Buying a home is a huge decision. You shouldn’t go into it without first making sure that the place you’re considering is actually the right one for you. Luckily for you, we put together a list of questions before you decide to put in an offer to see whether or not that particular property is a good fit.
Questions about functionality
When looking at homes, the first area you’ll need to evaluate is how well the home will work for you and suit your needs. Here’s what to ask to help you get a sense:
- Is the home in a good location for me? You’ve probably heard the phrase “location, location, location” before. The fact is this old adage often appears at the top of the list of house-hunting priorities for a reason. You can change a lot of things about a house, but you can’t change where it is. Whether it’s thinking about your commute or how hard it’s going to be to hang with your friends, make sure you’re okay with the location before you buy.
- Does it have enough bedrooms and bathrooms? It’s not impossible, but changing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms that a home has to offer is quite the ordeal. While it’s true that you could always add an addition on later, that’s a huge project that few people are willing to undertake. It’s better to go to look for a property that has the correct number from the start.
- Is there enough space? One of the quickest ways to end up looking for a new house is to have your family outgrow your old one. As you look at homes, evaluate whether you’ll have enough space to spread out. If you think your family may grow in the near future, you’ll want to take that into account as well.
- How much work does it need to become livable? Can I handle it? Every buyer will undoubtedly have a list of changes that they want to make to a home in order to make it their own. However, we’re talking specifically about the amount of work that it will take in order for you to get the house to a point where you can comfortably move in. Is it turn-key, or are there major renovations to be done? Either way, make sure you’re equipped to handle the amount of work the home needs and realistic about what you’re willing to tackle.
- Do I like the surrounding area? Your new home doesn’t exist in a vacuum. When you buy, you’re also investing in the immediate area, so it’s crucial to make sure that you’re happy with it. Are your neighbors friendly? Do you have all the amenities you need nearby? Are there good schools?
- How well does this home match up to my “wants vs. needs” list? Your ideal home should check off all of your needs, and, hopefully, a few of the items on your “wants” list. If a property comes up short, ask yourself what sacrifices you’d be making if you bought this home. Then, consider if the benefits of the home outweigh those sacrifices.
Questions about affordability
Once you’ve landed on a home that you love, the next step is to focus on whether or not you can actually afford to buy the home. These questions will help you get a sense of what it will truly cost to own the property.
- Is this home in my budget? For one thing, your pre-approval will give you an idea of how much house you can afford. However, when you hone in on a home you love, you should take things a step further. Use a mortgage calculator to figure out what your monthly payment would be at the asking price. Then, work that figure into your budget to see how feasible it is.
- Is there an HOA fee to worry about? Homeowner’s association fees can add hundreds of dollars to your bottom line each month. Make sure you know whether or not you need to account for one in your monthly budget, and, if so, what amenities and maintenance are covered under that cost.
- What are the property taxes? You’ll need to account for property taxes each month. They can add a hefty price to your mortgage, so make sure you can handle your all-in costs.
- What are the potential maintenance costs? Every home is going to need work eventually, but when you’re thinking about making an offer, you should weigh whether or not it seems like there will be some big-ticket items that will need to be taken care of right away. Does the roof look like it’s on its last legs? Are the home’s systems older, according to the Seller’s Property Disclosure? Was there any cracks or settling that could indicate a foundation issue?
- What will closing costs look like? Closing costs account for any fees required to close the sale. They’re collected at close and usually run about 1-2% of the home’s purchase price.
Questions around the offer process
So, the home’s well-suited for you. You can afford it. Now, it’s time to think seriously about making an offer. Here’s what to consider to make a competitive offer on a house:
- What have other, similar homes sold for? Comparables, or similar homes that have sold recently in the area, are one of your best tools for determining a fair sale price. Use them to determine a fair range of sale prices that your offer should fall within. Then, use the individual condition of the property you’re looking at to determine where your offer should fall within that range.
- How long has the home been on the market? Time on market is one of the biggest factors that determines how much room you’ll have to negotiate. Sellers who have listings sitting on the market for six months or more will likely be much more willing to entertain an offer that’s below asking than sellers who just put their home up for sale yesterday.
- What’s the seller’s motivation? Often, if you can find out why a seller is selling their home, you can tailor your offer to meet their needs -- and make it much more attractive to them. Have your agent contact the listing agent to find out why the seller is selling the home and if they have any specific needs, such as a rent back.
- What’s my ideal closing timeline? Do you have a home that’s being sold at the same time as you’re buying? Do you need to move in at any particular time? If not, are you flexible to work with the seller’s timeline? Sometimes, the closing timeline can be a strong negotiation point, if you’re not able to offer the highest sale price.
- How many offers are on the table? The amount of interest in the home from other prospective buyers will obviously help determine how much room you have for negotiation. If there are multiple offers at play, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. However, if they haven’t had much interest thus far, you could have a little wiggle room to try and score a deal.
- How badly do I want the home? Ultimately, how badly you want the home will play a key role in how much you should offer. If this is your dream home, don’t hesitate to go in strong. However, if you’re okay with the possibility of losing out to another offer, you have more room to try to negotiate.