Savvy buyers view open houses with their realtor with a buyer-broker agreement. They are prepared ahead of time and will have all the necessary information on the prospective properties they plan to view beforehand. However, first-time home buyers viewing open houses after window shopping properties online or driving around town will need to ask the right questions.
Attending an open house has numerous benefits. First, you get to see every aspect of the home for yourself, giving you a better idea of the house's quality, functionality, and aesthetic. You will look closer at the furnishings, see the home upgrades, check the flooring quality, and everything in between.
Additionally, you get to see what others think of the space and gain new perspectives on the listing you didn't have. Below are 12 questions to ask the seller's agent during an open house.
1. Why is the House for Sale?
Determine why the seller is moving because it gives you insight into their motivation for selling. Understanding the seller's motivation to sell is a powerful bargaining tool when you make an offer. It also tells you if the home or neighborhood has issues that force the seller to sell and move.
If, for example, the seller is moving for a new job, you will know they are likely pressed for time and will be flexible on price. However, if the seller fails to give a straight answer, it signals a red flag, and you must tread carefully.
If you suspect something is amiss, ask for an inspector's report or the seller's disclosure and follow-up questions about the home's structural integrity and condition. You can also request a home inspection.
2. When Did the Seller First List the Home?
You should know how long the home has sat on the market to guide your offer and follow-up. Time on the market indicates the home's price flexibility. For example, if the seller listed a few days ago, they may overlook low-ball offers and wait for something better. However, they are open to negotiating if the house sits on the market for a while.
Still, homes don't stay for long on the market without a valid reason. The seller may indicate the reason online, but their agent can put it into context during the open house. While it does not always mean a red flag, it's always best to do your due diligence before making an offer. For example, maybe a buyer's financing fell through after the seller accepted their offer.
3. How Many Offers Does the Seller Have?
Knowing what you are up against if you like a home and wish to make an offer is essential. Knowing how many offers the seller has received will dictate when and how you will submit yours. If the seller has received several offers, put together a strong one, and remember sale price is key. Additionally, you could entice the seller with other things like waiving the appraisal contingency or footing the closing costs.
Ask the realtor what process they will use to process multiple offers, especially if the home is in a popular area where properties sell fast. For example, will the seller go through all the offers, pick the highest one, or go with the first received? You don't want to miss a different opportunity waiting on the phone.
It's also advisable to ask if the home has an impending offer deadline lest you miss it.
4. Has the Seller Reduced the Price Since Putting the Home on the Market?
There are several reasons why a seller may reduce their initial listing price. Perhaps they find it challenging to find a buyer, or maybe they are in a rush to move. That information is valuable because it could give you a bargaining advantage to negotiate a lower offer.
5. Has the Seller Made DIY Repairs or Renovations?
Inquire about any repairs and renovations the seller made to the property and whether they were professional or DIY. Also, determine if the renovations were permitted and if the homeowner followed protocols and codes when making extensions because you may have to tear them down.
Updates like window treatments and a fresh paint coat may be noticeable, but other works like HVAC installation or roof work need further inspection.
Additionally, this question reveals how updated the home is, what repairs the owner has made, and what major issues require renovations. If the home lacks critical renovations, factor them into your offer price and ask the seller for a disclosure statement. The statement reveals any issue the seller is aware of, such as damages and issues the property inspection revealed.
Your home inspection will also help because inspectors include notes on how old existing features are and their expected lifespan.
6. What Does the Seller Include in the Sale?
Sellers don't have to include anything not attached to the home when selling. Therefore, ask the agent if things like refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves, and other items you see during the open house come with the property. It helps you know if the home is ready to move in or whether you will need to buy furniture, appliances, curtains, blinds, and other furnishings.
7. Does the Home Belong to an Association?
Homeowner's associations are common in suburban neighborhoods and come with fees, rules, regulations, and sometimes fines for residents. Therefore, ask the realtor if the home has an HOA and read up on its policies and dues if present.
Also, ask if the home has any special assessments of outstanding homeowner association (HOA) fees. Finally, ask if the seller has any problems with the HOA, whether the HOA has taken legal action against them, and whether the property belongs to multiple associations. However, getting the reports and information from the Title Company or HOA may take a while.
8. What is the Neighborhood Like?
Loving a home is part of the equation because it comes with a neighborhood and community. So ask the seller's agent about the neighborhood, the people who live there, and the available businesses, amenities, and services in the area.
Ask relevant questions about the neighborhood that affects you, such as available social events, community get-togethers, streetlights at night, weekend parties, and noise policies. Finally, knowing the resident's average age gives you an idea about the type of activities to expect.
9. Does the Home Have Any Structural Issues?
Sellers must disclose any code or structural issues they know exist on their property during a sale. Therefore, ask the seller's agent if the home has any structural problems and ask for an official seller's disclosure. It will give you more specific questions about the property's structural integrity.
10. What are the Nearby Locations and Amenities?
Ask the agent what amenities and locations are within the home's walking distance. These include private clubhouses, tennis courts, golf courses, pools, and farmer's markets. Additionally, ask about nearby parks, playgrounds, and trails if you have kids or pets.
Get recommendations and details on nearby businesses and locations, such as coffee shops, restaurants, fitness centers, spas, and recreation centers. These give you an idea of your family's day-to-day life in the neighborhood.
11. What is the Seller's Timeline?
Sometimes sellers pick buyers' offers because of timing if they want to sell quickly and move for different reasons, such as a job offer. Other times, they are okay delaying the sale for reasons such as waiting for their kids to finish the school year. The former is open to negotiations, while the latter can wait for the right offer.
Knowing the seller's timeline and intentions allows you to put together the right offer that appeals to their wishes and strike a good deal in the process.
12. What School District is the Home In?
Always ask about the school district whether you have or want kids. Even if you are single or don't have kids, the school district affects you as a homeowner. It impacts the amount you pay in taxes and your ability to sell the home since most families look at proximity to good schools. It's best to do some personal research to confirm the information.
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Asking the seller's agent the above questions will give you a better idea of the listing's quality and what it offers. However, there is always so much more to a house than what you see in real estate listings. Hence, it's essential to do some digging to determine if the home is worth it.