15 Smart Questions to Ask the Seller When Buying a House

15 smart questions to ask the home seller

1. Why are you moving?
2. What are the average monthly expenses?
3. How are the local schools?
4. How old are important home components?
5. Have there been any major repairs?
6. Were there any structural changes made to the home?
7. How long has the home been on the market?
8. What’s included in the sale?
9. How do you like your neighbors?
10. What is the surrounding neighborhood like?
11. How long have you lived in the home?
12. Has there ever been water damage in the home?
13. What do you love about this place?
14. How low are you willing to go?
15. Is there…

In this article:

When you start house hunting, you can think of the process as similar to dating. You need to do a lot of searching to find your happily ever after. Just like you would when dating, you should have a list of questions ready to ask sellers before you commit to buying their home so you can learn more about the major financial and personal investment you are about to make. 

Keep reading to see what questions to ask a seller when buying a house so you can gain valuable insight into their home.

1. Why are you moving?

If the owner of the home you love wants to move to be closer to family, or to start a new job, that may ease some of your worries, such as that they’re moving to avoid nightmare neighbors or because they don't like their home. 

If they can’t give a clear reason for moving, such as a desire to upsize, that may be a major red flag that they dislike aspects of living here so much that they want to move.

2. What are the average monthly expenses?

While you can easily plan for mortgage payments and property taxes, it’s harder to know what the true cost of a home is. To help avoid running into hidden costs, you can ask what the average utility and maintenance cost of the home is on a monthly basis. If you can get an idea of what your average water, electricity, and gas bill will be each month you can determine if you can truly afford to buy and live in the home.

3. How are the local schools?

If you have kids or plan to have kids in the future, it’s important to learn more about the local schools. You can easily look up rankings for a school, but if the homeowners have children who attended local schools they can give you the inside scoop on what your education options are actually like from a parent’s perspective. 

4. How old are important home components?

How a home looks is not nearly as important as how old a home is or if it’s recently been updated. Over time it will be necessary to repair or replace important components like the water tank, A/C unit, heating system, septic systems, plumbing, electrical systems, and appliances. It’s understandable that these components won’t last forever, but if they are old and have not been recently replaced you may find that you will run into costly maintenance expenses sooner rather than later.

5. Have there been any major repairs?

Alongside checking in on the age of important home components, you should ask whether any areas of the home have recently undergone repairs. In some states sellers must disclose any current problems in the home, but they don’t necessarily have to disclose past problems. If repairs were necessary, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the home, but you want to get an idea of what has gone wrong and what could go wrong in the future. 

While you’re at it, you may want to ask for recommendations for service professionals who you can call if something does go wrong in the home. 

6. Were there any structural changes made to the home?

If the owner — or any previous owners — made major structural changes to the home you need to be aware of those changes. You will want to confirm that those changes were approved by the county and done above board so that you don’t end up with a surprise illegal renovation on your hands. If a renovation was not done up to code this can also cause safety concerns that you want to be aware of before you buy the home. 

7. How long has the home been on the market?

You can ask the seller or the real estate agent how long the home has been on the market. If a home has been stuck on the market for a while, it’s likely because its original price was too high. The more time a house spends on the market, the more power you have when it comes time to negotiate a lower price.  

8. What’s included in the sale?

It can be hard to determine exactly what “extras” are definitely included in the sale of the home if you don’t ask. Double-check with the seller regarding which appliances, window coverings, and light fixtures will remain in the home post-sale. The last thing you want is to show on moving day and find out you don’t have a dishwasher or curtains in your bedroom. 

If you see a piece of furniture you love, you can also ask to buy it and include it in the sale of the home — although there is no guarantee the seller will want to part with any of their furniture. 

9. How do you like your neighbors?

Chances are that the seller won’t outright say anything bad about their neighbors (they don’t want to scare off potential buyers after all), but try to get an idea of what your potential future neighbors will be like. Maybe you want to avoid a loud neighborhood full of little ones or perhaps you want your kids to have other kids to play with. At the very least, try to get a feel for the age and lifestyle of some of the neighbors. 

10. What is the surrounding neighborhood like?

Speaking of neighbors, find out what the neighborhood is like as a whole. Is there a strong sense of community? Can you expect regular block parties or does everyone like to keep to themselves? Is the neighborhood kid-friendly or do people drive through the neighborhood too fast on their way home from work? Is safety an issue at all? Is it serene or loud on the weekends? Again, the seller may not say anything negative outright about their neighborhood, but you can get them to start to paint you a picture. 

11. How long have you lived in the home?

This question may seem fairly innocent, but similar to asking why they are moving, finding out how long they lived in the home can be revealing. Try to get the seller to open up about their time spent in their home and keep an eye out for any signs that the home might not serve your needs. 

12. Has there ever been water damage in the home?

Water damage is no joke. Even if the damage seems repaired on the surface, mold, mildew, and other issues can lurk behind water damage. These issues can be expensive to repair and can add a lot of stress to your plate as a new homeowner. 

13. What do you love about this place?

You don’t always have to dig for dirt. Try to find out what the seller loves about their home. It may be the way the trees in the backyard bloom in the spring or the fact that they can always count on their neighbors to lend a helping hand. Maybe their deck has a great sunset view or their living room gets gorgeous light midday. Their real estate agent may advertise the main selling points of the home, but only someone who lived there will know what really makes it special. 

14. How low are you willing to go?

You don’t want to leave money on the table, so don’t be afraid to ask how low a seller is willing to drop their price especially if their home has sat on the market for a while. At the very least, you can inquire as to whether or not they will concede to making certain repairs before closing day. 

15. Is there…

Unfortunately, there are some major issues with a home that sellers aren’t legally required to disclose. Check what disclosures your state and country requires (your real estate agent can help you with this) and if there is something that concerns you and isn’t a required disclosure, you can ask the seller about it before you make an offer.

You may want to inquire about:

  • Any lead-based paint in the home
  • Existing liens on the home
  • Natural hazards the home is exposed to (like flooding)
  • Termite problems
  • History of property-line disputes
  • Defects in home systems or appliances

At the end of the day buying a home is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make. We deserve to have peace of mind before we close on a home. If you have questions to ask when buying a home, don’t be afraid to pose them to the property's owner directly, or have your agent communicate with the seller. No harm can come by learning more about the home you hope to buy.

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