What Questions Should We Ask?

Updated on February 03, 2012
V.W. asks from Chisago City, MN
20 answers

My boyfriend and I are going to look at a house this Saturday. Yes, my boyfriend. Please no more lectures on this. As I have stated before we are planning on having a "courthouse wedding" before we buy the house, and are having a "real" ceremony later. At the moment we want all of our money to go towards the house. And before I get anymore lectures about how this house is too far away from my boyfriend's work, WE are choosing to live in this area for many reasons, one of the reasons being that WE want our son (And future children) to go to this school.

Anyways, back to my question. When we go to look at the house on Saturday, what questions should we ask the agent showing us the house? I know that it's a foreclosed home so he won't be able to tell us personal things about the house, but what else should we be asking him?

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answers from Washington DC on

It's not the real estate agent that you need to talk to - it's the home inspector once you get to the purchase - do not buy any home withOUT home inspection....as the real estate agent might not know when the:

* Roof was replaced - how much longer will it last?
* water was turned off/kept on
* windows were replaced
* heater/furnance/A/C were replaced, maintained
* plumbing - old iron pipes or updated?
or if there has been:
* termite inspection - damage?
* structural issues?
* Electrical issues - are the outlets GFI grounded? is the wiring to TODAY's code? If not - what and who will be responsible for getting it done?
* insulation - is the house properly insulated? If not - what will we have to do to bring it up to date?
* eves/sofett vents and ridge vent properly installed? if the ridge vent or soffet vents not installed properly or there - the attic gets too hot and bakes the roof....also causes ice dams
* gutters properly installed? Leaf guard?
* down spouts drains the water AWAY from the property?
* is the lot properly graded to allow drain off AWAY from the property?
* is the fence secure?
* does the driveway tar need to be replaced?

The real estate agent should know:
- HOA fees, if any
- Historical property - if it is listed at Historical what "improvements" can you make to the home?
- Is it in a flood zone/plain?
- gas/electric
- water - well or public
- sewage - septic or public
- trash pick up (if not an association who can you use and how much is it?)
- lead paint inspection results (the home inspector might be able to answer this as well)
- snow removal - done by a company or homeowner responsible?
- tree removal - some counties, cities don't allow people to remove trees. do you need permission?
- painting the house - if it's an HOA - what is the color pallet?
- real estate taxes
- property taxes

If this property has horses and a barn
- was a permit issued for the building of the barn?
- is it zoned for animals? if so - what is the limit?

Property lines...this should be done with a platte on the land so you know your property lines/boundaries...so if a tree falls and breaks something on someone else's land - who is responsible?

there are soooo many things to ask. You can actually borrow a book from the library on it as well.

Take the following with you to the viewing:
- camera
- pen/pencil
- paper/notebook
- tape measure
- a marble or ball (tennis, golf, etc.)

Take pictures of the rooms, if the house is empty - put the ball or marble on the floor and see if it rolls - if it does, the floor is crooked and the house may have settled and caused foundation issues. It could be an easy fix. It could be a COSTLY fix...our neighbors house settled they ended up replacing the whole second floor of the home at a cost of $20K...to the subfloor and putting risers in to compensate for the settling...

Sketch out the floor plan on the notepad/book and take measurements of the rooms - will your furniture fit?

Take pictures of the outside of the house - corners, windows, etc.
does the garage fit your cars?

There is sooo much more. Have you checked the school district? What schools does this potential home feed into? (http://www.greatschools.net).

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

You've gotten some good responses so far. The only question I'd ask is about wiring...wiring for internet. Will you be able to install wi-fi (if you want) for computers, and what options for cable tv do you have. This can be a big deal if the house is older (like ours, we can't do wi-fi because the walls are too thick) or if the house wasn't built properly. Our next door neighbors struggled to get the wiring in the house so they could have another option besides dial-up, and they had to go for satelite instead of cable.

Good luck oin your new purchase and on your marriage.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Madison on

I'm just going to say Do NOT buy a house that is over a 45 min drive to work for your boyfriend until he has sucessfully driven it with no woes for at least a year...cause I can tell you he's not going to like it after a while...The drive time wears on ya...ask anyone who commutes that long...and that is two hours a day away from family....I don't know how long his drive will be exactly but i am guessing around that amount of you say it is a "long" drive. and please dont tell me his commute is into the cities...not a good commute!! That would be a folish move, very folish if it is to the cities every day to and fro

You have to take into consideration drive time, gas cost, and a lot of other things before choosing to buy a house...if people are "lecturing you" on this...like it am...it is for good reason. Listen to what we are saying and think about it for a while....there are those of us who have been through living situations like this and know very well it doesn't work peacefully.

