So you want to buy your first house? Congratulations! That’s great news.
It’s a familiar story that usually goes something like this:
You’re excited to finally own your own home.
You do all the research — scouring the internet to look at houses, mortgages, and even new furniture.
But, when it comes time to house hunt, you’re completely overwhelmed.
You have no idea how to choose the right house for you.
Eventually, you end up settling for a house just to end the long, arduous, and oftentimes complex process.
But, there’s good news!
You don’t have to go through the house-hunting process alone. With the help of an expert local Realtor, buying your first home can be fun.
Asking the right questions can help you put your real estate agent’s industry knowledge to work. That way, you can find your dream home — with less stress.
What are the right questions?
Read on to find out the top 15 questions every first-time home buyer needs to ask a Realtor.
What Questions Should You Ask Before Looking at a House?
Before you look at houses, ask your Realtor these questions to narrow down your options. This can make sure you’re ready when you finally find your dream home.
1. What location should I choose?
While this might seem straightforward, choosing a neighborhood can be complicated. It’s also confusing, overwhelming, and stressful.
But, it doesn’t have to be! If you know what to look for, it’s easy to choose the perfect area. Here are some things to consider, among others:
- Your work commute (who wants an hour commute?)
- Quality of school districts (for any current or future kiddos)
- Distance to bars, restaurants, and local shops (so when you get a hankering for your favorite food, it’s just around the corner)
- Road or neighbor noise (we’re all for neighborly love but not hearing them at 2 a.m.)
- Closeness to public transit (who doesn’t want save money while being green?)
It can be hard to find a location that meets every requirement, but your real estate agent has a deeper understanding of your area. So, he or she can point you towards locations that have most of your wish list items.
Without that help, you could miss out on a great neighborhood you never heard of or didn’t think you’d love.
2. What should I look for when touring houses?
As a first time home buyer, it’s tempting to focus on eye-catching features like stainless steel appliances, on-trend paint colors (classic blue, anyone?), and expensive floors. But, if you only look at those details, you could be missing crucial problems. And, you could end up with a nightmare home, eek.
Your Realtor can help you look for problems that are hard (or expensive) to fix. Water damage, sagging ceilings, or insect damage can be costly to repair.
By focusing on the right problems during your house tours, you can avoid the headache of more issues down the road.
3. What concessions and contingencies should I include in the contract?
It’s a good idea to know what you want included in a contract before you start house hunting. As the buyer, you have the option to include concessions and contingencies in a contract. We’ll explain what each of these mean:
Concessions are contract clauses that obligate the seller to help financially. A common concession is asking the seller to cover all or part of the closing costs.
Contingencies are contract clauses that allow you to back out after signing the contract. Common contingencies include the house passing inspection and you qualifying for a mortgage.
You should ask your realtor which concessions and contingencies you should include. Too many can scare away sellers — potentially costing you the perfect home.
At Ribbon, we remove home-sale and financing contingencies, which could make your offer extra attractive to sellers. Plus, you can close in as fast as 14 business days.
4. Do you know a good inspector, appraiser, or lender?
When buying your first home, you rely on a variety of professionals throughout the process. From getting a mortgage loan, to a home inspection, to an appraisal, you’ll need trustworthy professionals. Your real estate agent is a great resource to find high-quality professionals. That way, every step of the home buying process goes smoothly.
5. What expenses should I expect after buying a home?
Buying a home is expensive, we know. After saving up for a down payment, you might think you’re done with home-buying costs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Along with your down payment, you have to pay closing costs, moving expenses, and even purchase new appliances or furniture. In addition to your mortgage, you’ll need to pay property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, possibly mortgage insurance, HOA fees, and the list can go on.
While this might sound scary, it’s much easier to manage when you have time to save up for it. You should discuss any after purchase costs with your Realtor so you know exactly what to expect. That way, you can enjoy living in your new home — instead of being blindsided with costly expenses.
What Questions Should You Ask After Finding a Home?
After working with your trusted Realtor, you’ve found a house you want to make an offer on. Nice!
Asking these questions can help you confirm that you’ve chosen the right home.
6. Do you see any problems with this house?
If you’re in love with a house, you might overlook crucial problems — like a lack of space for an office or even extensive water damage. To make sure the house is as awesome as you think, you should probably ask your Realtor’s opinion.
Having seen hundreds of houses, your real estate agent is well-versed in common home problems. So, your Realtor can point out any red flags you missed.
While it might be a bummer to learn your perfect house has a host of problems, asking your Realtor this question can prevent many headaches down the road.
7. Would you buy this house?
Along with asking if your Realtor sees any problems, you should ask whether they would purchase the house.
Your real estate agent knows which homes are a good buy — and which aren’t. If your Realtor wouldn’t buy the house, that’s a sign that it might not be a good investment. And, that you should rethink your purchase.
