Questions to ask at an Open House or Showing

By Maddie Ogden

Open houses and house showings can be overwhelming, especially for first-time buyers. It is the first opportunity for you to see your potential new home. While these events are exciting, it is also the perfect time for you to ask important questions about the house.

You may be wondering, what sort of questions should I be asking? That is exactly what we are here for! Here are some questions you should ask both before and during an open house.

Questions to ask before the Open House or Showing

  1. How long has the house been on the market?
  2. Have there been any price reductions?
  3. Is it vacant? If so, how long has it been vacant?

Go over the following questions with your chosen real estate agent since they can be indicators of how desirable the property is.

  1. Why are the owners selling?
  2. Have there been any offers?
  3. When does the seller want to move?

Questions about the sellers expectations are also important to go over with your chosen real estate agent before an open house or showing. The answers to these questions hint at what the negotiation process will be like and how quickly the seller wants to close.

Questions to Ask During the Open House or Showing

  1. What are the house’s biggest problems?
  2. Has the house been tested for mold, radon, lead, and/or asbestos?
  3. When was the last time the roof was replaced?
  4. Is the house in a flood zone?
  5. How much do the utilities cost?

If you are seriously interested in purchasing the property, here is additional information about the community you may want to know. The answers to these questions will help finalize your decision to make an offer.

  1. What is the neighborhood like?
  2. What’s within walking and driving distance?
  3. Is there a Homeowner’s Association?
  4. What is the crime rate in the neighborhood?
  5. Where can I get information on the local schools?

Knowing information about the neighborhood is just as important as knowing information about the house.  If you don’t like the neighborhood the house is in, then chances are you will not be satisfied with the house.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making Your Offer

  1. Will my furniture fit here?
  2. What’s the cell signal like?
  3. What updates would I make, if any?
  4. Can I picture this house becoming my home?

Open houses and showings are an excellent way to gather information about a particular home that has caught your interest. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide whether a house is right for you, or not.  We are here to help you find a home that is a perfect match for you!

Home Costs for Planning a New Homeowner Budget

Home Costs for Planning a New Homeowner Budget

Homeowner Budget

Why discuss a homeowner’s budget? Because there are expenses many first-time buyers don’t think of when talking to lenders about how much home they can afford. Your lender will discuss the mortgage payment (usually estimated to include your actual mortgage, property taxes, and can include mortgage insurance (PMI), and perhaps even your homeowner’s insurance bundled together), but they don’t often discuss the actual costs of buying, owning, and operating a home. We’ll help you plan your budget so that it includes most or all of the possible costs, so you can see more accurately how much home you can comfortably afford!

Home Costs, Recurring

Home Insurance. If this isn’t rolled into your mortgage payment, then your mortgage probably requires you carry a certain amount of home insurance. DO shop around for the best price, and see if you can get a better deal by buying car and/or other types of insurance from the same company for overall savings. Home insurance in Ohio starts around $1,000/year and can run much higher if your home has a higher value or is in an area where frequent claims are made.

Homeowners Association or Condo fees. If you purchase a condo, you’ll pay a monthly fee to help pay the costs of maintaining common areas and green spaces. Fees vary widely, so be sure to ask about monthly fees before you make an offer. If you purchase a home in a planned or gated community or in a neighborhood with an active civic association, you’ll pay a fee that could be as small as $10/year, or upwards of $300/month, depending on what is covered and what the association has voted to charge members. You may be asked to pay a one-time transfer fee, too. Membership may not be voluntary, so ask your REALTOR.

Property taxes. These are paid monthly, and are often paid in advance to your lender, who bundles the cost with your mortgage. If you have a mortgage where you are responsible for paying your property taxes separately, you’ll need to add the taxes into your monthly or annual bills. The property taxes on residential property are available to the public, and are often on the descriptions of homes for sale. If not, check with your REALTOR, they can find out for you. Bear in mind, that the tax cost may increase if the sale proves the value of the home has increases significantly since it was last purchased or assessed.

Lawn care and snow removal. Are you planning to mow, seed, and feed your lawn yourself? Do you enjoy shovelling snow and raking leaves? If you know you don’t have the time or patience to do these chores yourself, consider budgeting for professionals to do the work. Lawn care in Central Ohio runs from $60-300 per month, depending on the size of your lawn, and snow and leaf removal can be similar, depending on weather and the number of trees or length of the driveway on your property. Many contractors offer fast, accurate estimates that let you plan your budget before you buy your home.

Utility bills. Some costs, such as water, electricity, natural gas, and security systems are mostly the same from owner to owner, so asking about utility costs during the search and buying process will give you an accurate idea of the costs for those items. Others, such as cable, phone, and internet, are based on your preferences and product choices. You may be able to estimate those now, by what you already pay.

Home maintenance. It’s wise to budget savings for home maintenance and repairs. Some expenses, such as furnace filters, are a quarterly and regular expense. Others, such as replacing a broken water heater, are once in ten years, but are predictable based on a good home inspection. Planning ahead to have savings available for those planned maintenance and emergency repairs is smart, and saves you money over the long run.

