When you’re getting ready to make an offer on a home, it’s important to do your homework and learn as much as possible before signing a contract to purchase. Otherwise, you can risk losing your earnest money or feeling pressured to buy a home that simply doesn’t meet your needs. The questions listed below go above and beyond simply getting a good deal on a home. Your Realtor can pull comps and statistics that show whether a home is worth its list price. However, these questions dig deeper into the investment aspect of purchasing and help prevent common surprise issues from derailing the contract.
When was the home initially listed for sale?
Most homes in today’s fast paced real estate market sell quickly, so if a home has sat for longer than the average days on market, this can be a red flag. Your Realtor should be able to help determine why a listing hasn’t sold yet and also make a good recommendation on your offer price based on the amount of time since the home was listed.
Have there been any price reductions?
When a seller makes a recent price reduction, he often is less willing to negotiate on the contract price. In his mind, he just gave up thousands of dollars in the reduction, even if the home was overpriced to begin with. This price history can help you and your agent determine the seller’s flexibility in price.
Has the home had recent problems, repairs, or updates?
With South Carolina real estate purchases, sellers are required to fill out a Sellers’ Disclosure form that lists all of the issues, repairs, and renovations that the seller has made during his ownership of the home. This disclosure in no way voids the need for a home inspection, but instead it’s a great starting point to understand the condition of the home. Some of the items in this disclosure include leaks, flooding, age of the roof and HVAC, easements on the property, fire damage, and foundation problems.
How long has the home been vacant?
Charleston’s warm, humid summers can cause damage to a home’s wood floors when the property has been vacant for months with no electricity to keep the HVAC system cooling properly. Page 5 of the Sellers’ Disclosure (discussed above) will let you know whether vacancy is a potential concern.
Is there a termite bond in place?
Many homeowners don’t want the cost or maintenance of a termite bond, and they have no idea whether a live infestation is currently taking place in their crawlspace or wooden framework. Termite damage can wreak serious havoc on a home, and the repairs can be costly. If you’re buying a home and financing it with a mortgage, your lender will require a CL-100 inspection prior to closing which will show if there is current termite activity, signs of previous damage, and also moisture levels under the home.
What does the seller pay in homeowners insurance?
Although you’ll be getting a quote for your own policy, this simple question should indicate whether the ongoing cost of insurance is more than the average home. Just like HOA fees (see below), you don’t want these types of recurring costs to eat up your annual budget.
In which flood zone is the home located?
Another good question to ask is how much the seller currently pays for flood insurance and whether the policy is transferrable. With recent changes to flood zoning and insurance, we’re seeing flood rates on older homes especially get hiked up. For example, I recently saw a Charleston home for sale that cost $7,000 a year for just the flood insurance! This cost was in addition to the homeowner insurance policy! A home in that price range should have been in the $450 to 700 range, but the flood zone and base flood elevation were some of the worst possible. It would be better for a buyer in that $400,000 price range to find a different home to purchase so that more of her annual budget goes towards the mortgage rather than insurance.
Does the community have amenities?
Amenities like a swimming pool, tennis court, play park, dock, and boat ramp can be a lot of fun in Charleston. However, these facilities also come at a higher price. Some buyers don’t care about the frills and simply want to keep their costs low. Other buyers absolutely must have a community pool and are willing to pay a fee since this cost is less than installing and maintaining one in their backyard. If you’re considering buying in a neighborhood with amenities, be sure to see these facilities in person before you make an offer.
Is there an HOA fee?
If so, what does the fee cover? In addition to grounds maintenance, does the fee include access to amenities? Is this amount comparable to other neighborhoods? Also, some homes have more than one HOA fee. For example, in a large community there can be a fee paid to the company who manages the subsection and an additional fee that goes to the manager in charge of the entire neighborhood.
Are there Covenants and Restrictions in this community?
If you’re looking to keep a boat or RV in the backyard, you’ll need to make sure the neighborhood allows for this. Also, if you make any significant changes to the outside of your home such as an building an addition, screening in an existing deck, adding a pool, or replacing siding, you’ll need to get these changes approved by the Architectural Review Board prior to getting the work done.
Is the home zoned for good public schools?
We’ve written on our blog before about how good public schools increase real estate value. Whether or not you have kids who will attend these schools, many different resources have shown that homes with good schools sell faster and have better resale potential.
Has the seller received any offers on the home?
Hot seller markets tend to see multiple offer situations regularly. If there are no current offers in place, you might be able to negotiate a better price or terms. However, when there are multiple offers, you’ll need to put forward your highest and best contract and hope for the best. Learn more about multiple offer situations.
If you’ve talked with your agent and have found green lights at all of these potential deal killers, then you should strongly consider making an offer to purchase. Your Realtor will be able to discuss with you at length about the pros and cons of each home you view, and she’ll also be able to help you compare your options so that you make the best possible real estate investment.