but do note that most general home inspections will not look for these items). If you are concerned, you can hire additional inspectors that will look for specific issues not covered in a general home inspection. Fixing health hazards can get expensive – you want to know what you’re in for before the sale is final so ask questions and get additional feedback to be sure.
Buying a home is exciting, but it’s also a big purchase that needs to be taken seriously. Your real estate agent will be a huge asset to you when it comes to getting information on properties. Before you begin your home search, write down all the questions you know you’ll want answers to. Not only does this help you and you agent – it will help bring you peace of mind that you won’t forget to ask the important questions when the time comes.