Questions to Ask at an Open House
Written By: Mariko Baerg, REALTOR of Bridgewell Real Estate Group
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If you’re in the market for a new home, there are a lot of things that you need to think of. Purchasing a home is an endless checklist of questions that you need to ask and things that you need to do, so to make the process a little easier we’ve come up with our top 10 questions to ask the listing agent at an open house before you purchase.
How old is the roof/hot water tank/electrical, etc.?
This is an important question to ask, and while many real estate agents won’t be able to answer this question off the top of their heads, it is at least good to ask them to follow up with the seller to get the answer. This information may already be documented in the property disclosure statement, or it can also be estimated by having an inspector come through to inspect the property. By keeping a mental record of the maintenance and/or upgrades that have already been completed, it will allow you to estimate any future expenses and when they will be required.
Are there any special levies that have been approved or are coming up? [if strata]
You will be able to find this information in more detail via the strata documents, specifically the Form B, depreciation report, and recent minutes. However, it’s important to know whether there are special levies approved and for how much before you write an offer because this will likely affect your offer price. Has the seller agreed to cover the cost? Does the seller expect you to be responsible for the cost? If there’s a $7,000 roof levy due in the next 30 days you’ll definitely want to know about it and plan accordingly if you decide that you’d still like to proceed with an offer.
Why do the sellers want to move?
Finding out the motivation of the sellers will help to determine what is most important to them. If the sellers want to move because they can’t afford their mortgage payments anymore and are moving to Kamloops, then money means a lot to them. If the sellers are getting old and are looking to downsize then convenience will mean a lot to them. However, in the case that the sellers are moving because the neighbours party every night or the schools are terrible then the listing agent is unlikely to tell you. However, by asking carefully and listening you can usually read between the lines or be on the lookout for hesitation from the agent. From there, you can use this information to assess whether or not these factors will impact your future enjoyment of the property.
Have the sellers bought a property already?
If the sellers have bought a property and need to be out in a week then the dates will be really important to them. You’ll want to know whether the sellers are motivated to move or if they’re just testing out the market, so you can do your best to make your offer attractive based on their wants and needs.
What is the seller’s timeline – when is the ideal completion/possession?
This question relates to the previous questions in the sense that you’ll want to figure out the seller’s motivation. Do they need their money quick so they can close on their already purchased property? Would they prefer a longer closing date because they still need time to buy? Perhaps they want to delay the closing date so their kids can finish off the school year. While price is king in real estate negotiations, quite often a choice between two very similar offers comes down to accommodating the seller’s dates.
How long has the property been on the market?
The longer the property has been on the market the more stale the listing is, and the more negotiable the listing price may be. As the days on market increase, there is a lower likelihood of competing with multiple offers and offers will most likely be on a first come first serve basis. Ask the agent how long the property has been on the market for, and how/when offers are being presented to the seller. You can find this information on some public sites or by asking your agent to check the multiple listing service, but the seller’s agent will be able to put this information in context.
Have you received any offers?
You’ll want to know if the open house that you’re checking out already has an accepted offer, is going to be collecting offers on a specific day and anticipates multiples, or if they are doing offers on a first come first serve basis. If they have an accepted offer, they’re continuing to show the property with hopes for a backup offer in the case that the current offers collapses. If it’s a new listing, they are likely collecting offers on a specific day with hopes for multiples offers. They may already have an indication of how many offers they will receive, and on the offer presentation day the listing agent is obligated to tell you how many offers you are competing against. If the listing has been on the market for a bit, you may be lucky enough to be the only offer. However, in this case it’s important to ask if they’ve received any offers in the past and whether or not they’ve rejected them and why.
How much do utilities cost?
Know what you’re getting into before you make an offer by asking to see recent utility bills. If you’re moving from an apartment into a house, you might be surprised at the impact utility bills have on your budget. If you’re buying a strata property [condo, townhouse] then you’ll want to know what is included in the maintenance fees and what you’ll need to pay on top of them.
Is there a property disclosure statement available for the property?
A property disclosure statement provides a history of the property based on the seller’s knowledge. It is a common subject on a real estate contract; however, it is not required for all sellers to complete it. For example, if a seller has never lived in the property because it is tenanted then they most likely won’t want to put their butt’s on the line when it comes to answering questions that they’re not 100% sure about. Check to see if the listing agent has a PDS available, because it means that the sellers are confident in their answers and are aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the property.
What are the neighbours and the neighbourhood like?
If you’re unfamiliar with the area it’s important to ask the listing agent questions that concern you and whoever will be living/visiting with you. Is the neighbourhood kid-friendly? What are the catchment area schools? Are there lots of retired people or first time home- buyers and what are the neighbours like? What is the walk score? Is there nearby transit and/or shops? If you or the realtor are unfamiliar, or if you’re not satisfied with his/her answers then pull up the property on Google Maps and do some homework with good ol’ satellite & street view.
Are you looking to purchase a home in the near future? The above questions are great starters; however, it’s important that you have an experienced realtor hired to protect your best interests as a buyer. To learn more about what a buyer’s agent does and how we can help you, call 604-765-0376. Prefer text? 604-319-0200 or email email@example.com to start a conversation.
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