Anyhow...has it been flooded, how is the foundation, and really anything you want to ask...new roof? new furnace? or better what is new to the house...how old is the furnace, windows, roof. associations fees...oh there is so much to ask.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We were going to buy a house and had our own realtor. Are taxes paid up to date, who is paying the taxes at closing, is there a survey--usually not for a foreclosure, who is taking responsibility for compliance if required? Some foreclosures are as is and buyer is responsible for it all. This can add an additional $3000 or more to closing costs.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

IF you are serious about getting the house, pay a qualified building inspector to inspect it.

Read Cheryl O's post. No need of me re writing what she said.

BEWARE OF HOA's. The HOA we were going to buy in has raised their rates so much the HOA is more expensive than the taxes and this is in HIGH TAX California.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

Buying a foreclosure is a pain in the butt, but worth it. Make sure the real estate agent brings a print out of the description of the home and comparables of other properties in the area. It should have extra notes that don't show in the internet listing. Foreclosures come as is so what you see is what you get some homes come with a warranty (ours did for one year on certain items). If you or your boyfriend have any knowledge about houses check everything. Look everywhere, if this home has been empty for some time it could have mold, critters or major damage.

Make sure the agent goes over the process of buying a foreclosure home. I am sure it is listed "as is" but you can still have a home inspection (I highly recommend) and sometimes you can work with the selling bank for repairs (it is always worth asking). The bank cleaned and repaired our pool that had been empty for over two years. Sometimes they will help repair major items like the foundation.

Don't forget to add your closing costs, taxes, home owners insurance and PMI to the total of your loan. The numbers will vary.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

You seem very disgruntled with responders by the sound of your post. Maybe you should find a new forum or stop letting so many strangers into personal aspects of your life. This should be helpful, not hurtful to you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Some things I wish we had thought of... does it have a sidewalk, is it kid friendly. Maybe take a walk (chilly, I know) around the neighborhood to get an idea of the neighbors - are they friendly, are there any kids, noisy dogs or chickens ;) ... ect. The more time you can spend in the area, the better. Are there high traffic road nearby? If traffic is an issue, go there during high traffic times and watch the cars go by. If distance for commute is an issue, have your bf leave the potential home at the time he would be leaving for work, and drive to work. This will give him an idea of what the commute will be like. Also drive the commute after a snowfall, so he gets an idea of what a 'regular' winter will be like.

Is it near grocery shopping and other areas you will be going a lot (gas is expensive these days).

When was it built (before 1977 you need to be concerned about lead paint, especially if there will be renovations).

and the most important question to ask yourselves (one I wish we had thought of): Can we afford this mortgage (and everything else) for an extended period of time on ONE persons salary? (in case of job loss).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Ask what the annual property taxes are and if there are any association fees. Many single family homes these days have association dues as well.

Flooding, mold, original furnace/water heater etc. Has there been a radon check in the basement (if it has one).

My husband drives 45 minutes to work and the only thing that makes it bearable for him is that he has a lot of freedom to come and go when he needs to - he leaves after the rush hour and comes home after the rush hour. He also has the ability to work from home, unplanned, on bad weather (i.e snow) days - like you are sure to get in MN. My sister drives about a hour to work b/c she has to be at her office at a certain time. It snowed the other day and it took her 3 1/2 hrs to get home. Just givin' you info - do with it what you please.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Rapid City on

Ask about problem areas, they have to tell you if there is a problem with the house that will need addressed. Make the sell on whether it passes inspection and get your own inspector. We ended up replacing the roof on our house in the first 3 years of living here. Have them check for termites and problems with the foundation, leaks that may not have been fixed correctly and hidden with new flooring. Check footings under the additions because sometimes they hide cracks with new sheetrock. Check the other houses for sale in the area to see how the price is comparing. Hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lake Charles on

Ask how old the AC/Heater is.. whether it's been damaged by fire, flood, hurricane, tornado etc.. How old the roof is. How well the house is insulated (you can test yourself by just listening if you can hear through the walls).. If anyone has ever died in the house (if you care). What company handles the electric, water, gas.. Is it in a HOA..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

