While it is a good idea to request that a seller provide you with a Property Condition Disclosure Statement (also called Seller Property Information Statement), there are no guarantees that the seller is telling you “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
As such, it is essential you always make your house purchase offer conditional on a satisfactory home inspection.
As discussed in a previous article, a home inspection is one of the things you want to do before buying a home, and if properly conducted, it will answer some of the questions I discuss below.
Mind you, some of these questions should be asked early on at the open house, so you can decide if the house is at all worth your time!
Questions to Ask When Buying a House
Before making an offer, here are the questions you should ask a seller and your realtor when viewing a house.
1. Are there any foundation and/or structural problems?
If there are structural problems, have they been addressed? What was done to address the problem? Any cracks in the foundation? Basement leaks? Severely sloping floors? Sticky doors that are difficult to close or open? Cracked drywall? Warped ceilings? Sticky windows?
2. What is the neighbourhood like?
What are the neighbours like? Available amenities? Schools nearby (if you have kids)? Any planned development for the area? Crime rate? High-traffic area? Remember: Location, Location, Location!!!
3. How old is the house?
The older a house, the greater the potential cost of repairs, replacements, or renovation. Some older houses may have had significant renovations over time and not require costly repairs or updating.
4. How long has the property been on the market?
What is the average time it takes houses to sell in the area? If the house has been on the market for longer than usual, is it because it is overpriced? Has major problems? Does it mean the seller is motivated to negotiate the price?
5. When does the seller want to close?
One seller may want to close immediately, while another may not plan to close for several months. Be sure their earliest/latest closing date works for your circumstances.
6. What is included in the sale price?
Are all appliances included? Can you bargain to have that nice patio furniture thrown in as well? Outdoor play structures? Garden tools? You can have some nice bonus additions if you ask!
7. Is there sufficient parking space for your vehicles?
How big is the driveway? Outdoor or indoor parking? Can you park all your cars conveniently?
8. Has there ever been a sewer backup?
Does the sewer line have a backflow prevention device installed? Has the basement ever been flooded?
9. Have the owners ever experienced a pest infestation?
What was done to solve the issue and prevent any future re-occurrence? Pest droppings? Signs of nesting? Gnawed materials, e.g. wood, wires, etc.?
10. Any major renovations or recent additions?
Were appropriate building permits obtained? What is the value of the renovation? How does it affect the value of the property?
11. How old are the mechanical systems?
How old is the furnace? Water heater? AC? Is there a record for maintenance or repairs? Any warranties?
12. How old are the appliances?
Refrigerator, dryer, washer, dishwasher…have they been replaced recently? Older appliances can be huge power guzzlers and may significantly increase your energy bills. They are also close to the end of their useful life and will soon need to be replaced.
13. What is the average monthly utility cost?
Does utility cost appear too high? Is the high cost reflective of poor windows and drafts? outdated heating and cooling system, poor insulation? If an older house, has the insulation in the attic been upgraded? What is the R factor?
14. Has there been water damage in the past from burst pipes?
This may alert you to potential mould problems. Is there a need to install a shut-off valve on exterior faucets for those cold and wintry days?
15. When was the roof last replaced?
How soon before a replacement roof is needed? If the roof is in dire need of replacement, is the owner willing to bear the cost? Have they experienced ice dams in winter? Potential attic insulation and ventilation issue?
Roofing is a major expense, and if in need of immediate repair or replacement, you should be factoring the cost into the purchase price of the home.
16. Have older plumbing and electrical systems been updated?
Circuit breakers trip frequently? Are fuses blowing repeatedly? Lights dim or flicker when an appliance is turned on? 100 or 200 amp service? Lead pipes?
17. Are there trees planted on the property?
Where are they planted? Having trees on the property may be desirable. However, are they in a healthy condition? Are they falling towards the house? Are they poorly placed? How much would it cost to cut down a tree that is dying or undesirable?
18. Are there mould problems?
Any weird smells in the basement? Mould stains on walls or ceilings? What was done to resolve mould issues, if any?
19. What is the sales history of the house?
How often has the house changed hands over the years? Is the property being tossed from one owner to another because of serious problems? Why are the current owners selling the house? How long did they own the house?
20. How much is the property tax?
Property taxes usually reflects the valuation placed on the property by the municipality. However, knowing how much this annually recurring cost is may inform your purchase decision.
For more information on buying your first home, check out the following articles:
- Best Mortgage Rates in Canada
- First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit
- Mortgage Broker vs. Big Bank: Who should you Choose?
- Starter Home vs. Permanent Home
Are there any other questions you should be asking before buying a house?