When Tom Hanks moved into his low-priced country estate in “Money Pit,” he certainly didn’t expect doors to fall off the hinges. While buying a home can be exciting — and daunting! — you’ll want to make sure you remain smart and savvy throughout the process. Hastily purchasing a home without first vetting it for any flaws can not only be annoying, it can also come with a considerable price tag.
Though home repairs are often necessary, being smart with your purchasing can save you time and money you would waste on excessive fixes. So before you finance your home, sign the papers, and move in, make sure you know what you’re signing up for by asking these important questions during the home tour.
Questions to ask when touring a house in person
A home tour is an exciting and scary event. Though seeing your potential home for the first time might make you fall in love and want to rush through the process of putting an offer in and signing a contract, it’s essential to take your time and make sure the house is actually the right one for you.
That all begins with choosing the right real estate agent. You want to establish a trusting relationship with your agent and be sure that they have your best interest at heart. That way, you’ll know that they’re answering your questions honestly and accurately, and you can make the right decision when you purchase.
You’ll also want to come prepared with a list of questions that will help you make sure you’re viewing all aspects of the home and seeing everything it has to offer.
Questions to ask before the home tour
You don’t want to waste your time or your realtor’s time by going to tour a house that you don’t think will work out. These questions can help you determine if a house is a fit before seeing it in person.
Do you have any concerns about the home or the price?
Going to see a home you don’t really want is a waste of time. By asking the realtor if they have any concerns about the house or the listing price, you can make sure you don’t visit a home that you aren’t really interested in or that won’t work out.
How quickly do you think the home will sell?
You don’t want to tour your dream home only to find out the next day that an offer was accepted. Asking how soon your realtor thinks the home will sell can help you determine if you need to speed things up or if you can take your time.
Can you tell me about the neighborhood and benefits?
The neighborhood you move into will be your home base. If the neighborhood has any glaring red flags, learning about them before the tour can help you rule out any non-ideal situations. Similarly, knowing any benefits to your new location can help build excitement for the house.
Why are the previous owners moving?
If the previous owners are moving because of a swath of necessary repairs, a traumatic event in the home or a dislike for the surrounding area, you’ll probably want to know about it. Asking the realtor why the previous owners are moving can help you understand why the home is for sale in the first place.
Is the home located in a flood zone?
If the home is susceptible to floods or other natural disasters, you’ll want to prepare by purchasing additional home insurance. Asking about the home’s natural disaster history can help you gauge how much a flood might impact your future.
What’s included in the sale?
Fixtures like a refrigerator and stove will most likely be included in the contract — however, sometimes the seller may be open to or interested in leaving additional items like furniture, a washer or a dryer. Asking what the sale includes can help determine what you’ll need to buy yourself and what will come with your home purchase.
How long has the home been on the market?
If a house has been on the market for a long time, the seller may be more motivated to make a deal. However, this can also signify an issue with the home that is keeping it from selling. Asking how long a home has been in the market can help you be prepared to get the best price while being aware of potential issues.
What’s the average price of a home in this neighborhood?
Knowing how much a home typically goes for in your desired neighborhood can help you determine whether the asking price of the home you’re viewing is too high — or too low. The realtor will have access to market history in the home’s location.
Does the neighborhood have an HOA, and what are the fees?
A homeowner’s association (HOA) will enforce neighborhood rules like the color of your home and length of grass and will usually plan community events and keep the area clean. Knowing if an HOA exists and what guidelines they have in place for the community can help you be prepared for what your experience in the neighborhood will be like. Asking in advance can also help you prepare for HOA fees and extra costs.
Have there been any major repairs?
If any part of the home has been significantly damaged, you’ll want to know about it. Asking about any major repairs done to the home can help you keep an eye out for potential problems those repairs might cause in the future while you’re walking through the space.
Questions to ask during the home tour
Seeing a home for the first time is an exhilarating experience, but make sure you’re paying enough attention to the realities of the space. These questions can help you know what to look for.
Will the yard be easy to maintain?
Take a look at the yard as you walk through. If it’s filled with gardens, flowers and other shrubberies, you need to make sure you’re willing to invest in the gardening equipment or gardening service to keep it looking nice.
Are the gutters functioning properly?
