Buying a home is a psychological game of poker, with very high stakes, and huge incentives to bluff and avoid inconvenient facts. However, real estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth, so you need to make sure you ask the right questions to find out what the real situation is. It could make the difference between buying a dream home and buying a dud – and save you a fortune
The agent doesn’t have to answer, but if you’re lucky they might hint at the circumstances. You might find out the owner is desperate to sell, perhaps because work is taking them overseas, and so would accept a lower price
If it’s a new listing, don’t expect the sellers to strike a bargain with you. But if it’s been sitting on the market for a while, they may be more willing to negotiate their asking price. When a property doesn’t sell right away, many buyers assume there must be something wrong with it. In reality, it may have originally been listed at too high of a price.
Agents generally hate this – it is their job to negotiate – but they can’t stop you speaking to the sellers, which can be the best thing you do. Most sellers are like you – not industry professionals – and this means they often give answers that agents would find shockingly honest. Unlike the agent, they can’t pretend ignorance if you ask why they are moving. It can also give you a much better feel for the house – ask them the best and worst points.
Is the garden shed or greenhouse included? Are the fixtures and fittings? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you see all of what you are getting. It is not unknown for most of the contents to be included in the sale
If it’s an older house, ask when it was last re-roofed, re-wired or re-piled. These things have to be done from time to time and can cost a significant amount.
You can’t get away from paying utilities, so know what your monthly budget is up against. Be sure to get an average cost — not the lowest monthly bill — and ask when peak months are. While you’re at it, ask what kind of energy sources your house appliances use — gas, electric, propane, or a combination. That’ll help you understand where you might upgrade to energy-efficient appliances to save energy costs. Remember that energy savings starts with the simplest of tasks, like sealing air leaks.
It’s not uncommon to find that older houses have some history. If you’re worried about what might have happened in the house before you moved in, ask the agent. A broad question such as whether there was anything unusual about it will cover off a range of things – one buyer said she asked whether anyone had died in the house and was told no – only to find out that someone had died in the garden.
So if you not sure what to ask a realtor when buying a house? These questions should make the top of your list.
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