Buying a house is one of the largest investments you can make. Thus, it’s important to first check the property in person before making an offer. Similarly, you can ask the real estate agent more about the house and learn key details, which can significantly affect your decision on whether you want to buy it or not.

Through your questions and feedback, your real estate agent will have a more concrete idea of what you’re looking for in a house. Agents often have a couple of available listings on the market, so if the house you went to is not quite what you want, they can suggest other options for you to look at. In fact, many realtors use this feedback to help potential buyers find properties that best fits their requirements. Here’s an example of one of the feedback tools that agents commonly use for this purpose:

With that said, the key to learning more about the house and its potential value is by asking the right questions. Here are some of the questions you need to ask your agent during an open house:

How many offers have been made?

Sellers rarely accept the first offer given to them. It’s not uncommon for agents to show the house to multiple potential buyers in hopes of getting the best price. Thus, if you give a low-priced offer when several others have offered higher, the seller may simply reject your offer without negotiating. Make sure to ask this question, so you can adjust your offers accordingly.

How long has the house been on the market?

If the house has been on the market for a while, it may be a sign that there’s something wrong with the property. It might be the location, the pricing, the neighborhood, or even the house itself. Thus, you need to be cautious while checking the property.

Keep in mind also that it is possible for an agent to have had the listing for just a few days even if the house has been on the market for a long time. Sellers often change real estate agencies if their house didn’t sell. Thus, you need to clarify with the agent for just how long the house has been on the market to get the whole story.

What’s the seller’s timeline?

Knowing the seller’s timeline gives you a significant advantage because it allows you to work around your offers. Some sellers wish to sell the house immediately due to a job transfer, so giving a slightly higher offer may win you the deal. Others may have a longer timeline due to personal constraints, such as school, so you have more time to negotiate on the house price. Overall, learning more about the seller’s personal motivations and schedule can offer you some leeway when it comes to negotiations. 

Are there any additions or renovations done to the home?

A lot of homeowners are interested in DIY, but not all of them are adept at it. This may result in structural, wiring, or plumbing problems that may not be up to par with local codes. This is especially the case with bigger changes such as renovations. In this case, learn more about the changes and ask if the additions and renovations were done by professional contractors.

Can I have a copy of the seller’s disclosure statement?

Every house comes along with its own issues and problems. As per real estate regulations, sellers are required to list down all known defects in their house in a written disclosure statement. This includes structural problems, age of the roof, termite treatments, and any building code violations. Agents often have a few copies on hand during an open house and will give you one if you ask.

What stays inside the house?

Not all of the items installed inside a house during the showing stays after the house is bought. This is especially the case with antiques, such as vintage furniture or chandeliers, and electronics, such as kitchen appliances. Buyers prefer to get houses with the appliances already included, but some sellers opt otherwise. This is because, in the off-chance that some appliances don’t work properly, it may affect the sales contract. Make sure to ask the agent which items will stay and which ones will be taken with the seller. These items should be enumerated in the listing contract.

May I see the utility bills and maintenance records?

Aside from the price of the property, you also need to know how much you’re going to pay monthly to live in it. Get a copy of the utility bills and maintenance records of the house in the past two years and check if you can afford it. If it’s beyond your budget, it may be time to check out another house.

What’s the neighborhood like?

Knowing the kind of neighborhood a place is located in is essential when buying a house. After all, the neighborhood can have a significant effect on your lifestyle. Some people prefer to interact and hold events with the community while others prefer to be more private. You also need to consider crime rate statistics as well. Even if the house is lowly priced, if the local crime rates are high, you also need to consider your safety.

Looking for a house is fun, but it also takes a lot of effort, research, and time. Keep in mind, however, that putting in the work does bear fruits. With the right agent, questions, and timing, you can acquire a house you can comfortably call home.