Since buying a house is an enormous investment, it’s best to know what questions to ask at the beginning of your home search. While there are lots of questions you should be asking, the most important ones revolve around your agent and any homes you see. Acquiring information about the qualifications of your agent and the homebuying process can help protect you from unpleasant surprises and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Here are some essential inquiries to make:

Are You Experienced? 

Think about picking an agent to work with as a sort of game. The way to win? Find someone that works with you and your needs. Question agents about their qualifications. Ask them if they have any certifications or have won any awards for their work. Ask if they specialize in particular communities. Are those communities places you were particularly interested in? Inquire about how many years of experience they have and their percentage of successful transactions. Keep in mind that if they are newer, their percentage will be more skewed than someone who has been around for 20 plus years. Make sure that whoever you choose fits with you. Remember, you will be spending a lot of time with them, so you want to make sure that you get along with them.

Should I Rent or Buy?

It’s wise to purchase a home when your financial situation is sufficiently strong. Renting may be a better option if you lack the funds needed for a down payment, have debt, or a low credit score. Your agent can give you a buy-versus-rent analysis within your market. A great agent will be honest with you and tell you what they think. If they deem that renting will be better for you, see if they have any recommendations for a property management company.

What Are the Costs of Homeownership?

First-time homebuyers may not be aware that the costs of homeownership extend beyond the monthly payments on the principal and interest of the loan. Expenses also include taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. The exact monetary outlay may be difficult to estimate, but your agent can give you a general idea of what to expect. Remember, once you own a home, you are responsible for any repairs that need to be done. Make sure that wherever you choose to live, you have a savings set aside for emergencies. Disasters tend to happen at the worst time.

What Preparations Do I Need to Make Before I Can Write an Offer?

In certain areas (or certain times of the year), a property won’t stay on the market long, so you need to be prepared to act quickly when you come across your dream house. Sometimes, a home will have an offer on it mere hours after it goes on the market. Give your agent a realistic price range of what fits your budget, and then he or she can help you navigate the process of getting the necessary cash in an account that is ready to use. In our area, many agents require that their buyers are pre-qualified for loans. You don’t want to fall in love with a home only to lose it because you did not qualify for it. Your agent should be able to recommend a place for you to get pre-qualified before you start looking at homes.

How Do I Learn More About the House and/or Neighborhood?

Before you sign the dotted line, you’ll want to know more about the neighborhood you may be moving to. This is especially important if you are new to the area. You might fall in love with the privacy of a gated community, but hate all the rules and fees that go along with it. Or you might like being in an old Victorian in town, but you may find that it’s prone to street noise and foot traffic. Ask your agent to provide insight into the livability of a neighborhood. You should also ask your agent if the property is in close proximity to a major source of noise like a train station or busy freeway. Knowing these things ahead of time will save you a lot of stress.

Has the Property Changed Ownership Often?

Finding out how long the present owner has lived in the house can help you figure out if there are long-term issues with the property or the surroundings. Has the house changed hands every few years? Or has it been with the same family for 30 plus years? Be sure that when it comes to inspection time, you read everything thoroughly and make sure that nothing strange comes up.

May I Speak to the Sellers?

Having a direct conversation with the seller can be a great advantage because sometimes they will be candid about the reason they’re moving, and any aspects of the property. If possible, contact the former owner for another opportunity to discover more about the property.

When Was the House Last Updated?

With the intent of uncovering needed updates that could pose a major expense, ask when the house was last updated. Inquire specifically about the age of the roof, wiring, and appliances. See if the drainage system needs to be replaced. These updates should also come up during the inspection process.

What is the Minimum Offer the Seller Will Accept?

Prices will be completely dependent on the seller and how long the home has been on the market. See if the seller is willing to negotiate on the lowest acceptable offer. Speak to your real estate agent to develop a sound plan for negotiation that will keep you in good standing with the seller. Some sellers will stick to the price that has been set and refuse to go lower.

How Long Has the Property Been on the Market?

Find out if the house has been languishing on the market for some time, or if the seller has received considerable interest from potential buyers. This knowledge will be of value in gauging if you have negotiating room when making an offer. If the house is garnering a lot of interest and has not been on the market for long, be prepared to make an over asking price offer. You’ll have to be competitive if you really want the home and can afford it.

Can I Get the Home Inspected Before I Sign the Contract?

If you can get the home inspected before signing the contract, you aren’t obligated to buy if the property needs costly repairs. This downside is that it carries a risk that during the inspection, the seller could accept another offer before the inspection is finished. The solution is to have an inspection contingency in the contract that permits you to get out of the sale if the projected repairs exceed a certain limit. Inspections are super important, and, if possible should be conducted. You want to find out if something major is wrong before you move in.

When Can I Move In?

You’ll need to know this to schedule your moving plans. In most cases, you can move after escrow or closing, but an experienced agent can give you an accurate time frame. If the home is empty, it will be easier to negotiate a quick move in versus having to wait for the current occupant to move out. Just remember to stay patient during the process and leave some room for hiccups.

Owning a home is a fulfilling experience that everyone should have the opportunity to partake in. Asking your agent questions is of the utmost importance when buying a home. The answers can maximize your chances of buying a home that will offer you many years of enjoyment. You want to make sure that your dollar is maximized and that you get the home that you want.

Looking to buy or sell in the Nevada County area? Give a Coldwell Banker agent a call today!