Open House Questions You Should Ask – 5 Tips

Once you have been pre-approved for a mortgage, the real fun can start – it is time to go house hunting.

First up is your needs list – have you determined your housing needs list? Once you have decided your needs and wants for a home, it is time to pick a real estate agent and start looking at homes.

Part of looking at homes is attending open houses. Open houses are where you can visit and walk through a home without having your real estate agent present. But without a real estate agent walking around with you it is a good idea that you have some questions to ask to help you better decide your buying position with the seller. Also, buying questions will help you determine whether the houses you visit during open houses are worthy of your time and money.

Some of the questions below may not get answered by the agent representing the home, but if you pay close attention to their answers you will learn more about the home that can help you in your purchase of the home or not.

Here are some questions to arm yourself with as you wonder through some open houses:

  1. What is the value of the home compared to homes that have recently sold? This is very important to discuss. You don’t want to be looking at a higher price than what the appraisal/market will support. Yes you may be able to get out of the sales contract – but you may have to get tough to get your contract deposit back. Also, think about the time you may waste to find out that you are trying to buy a home with financing like a VA loan but the appraised value is far below the sales price.
  2. Why are the sellers looking to sell? This is one of those questions that may not get answered. The agent doesn’t want to tip their hat towards a potential bargaining chip for you as a buyer – but if they do talk and you listen carefully you may just be able to see through the cracks enough to find the button to push to get your home purchase offer accepted.
  3. Has anyone else had a sales contract on this home? If there was a prior contract and it fell through you’ll want to ask why. To help you find out why, you may ask if there had been any inspections or appraisals that may shed some light. One thing that you should keep in mind if you decide to put an offer on a place is any contingencies. Contingencies are your loophole out of a contract if there are physical problems with the home. Make sure you talk to your real estate agent about contingencies – they could save you a lot of heart ache and money.
  4. Are there are any unpaid liens on the home? In today’s day and age in 2011 there are a lot of home owner associations looking to be paid for past due money from outgoing homeowners. Past due HOA dues can be a deal breaker as well as tax liens and other types of unpaid debt that will affect the title and deed of the property.
  5. How long has the home been on the market? The longer the better from a negotiation point of view – but beware of why it has been on the market for an extended period of time. In a perfect world, if the home is perfect and just hasn’t sold the sellers may be interested in making a deal – if it is the right deal. But, ask questions about why it has sat for so long.

While this list of questions isn’t exhaustive, you should be able to get a good feel for the home that goes beyond what the home looks like when you walk through it. If the listing agent and homeowner have staged the home properly it should show well so you’ll need more to go on if you are going to make an informed choice to buy or not.