The home buying process can be stressful. A home can look beautiful but be masking expensive issues or hidden ownership fees. The best time to find out about all of this is at the open house, this way you can make the most informed decision about what you're getting yourself into.
1. How long has the house been on the market?
If it turns out a home has been on the market for quite some time, you may be able to make an offer significantly lower than the asking price, says Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate. On the other hand, if a house seems to be priced normally, but hasn't moved, you should try to find out why offers aren't being made.
2. Have you had any offers on the house?
This will tell you about the competition you will face should you decide to make an offer of your own. If there haven't been any offers made, good news! If there have been offers, especially if there have been more than two, you could be in for a bidding war if you decide you want this house. Don't let competing offers dissuade you from trying to buy your dream home, just keep in mind how much you are willing to pay.
3. Has the house been in escrow?
If the house has already been in escrow, it's a sign that a buyer was about to buy but backed out at the last minute. If this is the situation here, don't despair - it could just be a case of cold feet, or the buyer might have been turned down for his or her loan. On the other hand, it could mean that the property inspection turned up some damages to the house or land. If this is the case, you may want to reconsider or make a lower offer.
4. Can I have a disclosure statement?
Stephanie Mills of Realtor.com suggests that you ask for a disclosure statement. This will tell you about any issue the seller knows about, including any damages revealed by a property inspection. It will also reveal how old the property is, how long the seller occupied the home and a lot of other important information.
5. What appliances and features come with the house?
Most houses come with standard appliances - a refrigerator, oven, washing machine, etc, but not all of them do. Make sure you know what will be in the house come move-in day, or you might be sorry later. On the bright side, some sellers will throw in extras, from hot tubs to golf carts, in order to make their property more attractive. If you see something in the house that you would love to have, you can include it in your offer - maybe the seller will say yes.
6. How does the price compare with others in the neighborhood?
Just by comparing the asking price to the price at which other properties in the neighborhood recently sold, you can find out a lot of useful information. If the price is significantly higher than other houses nearby, the seller may have unrealistic expectations or the area might be getting worse in some way. If the price is significantly lower, you should find out why it is so low.
Once you've made an offer and the house is in escrow, it's time to get a property inspection. A pre purchase home inspection will tell you about any issues with the home or with the property that you may not have noticed. A home inspection professional can also make suggestions that will save you money on repairs or help you to get a better negotiating position.