Questions to Ask When Buying a Home – Part 2

Last week, I shared some important questions that people who are in the market to buy a home should ask so they can make the best decisions possible. If you’re like most people, buying a home will be the largest purchase you’ll ever make, so I recommend finding out everything you can. In addition to the information you receive via legal disclosures, you can gather additional details with the questions below.

How long has the seller lived in the house?
Asking about the seller’s time in the home can reveal several things. If the seller has been there for many years, chances are they really know the property. They’ve seen it during all seasons and over time. If this is the case, ask the seller for the home’s repair history (any receipts or a list of repairs and upgrades).

If the seller has only been in the house a short time, it’s important to know why. Did they buy the house with the intent to flip it (renovate and resell it)? Did they move to the area for a job that didn’t work out–or did they buy the house and then get transferred out of town? These are not reasons for concern.

Alternatively, did they move in to their new house and quickly realize that the neighbors are in a heavy metal band that practices at full volume on Sunday mornings, and that’s the reason the house is for sale. If you love heavy metal, this won’t pose a problem for you, but if not, learning this ahead of time may influence your decision to make an offer. The long and short of it is this: if the house has turned over a bunch of times, there may be a problem with the house, the neighborhood, or both.

When was the last time the property was inspected?
You should also ask the sellers what inspections have been done on the house (at any time) and request a copy of the inspection reports. If you want the best inspections possible, it’s wise to provide each subsequent inspector with all the information you’ve received to date. This can provide them with ideas about where they should focus. Share the pest and fungus report with the roof inspector and the home inspector. They may not be interested, but there’s no downside and there is a potential upside.

As a side note, you can get pest and fungus inspections even if you’re not selling your house, about every five years is probably smart. Pest and fungus problems can go undetected for quite a while, and by that time, major damage has already been done.

Are there other offers on the property?
Although sellers do not have to answer, you can ask whether there are other offers. This provides some insight into the seller’s motivation and may influence the terms you offer.

Questions to ask yourself.
In addition to questions for the seller, here are a few questions you might ask yourself.

Can I afford this without causing undue stress? Just because you qualify for a big loan doesn’t mean you should get one. Consider your lifestyle and what else will compete for your money before deciding how much you want to spend.

Does it meet my needs and the needs of my family today? Consider more than just financial considerations. Does this house fit your lifestyle needs?

Is this a house I can grow into? If you don’t have kids but you plan to start a family, it can be hard to imagine how very different your life will become. One bathroom may seem fine now, but sharing it with four teenagers is a whole different ballgame. Ask friends with kids whether they think this house will meet your needs.

Is this a neighborhood I want to live in? Neighborhoods have personalities and cultures. If you find you cannot stand the sight or smell of marijuana and you are morally opposed to its use, you probably shouldn’t buy property at the end of Spyrock Road.

If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.

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