Smart Real Estate

Purchasing a home is a big decision. Before making an offer on a property, you want to have a clear idea of how it will serve your needs. I have come up with a list of questions to ask when buying a house to make this process easier.

 Address the first few questions at the beginning of your search to help you narrow your scope. Once you start looking at properties, you will want to ask your Realtor the next set of questions. Finally, once it is time to submit an offer, check in with your lender to get the answer to my last two questions. 

Questions to Ask Yourself

The first set of questions to ask when buying a house are centered around pinpointing your budget and what you want in a property. Pair these questions with my house hunting checklist to more easily identify the answers.

1. How much do I want to spend?

The real estate market is hot right now. In many cases, buyers are putting in offers above the asking price. Before viewing homes, you may want to establish a budget so you can identify affordable properties.

You can come up with one general number, or you can break down your budget into separate categories. For example, you can decide that you only want to spend around $600,000 on a home and then leave $50,000 for repairs and renovations. 

2. What are my non-negotiables?

Do you have to have a master suite? Require a home office for work? Need a big yard for the kids? Need to be in a particular school district?  

If you have needs that you are unwilling to negotiate on, determine exactly what they are at the outset and be ready to communicate those with your Realtor. This will help her find the most suitable listings for you.

3. What do I want in a home?

While our needs often focus on the utilitarian aspects of a home, diving into the wants is where we can really imagine ourselves in a particular property.

Do you want a large kitchen with an island? A pool? Plenty of space for entertaining? Whatever your wants, let your Realtor know. Clarify that these would be great, but that your needs are your priority.

Questions to Ask Your Realtor

Ask your Realtor these questions for each property you’re interested in to help you decide whether making an offer is the right choice for you.

4. Has the seller disclosed any property defects?

By law, sellers must share information regarding any property defects that are not easily visible — even if they are selling their property as-is. For example, if they know that their plumbing is not up to code, sellers must let their Realtor know, and they should inform anyone interested in the property. 

Florida does not require sellers to fill out a seller’s disclosure form like other states (though some may choose to do so), so it is wise to ask this question to verify that everything is as it seems with the house. Of course, there is a chance that the seller does not know that their home has a particular defect. A thorough home inspection should bring to light any significant issues.

5. Why is the seller moving?

Understanding whether a seller is moving because they are relocating, downsizing, or upgrading may help when it comes time to negotiate. If an individual is selling because they are moving for work, for example, they may be more willing to opt for a quick closing. Sellers are not required to disclose this, so if they are choosing to move because they do not like the neighborhood or the home makes creaky noises that bother them, they do not have to share this information.

6. How long has the house been on the market?

Because of low housing inventory, houses are moving quickly in the Tampa area. Not to mention the fact Tampa is the hottest real estate market right now. If you tour a home that has been listed for more than a month, this could be a red flag. While it may just indicate that the home is unique or expensive, it can also point to other factors, like an issue with the home inspection process.

7. How does this house compare to others in the neighborhood, price-wise?

Looking at comparable homes can give you an idea of whether the asking price for a home is appropriate. If the property has additional amenities or features comparable properties do not have, it should be priced above them. Likewise, if it has fewer amenities or features, the selling price should accommodate that.

8. Is this home in a flood zone?

Flood insurance can be pricey. Before bidding on a property, make sure you understand the true costs of living there. Ask your Realtor whether the property is in a flood zone, or check for yourself online.

9. Are there any other offers on the property?

Realtors aren’t required by law to disclose other offers on a property. However, the National Association of Realtors’ code of ethics says that Realtors should answer this question when asked. While you may not learn how much the offers are for, knowing that there are other additional offers can help you determine how competitive your bid must be if you truly want a property.

10. What do you think a competitive offer would be for this home?

Realtors have had a birds-eye view of the changes in the market over the past few years. They know what it takes to submit a winning offer. In some cases, this may mean offering a larger earnest deposit, agreeing to particular contingencies, or offering to cover a certain percentage over the mortgage appraisal value out-of-pocket.

Questions to Ask Your Lender

11. What will my closing costs be?

No reason to feel surprised on closing day. Talk to your lender to understand what your closing costs will be.

12. What will my monthly payment be?

Get a clear understanding of your monthly payments and whether you will need to pay private mortgage insurance.

I hope these questions help you in your search for your dream home. If you are just getting started, let’s set up a time to talk about what you are looking for!