Questions to ask your realtor when looking for a home

Buying a home can be an overwhelming process; working with a good real estate agent is one of the most important things potential buyers can do to make house hunting as stress-free as possible. The following questions can help you get great advice from your realtor during the home buying process.

1. What is the sales history of this house?
Ask your real estate agent about the sales history of a property. Look for red flags that could indicate issues with the property. A home that was purchased within the past six months is likely a quick flip, while a home that has gone on and off the market for several months – or longer – may have issues that have made it difficult to sell.

2. What are the property taxes and average utilities?
The asking price of a home can help you determine your monthly mortgage payment, but it is important to factor in other expenses into your new budget. Asking questions about the annual property taxes and the average cost of utilities each month helps ensure you can afford the house – beyond just the mortgage payment.

3. What is the market like in this neighborhood?
Good real estate agents understand their markets inside and out. While federal fair housing laws prohibit realtors from discussing neighborhood demographics, you can still ask your agent questions about local housing trends and other economic factors that may affect current – or future – home values.

Are home prices rising or falling in the neighborhood? What amenities are nearby? How are the local schools? Questions like these can help you decide if an area will be a good fit for you and your family, as well as how the future desirability of your home may be impacted.

4. What contingencies are worth getting – or worth skipping?
When the sellers accept a buyer’s offer, they enter into a contract. But just how binding that contract is depends on the details. Some contracts are written with contingencies, or situations that allow the buyer or seller to break the contract without penalty. Common – and widely accepted – contingencies include home inspection and appraisal, while less popular contingencies include sale of a previous home.

Asking for too many contingencies can turn off sellers, particularly in a competitive real estate market. Instead, talk to your realtor about what contingencies should be made a priority; while you may want to waive the home inspection contingency for a new construction home, it might be considered essential on an older property.

5. Would you buy this house?
If your real estate agent would have reservations about buying a home for themselves, that may be a major red flag. Likewise, if your agent isn’t as impressed by a home as you are, don’t be afraid to ask why. Agents are real estate professionals who have seen hundreds – if not thousands – of homes in an area; their concerns about a property are often well-founded.

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