5 Important Questions to Ask at an Open House for First Time Home Buyers


Buying your first home is a major milestone achievement and definitely not something to be taken lightly. So before settling negotiations with your real estate agent, consider every single little detail there is about the house that you are interested in buying. Not sure what the right questions to ask are? Here are some questions to get you started off with for buying your first home.

What is the home’s history?

Ever heard the phrase, “There’s no place like home?”. Well, ever wonder what that phrase really meant? Your home is your own personal domain, where you can feel comfortable, roam around as you please, and seek refuge from the troubles of the outside world. So it’s no wonder that there is no other place like it. The charms of your house is embedded and created by you, others before you, and its builders and architects. Being that you spend a whole lot of time in your home, knowing a few interesting facts about it could really make you feel more attune to your home’s atmosphere. For instance, if the house is an older home, it could have been passed down to many different homeowners throughout its history. Depending on the time, structures could have been added or taken out base on the needs of the homeowners. Wouldn’t it be neat to know that the basement in your home was constructed due to bomb threats during World War II, but now is converted into a game room? Or that the simple garden outside was once a victory garden that used to help military families in the 1940’s get through hard times? Who knows, maybe the home housed a really famous person before he/she even struck fame. Aside from the historical facts, knowing what materials were used to construct the home is also very important and could be a determination for you to go through with escrow. Take for example, most homes that were built before the 1960’s were heavily painted with lead based paint which can cause serious illnesses. So finding out about the history of your home is important as your time and health may very well be on the line.

Why are the owners moving out?

The house of your interest seems to look perfect from the naked eye – nothing seems off. Then why would the owners want to move out of a perfectly fine looking home? Reasons could be that the homeowner is relocating due to work, or the family is upgrading or downgrading due to family size. There are many normal reasons for the owners to move out, however, the ones that you ought to be careful about are reasons such as: neighborhood changes and deferred maintenance.

Sometimes your mind may cloud your judgement because a house price is really cheap. But there is an underlying reason for the cheap house price, and that could be that the neighborhood over time could have changed for the worse either socially or economically. Perhaps the house is located in a university town and some of the homes got picked up by young college students who constantly have loud parties at night. As someone who is new to the neighborhood you wouldn’t know this, because everything looks fine during the day… until night falls and the loud base is thumbing and keeping you up at night.

When was the last time the house had maintenance or renovation done?

Do be careful of owners who say they haven’t done any changes to the house aside for a little paint job. A house needs maintenance and upkeep, especially if it’s an old house. Roof shingles need to be replaced every 20 to 30 years, depending on what materials were used. Old plumbing systems made out of galvanized pipes will corrode and get clogged up over time, and will affect the overall water pressure that goes through the house. Moreover, water leakage from roof tops or pipelines can create mold. So know what you are in for upfront, you do not want to be surprised when you realized you have to pay out of pocket for all the overdue maintenance the former owners deferred on.

Has the property been on the market long?

Generally, it’s not too concerning when a house is on the market for too long. It could mean that the homeowners or real estate agent may have put the house on the market for too high and no one is willing to pay for the asking price. If this is the reason, then you can try your luck with some home bargaining. In some not so good circumstances, the house could be rented out and the tenants don’t want to move out. In this instance, you should tread carefully because you do not want to inherit legal issues by buying the property. Aside from how long the house has been on the market, also consider asking: What is the average checkout days for the neighborhood? Knowing the average checkout day on homes in the neighborhood can give you some insight to whether the area the house is located in is a desirable one. If the average is high, ask your real estate agent if that is normal and consider getting some opinions from locals in the area about the neighborhood.

How much should you be expecting to pay for utilities, property tax, home owner’s association (HOA), and home insurance?

Lets face it, home budgeting is extremely important and if done incorrectly could be a blow to your wallet. You may have enough to pay for the initial costs of buying a house, but you also have to consider other home living expenses that you may have to fork out every month as well. Ask your agent and the home owner how much you would be expecting to pay for public utility, property tax, HOA (if there is any), and home insurance. After gathering all the information you need, add this to your other expenses (such as: internet and cable bill, cell phone bill, food expenses, car installments, and car insurance), would you still have some money left to bank in your savings account? If the answer is no or very slim, you may want to reconsider your options.

Be active in seeking as much information as you can about the house you want to buy. After all, it is your first big purchase (next to your first car) and you would want to get it done right the first time around.

Have you bought your first home yet? Let us know what your experience was like by commenting below!

3 comments on “5 Important Questions to Ask at an Open House for First Time Home Buyers”

  1. Prudence says:

    Learning a ton from these neat artielcs.

  2. While these are good questions, the last person you want to talk to is the agent holding the open house who represents the best interest of the sellers, not you! Talking directly with the listing agent could put you at a disadvantage during negotiations – they may answer your questions but they will also ask you all about your personal circumstances. If you go to an open house and want more information, contact your buyer agent and have your agent get the information for you; that is the buyer agent’s job. If you don’t have a buyer agent, it’s easy to find one, go to the REBAC web site or you can google buyer agent/broker in the town where you are looking. Make sure the agent knows the town/area and that person has experience representing buyers.

    1. Evie Phan says:

      That’s a really good point Marilyn. It’s fine to ask questions to the sellers agent but your buyer agent will have your best interest at heart.

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