For my home buyer Clients, I conduct research and ask the listing agent many detailed questions about the home which allows my Clients to focus on the living space and neighborhood when they attend an open house with me or on their own.  If the home is a good match; we will visit again during a private showing to carefully consider the living area, amenities and overall condition inside and outside.

For home buyers not yet working with a Buyer Agent, visiting an open house can be overwhelming especially when the features and appearance creates instant excitement.  It is very easy to get distracted by architectural details and stunning finishes; but this excitement can distract from expensive maintenance items that can increase cost of ownership and decrease fair market value.

BUYER BEWARE: Sometimes the details and conditions of a home are not known; sometimes the listing agent does not ask the seller for the information; and sometimes details are known but not included in the marketing materials or the MLS listing but they are available upon request.  Knowing what questions to ask before purchasing a home is part of home buyer due diligence; one of many reasons to hire a Buyer Agent who represents the buyer’s best interests (not the seller’s).

HOW OLD IS THE ROOF?

Asking for the age of the roof may seem to be a simple question; surprisingly, the answer is typically not known or not readily available.  The best answer to this question would be to receive supporting documentation from a licensed roofing contractor or home inspector who installed, repaired, or inspected the roof recently.  I always inquire about age of the roof for my Buyer Clients because roof maintenance is one of the most expensive items to maintain (especially in New England).  For example, we had an incredible amount of snow accumulate on rooftops early in 2015; which can create ice dams during a deep freeze and interior water leaks during rapid melting.  Detailed documentation from a reliable source about the age, condition, and maintenance history of the roof is rarely available; but these facts are extremely helpful to estimate the cost of ownership and fair market value of a home.

HOW OLD IS THE HEATING SYSTEM?

The second question every home buyer (and/or Buyer Agent) should ask is for the age of the heating system (and central air if installed) and if any maintenance history is available.  Extended heat loss during the Winter can create even more severe problems if plumbing pipes freeze (or even worse, if pipes burst).  There are many types of heating systems fueled by (for example) oil, natural gas, propane gas, electric and a variety of delivery systems using either forced hot water or forced hot air directed through radiators, baseboards, and/or air ducts.  A licensed heating contractor or home inspector can provide comprehensive education about how these systems operate, how they rate for energy efficiency, and what to expect for ongoing maintenance.  Detailed documentation from a reliable source about the age, condition, and maintenance history of a heating and cooling system is rarely available; but these facts are extremely helpful to estimate the cost of ownership and fair market value of a home.

WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS SHOULD A HOME BUYER ASK?

There are many questions to ask about a home before purchasing; be sure to hire a Buyer Agent who will help guide you on all of the pertinent questions to ask as part of home buyer due diligence.  A Buyer Agent has the duty to represent the best interests of the home buyer including (but not limited to):
•  explanation of home buyer rights and responsibilities for due diligence
•  help obtain details from the listing agent and conduct research from trusted sources (i.e. verify tax details with the city/town assessor)
•  estimate fair market value using recent sales of similar homes nearby (ideally homes sold within the past 30, 60, or 90 days)

TO LEARN MORE: Contact Tamela Roche to schedule a Home Buyer Consultation to understand the duties of a Buyer Agent and home buyer rights in Massachusetts.  The information above is provided as a basic overview; home buyers and sellers should retain legal counsel to fully understand all legal implications and responsibilities when purchasing and selling real estate.

© Tamela Roche, Realtor®, CRS®, ABR®, CLHMS®