Top 16 questions to ask when buying a house


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UPDATED: 2021-03-19T15:29:37.687Z
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A neighborhood of houses for a blog about questions to ask when buying a house.

Whether you’ve decided that the time is right to buy your first house or if you’ve settled on your dream home, the home-buying process can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider and steps to buying a house, from finances to home insurance.

Even homeowners who have bought and sold homes before know that there are a lot of questions that should be asked and answered before buying a home. And, there are always questions that we wished we’d asked before buying a house.

To make the process easier, here are some questions to get you started thinking about what is important to know about ahead of time and why these answers are critical to know before you buy. These questions can help you with what to look for when buying a house. Consider adding these questions to your house buying checklist!

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Questions about the basics of buying a home

1. What can I afford and what will the total costs of buying a home be?

There are a lot of expenses associated with buying a home, from home inspection and appraisal fees to earnest money deposits and closing costs. The last thing that you want to discover after signing is that the taxes are more than you’d bargained for, or that your homeowners insurance will be higher than you expected.

2. How long has the house been on the market?

If a home has been on the market for a while, you might want to ask some additional questions. This may be an indication that the owner priced the house too high when it was first listed, but it can also indicate that there might be problems with the home, property, or neighborhood. It would be worth it to ask about these things so that you know what type of neighborhood you’re moving into.

3. What does the sale of the house include?

Find out what’s included in the sale and pay close attention to what is excluded. If you’re going to need to buy window coverings and lighting fixtures, those costs add up quickly. Asking questions means knowing what your budget will need to accommodate. Nothing will break a budget quicker than discovering that you’ll need to buy all new appliances because they weren’t included in the sale.

4. How much do utilities typically cost?

Again, this is a “forewarned is forearmed” question, and it’s particularly important if you’re moving from one region of the country to another, because energy costs can vary, sometimes dramatically.

5. Are the services available that I need?

This might seem an odd question, but it’s an important one for many. For example, if you work from home and require high-speed internet access to do your job, you will need to know which broadband providers are available in the area for the home you’re considering.

Similarly, if you rely on your mobile phone for calling, you’ll want to make sure that your chosen provider has good coverage in the area you are thinking of buying a house in. Make a list of the essential services you depend on, and verify that you’ll be able to access them or be able to find an acceptable alternative.

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Questions about natural disasters to ask when buying a house

1. Is it in a floodplain? Can I get flood insurance?

Flooding is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. Floods can happen anywhere, so you’ll need to find out if your home is in a flood plain, and if you can purchase flood insurance.

2. Do I need earthquake insurance?

There are thousands of active fault lines in the U.S., so don’t assume that only Californians need to consider earthquake insurance. Earthquake insurance is not part of a standard homeowners policy, so investigate your risk and consider purchasing an earthquake insurance rider.

3. What is my wildfire risk?

In some parts of the country, droughts are becoming so common that there’s a “wildfire season.” In fact, there are some areas where insurers have experienced such high claims, year after year, that they’ve stopped issuing policies. If you are considering buying a home in a region of the country prone to wildfires, make certain to ask questions about wildfire coverage.

4. Is there termite damage? What are the risks for termites or other pests?

Bugs and pests. They are everywhere and they can do real damage to a home’s structure. Termites, in particular, can cause extensive damage, but there are other pests as well.

Homeowners insurance is designed to cover damage that is unexpected and sudden… and while termite damage might feel sudden, it isn’t. Know where in the country termites are an issue and find out about what pests are prevalent in the area in which you’re buying a home. Then, make certain that your home inspection examines the house closely for any signs of any prior (or current) pest infestations.

Questions about the home’s condition

1. When was the house built?

Older homes have a lot of charm, but if they haven’t been updated (or haven’t been updated properly), you could be taking on more expense than you had originally expected. Find out when the house was built, and the age of any updates and improvements or additions, particularly the electrical wiring. If this is your first home, knowing what to look for can help.

2. How old are key systems? (Furnace, forced air, propane tank, septic, etc.)

Home warranties are a popular addition for a home purchase for a reason. Few things are as upsetting as moving into a new home only to have the furnace expire within the first month. Find out how old each of the home’s key systems are. Consider buying a home warranty for added protection on these systems in your home.

3. What is the size and age of the water heater?

Unless you like the surprise of a sudden burst of cold water in your shower, ask about the size of the water heater and make sure that it can accommodate your family size. Knowing what the age of the water heater is could also inform your decision to purchase a home warranty.

4. How old is the roof?

A full roof replacement can be very expensive, so ask about the age of the roof. In regions where hail damage is common, make sure your home inspector looks for signs of prior damage.

Questions to ask about the home's location

1. Make a list of any stores or locations that are important to you. How far away are they?

When you find a house that meets your family’s needs, it’s also important to consider how you live and what facilities and stores are important to you. For example, if working out at the gym every morning helps to keep you healthy and balanced and your new home isn’t close to one, will you become disenchanted with your new place quickly, or are there alternatives? Check out the location of grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and any other amenities that are important.

2. Are there any potential nuisances nearby?

Moving into a new home and discovering that there’s an active rock quarry nearby that conducts blasting, or a large-scale farming operation that becomes decidedly unpleasant to live downwind from in the summer months, can turn your dream home into a nightmare. Google satellite view is free and a very useful tool to see what’s nearby from a higher perspective. Ask questions and do your research to avoid unpleasant surprises that are literally down the road.

3. What are the zoning plans?

If the home is in an expanding area, it might make sense to ask about zoning plans and maps. You don’t want to learn later that the beautiful view from your new home is slated to become a shopping mall in a year or two.

You want to be happy in your home for many years to come and the key to making sure that happens is asking the right questions before the home is yours. You may want to make a home wish list to figure out what you want and need in your new home.

It’s also important to note that the answers to many of these questions will affect more than your happiness. They can have an impact on your future home’s value, its resale potential, and how much it will cost to insure it.

If you’re looking for a new home and are considering switching your homeowners insurance, check out the top rated insurance in your zip code.

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