Home Costs, Non-recurring

Closing costs. These are the fees you pay when you close on your home. They cover various services such as credit reports, appraisals, surveyors, and more. Closing costs are usually between 1-5% of the cost of your home. You can negotiate to have your seller pay them, but if they won’t, you’ll need to budget for them.

Utility fees. Most utilities charge a fee for starting service for a new customer, or switching that customer from one address to another. They tend to be small fees, but can add up when you have 5 or more. Check with local utility companies to see what their fees are and if there are ways you can reduce or avoid those fees.

Homeowner purchases. Most homeowners discover the need for purchases to customize or maintain their home to make it functional for them. Blinds and window treatments, paint, and even medicine cabinets and mirrors may need to be purchased to make your home comfortable. A lawn mower, snow blower, gardent tools, and a tool kit are useful for maintaining your home, and you may end up adding a stepladder and other hardware store purchases to your list. You also might be surprised at how many trash cans, storage bins, light bulbs, and other supplies a new home will need as well. Some of these purchases can wait, such as a snow blower if you close in June. Others will be needed even before the move, such as paint to convert an office to a baby’s room, so add these expenses to your budget as needed for your new home and your schedule.

Home repair or alteration. If your purchase of your new home includes the plan to remodel the kitchen, repair a porch, add a fence, or change from electric to gas for heating or cooking, make sure that you include the cost of that change (or saving for that change) in your budget, especially if the change to the home is necessary to safety or basic comfort. DO consider having your prospective home inspected during the buying process by a licensed, professional home inspector so that you know exactly what repairs or changes you need to plan on budgeting. If the needed repairs are too large for your budget, you can begin your home search again.

Furniture and appliances. If the seller is planning to take their major appliances with them, you’ll need to budget for replacements. Are there more bedrooms or is there more space in the new house than your old one? Budget for furniture purchases to make those spaces useful and comfortable. While some rooms (a baby’s room) can remain empty until later use, you’ll want to make most of your new home usable right away. Your current furniture may not fit the spaces in your new home, this can create an urge to shop. Plan ahead, thoughtfully, so you are prepared for those expenses.

Aggressive Offers and Pricing, Do They Work?

Aggressive Offers.  Do they work?Recently, I read about a buyer who selected a Realtor based on her assertion that she “aggressively pursued the best possible price” on a home. I wondered if that’s the way to go when buying and making an offer on a home?

Well we all want the best price, and no one wants to feel they overpaid for their home, especially these days when it’s a buyer’s market out there. Every Realtor who is working as a Buyer Agent has a fiduciary responsibility to represent your best interests…including getting a good price on the house. Sounds like an aggressive approach might be proactive, right?

BUT, that Realtor also has an obligation to do their best to balance price with getting you into the home you want. An insultingly lowball offer can not only turn off a seller, but it can convince them to accept another offer without giving you a chance to counteroffer or negotiate. There’s a balance to be struck, and finding a mutually satisfactory agreement on price takes respect and care on both sides.

An aggressive or ill-informed offer can sink the process very quickly. I’ll give you an example: A 2 bedroom condo is listed for $325,000. A comparative market analysis (CMA) shows that another condo in the same development sold for $250,000 last month, and the aggressive Realtor suggests offering $245,000 and planning to negotiate from there. That looks reasonable, right? Not so fast.

The condo that sold for $245,000 had been a middle unit college apartment for the owner’s 6 sons, and was sold “as is” and needed plenty of TLC to bring it up to cleanliness standards, much less happy livability! The owner of the condo priced at $325,000 has an end unit in pristine condition, and is offering to leave their state-of-the art appliances, too. Needless to say, the seller is insulted by the offer, and comes back with a counteroffer that’s only $1000 less than asking. That leaves the buyer no room to negotiate, and leaves the seller looking for a more respectful, better informed buyer!

Another possibility is that there are two offers coming in within days of each other. One buyer aggressively lowballs his offer, counting on a buyer’s market. The other, after doing research and discussing his Realtor’s advice, makes an offer that’s on the low end of reasonable, but not outrageous. Which buyer would YOU negotiate with for YOUR home? Exactly.

The aggressive approach can work against sellers as well. If you price your home aggressively high and negotiate with tiny fractions of the price, a buyer can decide that negotiating your home is more work than it’s worth, and will happily go elsewhere to a similar home.

How do you know if your Realtor is aggressive enough without alienating others in the process? Find a Realtor who does a comprehensive CMA, and can back their estimate of a home’s fair market value with examples and real numbers. A Realtor should be able to present the home’s pros and cons, and show you in the CMA where that house should fit, and should be willing to negotiate and be flexible according to your needs, not their ego.

With the right Realtor standing by you, and good communication between you and your Realtor, you have every chance of selling your home a good price for the market, and/or buying your next dream home at a cost you can afford!