Visiting an open house can be an exciting time. You may begin picturing yourself living in the home, deciding where furniture 1. goes, and thinking about what you want to offer. But with a purchase as large as a home, it’s important to make sure you have all the information possible. In addition to viewing homes for sale in Lakeland, FL, an open house is an opportunity to speak with owners and agents about the listing. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, below are 20 questions to ask at your next open house.
1. Have any offers been made?
Sometimes an open house is already scheduled when an offer comes in and the agent chooses to move forward with it for backups or higher bids. You may even notice that the agent isn’t making a “hard sell” like others have. It can be useful to start out by asking about other offers so that you know upfront whether you want to bid with a competitive offer or move on to the next home.
2. Why are the sellers moving?
People may move for any range of reasons, like needing more space or relocating for work. Usually, they will be eager to share this information and tell you how they will miss the listed home. But if you sense hesitation, or the answer includes an unsafe area or obnoxious neighbors, this could be a sign for you to reconsider.
3. Has the list price fluctuated?
Your real estate agent should be able to tell you if the price has changed since the original listing and how many times. But the listing agent should be able to share why with you, whether it is because of a now-tight timeline. This might also help you understand if there is flexibility in the price that gives you room to further negotiate your offer.
4. How long has the home been on the market?
This information is also readily available for you and your agent, but the seller’s agent will again be able to provide context, especially when it has been a long period of time. They may share with you whether a previous offer fell through due to financing or if it has been recently listed and is expected to sell quickly.
5. What issues does the home have?
Legally, sellers are required to disclose any known structural problems or code violations during the sales process. This is why it’s standard to ask for a written seller’s disclosure, which you can request. But before you submit an offer, you can take advantage of the access to agents and sellers and get their perspective on any issues, and maybe compare these answers to what is in the written disclosure.
6. When was the house updated last?
Some updates will be very obvious, like a fresh coat of paint or new appliances, and you can ask about those. But things like the age of the roof or wiring may not be visible and will be important to understand before purchasing a home. It can be helpful to come with a list of features you want more information about, and then you can see if the opportunity presents itself to get into those specifics.
7. What is the average utility cost?
When determining what you can afford in a monthly payment, utilities may factor into the decision. Ask if you can see recent utility bills to estimate future costs. You may also want to understand if only certain providers can be used or there are other limitations.
8. What is the seller’s timeline?
It’s not uncommon for a seller to take an initial offer simply because of timing. They may need to sell quickly in order to relocate for a job or delay the sale to finish out the school year. The more you understand the seller’s needs and motivations, the more easily you can craft an offer that is alluring to them and advantageous for you.
9. Where should I get lunch?
One factor you may want to consider is the neighborhood itself. Understanding the best local coffee shops and restaurants can tell you about the area and give you an idea of the local hot spots. If the current residents are eager to tell you about their favorite places, it’s a good sign that you will find places you love too.
10. Who are the neighbors?
The answer to this will give you a range of information. First of all, whether or not the owners know the neighbors at all can be a good indication of how friendly the area is or whether people mostly keep to themselves. If they do know the neighbors, you can start to understand if the area is kid-friendly, has a lot of retirees, etc. Knowing if you will fit in to the community may be a deciding factor in whether a home is a fit for you.
11. Where is the property line?
If you’re considering any outside work, like adding a pool or extensive landscaping, you will want to understand where the exact boundaries of the property are. This will give you a sense of exactly what land you will own and can work with.
12. Are appliances included with the home?
Even if you see brand new appliances, it is not guaranteed that they are part of the sale. You will want to understand exactly what is and isn’t included. For anything that does come with the home, it will be considered part of the value, so be sure to ask how old the appliances are and if they are functional, as well as for any information on relevant warranties.
13. Is there a homeowner’s association?
Some communities have a homeowner’s association, which will charge fees for the upkeep of neighborhood infrastructure and communal amenities. This can take some responsibilities off your plate but may also come with restrictions on what you can do to your home. If there is an HOA, ask what the dues are and what restrictions may be included as a part of joining.
14. What contingencies will the seller accept?
Some sellers are willing to work with buyers on contingencies. One example may be that the buyer will only purchase a new home if they are able to successfully sell their old home. You can speak to the agent about contingencies that may or may not be acceptable to the sellers to determine what types of offers will be worth making.
15. What services do the sellers use?
If you are interested in a landscaper, a handyman, or even a house cleaner, it can be great to get recommendations. The current owners may have contacts they already use who would be happy to maintain the work and are already familiar with the home. This is also a good sign as to whether they take care of the home and engage in the local community.
16. Can I try…?
There are a number of things that will be useful to test during an open house. You may check your cell phone to see if your carrier has a good signal in the area. It is also common to check the water pressure and water temperature, appliances that come with the home, or window coverings like blinds. Anything that would come with the home and impact your daily life is fair game to test.
17. How was the price determined?
A good listing agent will perform a market analysis on each home in order to come up with a price that is reasonable for both the seller and the buyer. This may take into account local home prices, schools and crime rates, the current market, plans for development in the neighborhood, and other factors. Asking how the price was determined can give you some insight into this process and whether the price seems fair, as well as what a good offer would be.
18. What school district are we in?
Even if you do not have children or plan to, the school district can impact you as a homeowner. Property taxes will be related to this, and your future rental or resale value will also be related to school districts. While an agent can’t tell you their opinion on the quality of a school district, they can tell you the official one where the home is located. You can use this to do your own research after the fact and see if the answer fits your needs.
19. What was done DIY?
Renovations, even simple ones like painting, are often a positive for houses on the market as they show care and updates. However, it is important to understand if the renovations were done professionally and have associated warranties or guarantees or if they were done by the homeowner. DIY does not always mean quality is poor, but it may mean you want to do a more diligent home inspection or ask for proof of their local permits.
20. Can I see myself living here?
This is a question you will have to ask yourself at each open house, but it may be the most important one there is. Any house you make an offer on should feel like a place you can call home.