Ask whether your realtor knows how old the home’s gutters are and that they’re functioning properly. They safeguard your home from flooding and help protect the foundation and landscaping. With such an important job, you’ll want to make sure the home’s current gutters are up to the task.
How old is the roof?
Replacing a home’s roof is an extensive and costly repair. If the house’s roof is particularly old, it’s only a matter of time before it needs to be repaired and, potentially, cost you a lot of money. Knowing how old the roof is can help you prepare for potential repair costs in the future.
Has the foundation been repaired, or does it need repair?
The foundation is quite literally the home’s backbone, so you want to make sure yours is strong and supportive. Ask your realtor about the foundation’s repair history so you can be aware of any big issues. While you’re touring, check the foundation for cracks and see if any doors or windows are hard to open.
What heating and cooling systems are in place?
There are a few types of HVAC systems that vary with house age and repair history. Finding out what type of system the home has is a smart way to determine what you’ll need to do to keep it running and, if necessary, repair it.
How old is the electrical and plumbing?
Electrical and plumbing repairs can also be costly. Finding out how old these systems are is a great way to estimate how much upkeep they’ll need or when they’ll need to be replaced completely.
How old are the appliances in the kitchen and laundry room?
Equipment breakdown can be costly. Washers, dryers and refrigerators can usually last up to 15 years and stovetops can generally last up to 18 years. During your tour, ask which appliances will be included with the sale and how old they are, so you can gauge how soon they’ll need replacements.
How do the room sizes compare to the listing and floor plan?
Sometimes online or printed floor plans can be a little off with their measurements, and that huge master suite you loved isn’t so grand after all. As you walk through the house, ask how the rooms’ sizes compare to those in the online listing.
How does the home itself compare to the listing?
Staged photos on online listings often use the best camera equipment with ideal lighting and angles. Make sure to compare the online listing to the real thing as you walk through, and get your realtor’s opinion on how each room compares. Look out for: cracks in the walls or ceilings, peeling paint, scratches on the floor, discoloration on cabinets or walls, wear on appliances, etc.
What’s the best cafe, restaurant or store close by?
The closest neighborhood amenities will give you an idea of what the area will be like as a whole. Ask what the best cafe or restaurant is so you can stop by on your way home from the tour and get a taste of what your new life will look like in your new neighborhood.
What’s underneath the carpets?
If you’re touring a carpeted home, make sure to ask about what’s underneath the carpet and the condition of the floors. Not doing so can result in issues with your flooring and subflooring down the line that you’ll want to be aware of.
Do any surfaces look old, worn or damaged?
Though you’ll be looking around the home yourself, asking for a second opinion on any surfaces that might look old or damaged can help you catch a red flag you might have missed.
Is there anything else I should know about or look at while we’re here?
Your realtor likely knows the home better than you do. Asking this open-ended question allows them to address any issues, benefits or thoughts about the house they might not have brought up otherwise.
Questions to ask after the home tour
Deciding to put an offer on a home is a huge step. Make sure you’re fully committed by asking a few, final questions.
Can I have a copy of the Seller’s Property Disclosure?
Sellers must put into writing any concerns or issues they’ve had with their home. Asking for a copy of this report can help you determine whether your potential investment is a good one.
How many offers have been made, and when are offers due?
You don’t want to see your dream home get swept out from under you. Inquiring about how many offers are already on the table can help you figure out how quickly you need to move if you want to make one of your own.
Has the seller provided an inspection?
An official inspection can give you more thorough information about the quality of the appliances, walls, floors and roof. Asking for this report is another invaluable way to gauge the state of the home and whether you’re purchasing more than you can handle.
What is the home’s repair and renovation history?
If a home has been frequently repaired, you’ll want to know about it. Ask about the repairs to see if the home has a recurring issue or to see any past repairs that might become future problems once you move in.
What did you like about the home?
Realtors tour a lot of homes. Asking for their perspective on the benefits and positive aspects of the home might help you pick out a few fantastic amenities that you weren't looking out for yourself.
Are any repairs currently needed?
You need to know if the seller is leaving behind any repairs to be done. Asking if there’s any outstanding work is an excellent way to figure out what you’ll need to take care of before and during the move.
Is the price right?
After seeing the home, your realtor will be able to give you insight into whether the price seems correct. Ask them how the price of the home compares to not only others in the neighborhood but also if it seems fair given the quality of the house.