Ask about features you want to see in the home, what things are made out of, what is new, etc. Everything else you'll discover when you have a Home Inspection done.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Take a camera or your phone and take pictures. Lots of pictures. More pictures than you think you need. That will be more valuable than info from the agent. Is the agent working for you? Or for the bank? That can determine what information you get from the agent. Generally speaking, and maybe it's different in foreclosures, the sellers are required to have a disclosure statement available to buyers. This is where the sellers would reveal that there is lead paint on the windowsills, or there was flood damage in the past, and other things that potential buyers would want to know. Otherwise there is a waiver, signed by the seller or the bank, indicating that there are "no disclosures." They may be selling the house "as-is," meaning they will not fix anything discovered on an inspection. Don't let that stop you from hiring an inspector anyway. You might want to go down to your local bookstore and browse around to find some first-time homebuyers primers. They could prove to be invaluable. And may contain more comprehensive lists about what you want to ask. Just remember, if the agent works for the seller/bank, they do not have your best interests in mind. Only a buyers agent, that you've signed a contract with, will do that. Again, that probably varies from state to state. Good luck, have fun looking, and don't get so emotionally attached to any one home that you don't take a good hard look at your photos and decide if you can really, truly live with, say, a kitchen cabinet that, when it's open, you can't also open the dishwasher or the oven. I'm just sayin.'

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Ask to see the history of the utilities bills.

Ask if the house has had a home inspection done recently.

Ask what the taxes are annually.

Ask for any information regarding replacement of systems, appliances, etc.

Ask what is NOT included--don't assume everything you see will stay.

LOOK for dates on things like the furnace, water heater, condition of the windows, roof.
SMELL the basement areas for ANY hint of dampness.
Look at the structural condition.

IS there anyone you can take with you that has a background in home construction/repair/etc.? Those "eyes" often see much different that our eyes!
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Get your own agent and s/he will ask the right questions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Home Inspector - this is a MUST (and ask him/her how often his customers DON'T buy b/c of problems he's found)

Water damage?


Length vacant?

Frozen pipes (I see you're from MN)

Roof last repaired/reshingled?

Who were previous owners? (single person that defaults may care for house differently than family that defaults)


School rezoning been an issue?

(no advice here, per your well written and easily understandable request. Go get'em and good luck!)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I bought a foreclosed home and one thing you definitely need to find out is if there are any tax breaks the home has that will go away after you purchase it -- ours did and it ended up costing me over $1,000 a year! Also make sure you have a very thorough inspection - it's worth the money you'll spend on it! Find out if the bank will pay for any repairs if found on inspection or if they'll be out of your pocket - there was an issue with a burst pipe underground that I had to pay to fix before I could legally buy the house!! Find out where the utilities are through so you can call and get amounts that were billed to the property so you'll know how much heat, electric, etc is -- that goes a long way to showing you if there are insulation issues, etc. That's all I can think of for now...GOOD LUCK! And congratulations on making this step in your life with your boyfriend!! Good for you for sticking up for yourself, too!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

First and foremost?

How much have we been pre-approved for?
Can we afford this house on ONE salary alone?

Go to the library and borrow a book on home buying. 8kidsdad is correct, Cheryl gave you a pretty detailed list. I would probably add to go to the neighborhood in the morning, noon and night to see what happens and on the weekend. You don't just go in one trip, fall in love and put an offer and move in. You want to see the traffic, kids, etc. going at different times will allow you to see that and especially on the weekends.

As a prime example: we had a neighbor buy a home 3 doors down from us. they came, fell in love, no kids. they sold the house the following month because they THOUGHT the neighborhood was quiet. Wrong. Kids in almost every house out riding, playing, screaming....

A foreclosed home can take up to six months to purchase. The owner and the bank must approve the offer and that can take months.

A home inspection is usually about $500 - and if the home is larger can be more expensive. You don't do the home inspection until you have signed a contract on the home. This allows you to back out of the deal if the repairs are more than you thought.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

Definitely get a buyer's agent. He/she will know what you need to find out, what questions to ask, what you are responsible for, etc.

Typically the seller will pay the buyer's agent 3% of the selling price.

Our agent was wonderful and really represented us and our needs.



answers from Louisville on

check info on the house that the local PVA office has -- that kept me from even bidding on a house at one time (knew they were high, but they were WAY high)

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