Whether you\’re buying your first home or moving into something bigger, it\’s easy to assume that the home seller and real estate agent will be upfront and forthcoming with all the information you may need to make an informed decision.. But when it comes to a purchase of this size, you should never leave things up to chance.
Buyers may be afraid to ask for more than the listing info, but you can save yourself some trouble down the line if you ask the seller to get candid before you sign.
1) Why Are You Selling?
Whether you ask out of sheer curiosity or to figure out if an anxious seller might accept a lower offer, there are many reasons you should ask the home owner why they decided to sell, though few buyers feel comfortable enough to do so.
Fundamentally, the prime reasons for selling a home include relocating for a job, moving to accommodate a growing family, downsizing after the kids have moved out, death, birth, retirement, even health. And a seller may be willing to discuss any or all of their reasons with you, but don\’t expect that just because you ask you\’ll be offered the truth.
There are many reasons a seller may not wish to discuss their reasons behind selling, including financial troubles (such as a pending foreclosure) and divorce. Though it may seem like a personal question, once in awhile the answers may affect your purchase decision.
2) How did you settle on the asking price?
A smart buyer knows that before they make any kind of offer on a house they should insist on seeing a comparative market analysis (CMA) for the area. A CMA is a form that shows recent sales prices of comparative homes in the nearby area, the asking prices of neighbourhood homes currently for sale, and even details of recently expired listings – all information that should ultimately help you settle on a final purchase offer.
In the best case scenario, a seller will determine the home\’s asking price after having had an appraisal of the house performed, and after consulting a CMA. Often a seller will set their asking prices too high, though their ideal price may be more inline with housing prices in the neighbourhood.
3) What past problems have you had with this home and how did you fix them?
In an ideal world, a homeowner would let you know all of the bumps and bruises the house has accrued over their time living there. Roof repairs, draughty windows, a basement that regularly floods – these are the kinds of things that a new homeowner doesn\’t want to figure out once the paper work is signed and you\’re stuck footing the bill for problems the old owners could have either fixed before sale or offered to cover half the expense.
4) Has this home had any major repairs or renovations, and if yes, who did them?
Over the course of its lifetime, you can expect that a house is going to see its fair share of maintenance, but from replacing an old roof to upgrading with a rental unit, there are some renovations and repairs that you should know about.
It\’s important to find out what major repairs and renos have been done, and also who performed them – a licensed contractor or the homeowner themselves? Is the work guaranteed? Also, can the home seller produce building permits for those renovations that would require one, such as the installation of a new roof, structural additions, relocating an electrical outlet or plumbing fixture, etc.
You want to be sure that any work done is done well and up to the current city building code. If you decide to make any changes of your own in the future, you don\’t want to run into problems with repairs that weren\’t done to city specifications.
5) What do you love or dislike about the home, neighbourhood?
Open ended questions about the home and the neighbourhood can get home sellers talking about the pros and cons of the house and the neighbourhood, which is valuable information they may not have put forth without coaxing. Remember, no home is perfect, but first-hand knowledge about the neighbourhood, the neighbours, the school system, even whether the councillors of the riding listen to complaints can help make a final decision.
The bottom line: as a buyer, you should feel comfortable and confidant with the decision you\’re about to make. Asking the right questions and being fully informed is half the battle.