Did you have any concerns about the home?
Ask your realtor to share their own concerns, as someone who has seen a lot of homes. The realtor’s opinions on potential problems might give you more insight that you wouldn’t have noticed as a casual visitor.
Is the seller flexible on their asking price?
Before making an offer, you’ll want to know how much wiggle room you have. Asking if the seller is willing to budge can help you get the best deal on your home.
How often has this property been sold in the past 10 years?
If a house has been on and off the market many times in the past decade, it can signal significant issues. Asking about a home’s market history can help you figure out if people have enjoyed it long-term or if there are potential problems that drove them to sell quickly. Questions to ask when touring a house virtually
Questions to ask when touring a house virtually
Social distancing guidelines have led to a rise in tours conducted virtually. Though these tours create a good opportunity for people to see homes, they also make it harder for prospective buyers to see every detail of the house inside and out.
When signing up for and attending a virtual tour, it’s important to prepare questions that will help you evaluate whether the home is right for you and get the information you need to make the best decision.
Is a floor plan available online, or can one be mailed to me?
Though you’ll be seeing the home’s physical spaces, you’ll still want to see the actual floor plan to make more sense of the area. Asking for a floor plan can help you see the real layout and follow along during the tour.
What is our plan for if the video reception is spotty or disconnects?
The Internet can be fickle. If the call drops or lags during the tour it can be annoying but can also make it impossible for you to truly see the space. Set a plan for what to do in this situation ahead of time so you won’t panic.
Can you record the tour so I can reference it later?
While you’d most likely be snapping photos during the tour, a virtual tour will be entirely up to the realtor. Asking for a recording of the tour to reference later can help you have visuals for the space as you’re deciding whether or not to make an offer.
Can you show me the view from the windows?
Imagine a large, beautiful window that looks at a brick wall or a garbage can. Ask the realtor to show you the view from the windows so you can see exactly what you’ll be looking at during your daily life.
Is there street or neighborhood noise that can be heard from inside?
If there will be cars driving by, children screaming or a train passing, you’ll want to know. Ask the realtor to note any loud, ongoing noises that might disrupt your schedule were you to move in.
Do the floors make creaking sounds?
As the realtor walks through the space, ask them to note any creaking they hear in the floors. This can indicate the home’s condition but can also help cut down on annoyance if you move into a house with squeaky wood in the living room.
Do you notice any odors in the home?
Whether the odors are coming from a nearby sewage outlet or something broken inside the home, you’ll want to be aware that they exist. Ask the realtor to note any strange odors and what they smell like so you can diagnose them and gauge how serious they are.
Are there any cracks or marks on the walls, floors and ceilings?
The quality of the camera streaming might not be high enough to catch any cracks in the walls, floors or ceilings. Ask the realtor to be on the lookout for these blemishes and report them to you.
Can you show me the front and back yards of the home?
In addition to aesthetics, the front and back yards’ quality might signal potential headaches in the future. If one section of the yard is yellowing and dead, it could be a sign that yard repair is necessary.
How is the natural light in the home?
Natural light isn’t only a way to create warmth and ambiance in your home, but more natural light means less money spent on electricity, and the more eco-friendly your space will be. Ask where the natural light is brightest and if it fills the rooms.
To get the most out of your virtual tour, you’ll need to prepare. Taking these steps before and during the tour can help you get the most out of your experience.
- Schedule tours during the daytime: Make sure your tour is conducted in the daylight when you’ll have the best visibility.
- Do as much research as possible: Research the home ahead of time so you can make sure to ask about any concerns you have or amenities you must see.
- Ask for more photos and videos: Beyond the tour, ask for any additional images or videos the realtor has so you can see even more of the house.
- Make sure all your questions have answers: Don’t let the tour end until you are fully satisfied with the information you’ve learned about the home.
- Test your equipment beforehand: Make sure your Internet connection and streaming equipment are in working order so you can maximize your time viewing the home.
Buying a home is a giant life event, whether it’s your first time or you’ve been through the process before. Preparing yourself for the experience by working with a trusted real estate agent and coming armed with questions can help you find your dream home and avoid a potentially bad situation.
Think of these questions as insurance that you’re buying the right home — and once you’ve made your purchase? It’s time to look into actual homeowners insurance.