If your real estate agent wouldn’t purchase the house, you should follow up with questions on why they wouldn’t. It could be a matter of taste differences. Or, it could be a larger issue with quality, location, or resale value. If it’s a larger issue, then you should think twice about buying the house.
8. Why is the house for sale?
Learning why the house is for sale can help you avoid problem houses. And, most importantly, it could give you a leg up during negotiations.
Homeowners sell their homes for a variety of reasons. It could be that the home is too expensive to maintain. In which case, it’s probably best to make sure you can afford the house.
Or, a seller could be relocating for a job. If the seller needs a quick close to relocate, it can give you bargaining power. You could offer a lower price (who doesn’t love a good deal?) or have more concessions/contingencies in the contract.
Whatever the reason, asking your Realtor why the seller is selling can help you make a better deal and be more likely to win your dream home.
9. What’s the sales history?
Like knowing the reason for sale, understanding the home’s sale history can help you make a smart purchase. With extensive property knowledge, your real estate agent is the best person to ask.
If the house has always sold within a matter of days, you know that you need to make a strong offer — and quickly. Here at Ribbon, we can help by upgrading your offer to an all-cash one.
On the other hand, if the house has been bank-owned, on the market a while, or had an expired listing, the seller has likely had trouble selling the house. This means you could get a great deal! Be sure to consult your agent on the best way to handle these types of situations.
10. Is this house priced fairly?
No one wants to overpay for anything — much less a house. Asking your realtor what neighborhood comps are selling for can help you avoid paying too much.
The best way to determine a house’s value is to look at similar ones. A house with more upgrades — like granite counters or stainless-steel appliances — could be worth more than surrounding houses. In that case, paying slightly above other houses could be fair.
However, a house that’s priced way above other houses in the area should be a red flag. Especially without any upgrades, extra space, or other pricy features. In that case, you shouldn’t pay list price.
11. What’s resale value like in this neighborhood — and where’s it going?
Since a house will be one of your biggest purchases, you should make sure your home will continue to gain value year over year. Asking your Realtor for their take on the neighborhood — now and in the future — can help you make a good investment.
Ideally, you want a house that’s located in an area with consistent property value increases. That way, if you decide to sell your home, you can sell it for more than you bought it.
But, a neighborhood that has historically performed well could be on the edge of decline. A shifting population, new buildings nearby, or similar events could reduce the future value of your home. If a house is likely to devalue soon, it’s probably best to pass on it.
12. What should I offer to get this house?
If the house still looks good after asking the above questions, then it’s time to put in an offer. Your real estate agent will know what you should offer to secure your future house.
In a buyer’s market, you can offer lower than the asking price. You’ll still have a good chance of getting the house.
On the other hand, in a seller’s market, you’ll need to offer at or above the asking price. If bidding wars are common, it might be smart to offer a little above the asking price — as long as it’s still in your budget.
13. Should I offer earnest money?
Earnest money is a deposit you give the seller. Although not always required, it can help you secure a house you love.
In a seller’s market, earnest money can help make your offer stand out. And, it can show the seller that you’re committed to buying the house. If it’s a buyer’s market, it might be unnecessary to offer earnest money. This can save you on upfront costs.
Your Realtor will know what your local housing market is like and whether it’s common to offer earnest money. That way, you can have the strongest offer possible — without unnecessary upfront costs.
When you make an offer with Ribbon, we require that you put down a minimum of 1% in an earnest money deposit (EMD). When you repurchase the home from us, we credit this back to you in Seller Paid Closing Costs.
14. What are the closing costs?
Usually between 2–5% of the purchase price, closing costs can be several thousand dollars.
Since closing costs vary, your lender can give you a better estimate of how much they’ll be. And, your real estate agent can let you know if it’s common to ask sellers to pay for all or part of the closing costs.
While closing costs can be a large expense, asking your real estate agent about them can help you be prepared.
15. How much will it cost to maintain this home each year?
Unlike renting where your super’s a phone call away, owning a home means you’re responsible for fixing anything that breaks. Whether that’s an appliance, the HVAC system, or a leaky roof, you’re on the hook for any maintenance that crops up.
You should ask your Realtor for a ballpark yearly maintenance costs, so you’re prepared if anything does happen.
Wrapping It Up
Buying your first home is exciting. But, it can also be overwhelming — that’s why we offer free 30-minute calls with our team of Ribbon experts.
Since you’ve never bought a house before, you might not know what problems to watch out for. Or, what you need in a house. And, you might not know the true cost of ownership.
Asking your Realtor these 15 questions can help make the home buying process easier. And, it can help you make a smart decision. That way, you can enjoy your first home — instead of dealing with unexpected problems or having financial issues down the road.
Want the strongest offer for when you find your dream home? Consider upgrading your offer to all cash with Ribbon. You’ll be able to compete with bigger and more experienced buyers. So, you’ll be more likely to secure the right house for you.