An open house is an excellent opportunity to gather important information about a property. In a recent post we discussed do’s and don’t for open houses. And, we encouraged you to ask the agent questions. Here are suggested questions to ask the listing agent when you are viewing a house. In a future post, we will list suggestions for questions to ask when you are looking at condos.
Please note that MLS listing sheets have data fields for detailed information about each house. It’s a good idea to review the sheet carefully – either in MLS reports you get from your agent, or in the MLS sheet typically provided at an open house. That way, you won’t waste the limited face-to-face time you have with the listing agent asking for information that already you have in writing. The questions listed below are for items that aren’t covered in the standard MLS data fields.
Of course, if you don’t like the house and you wouldn’t consider buying it, no need to ask anything. But, if you go through the house and like it, ask the questions below about the physical condition and the neighborhood. And if you get past all that, and are still interested, ask the agent the suggested questions about the listing (i.e. the marketing and offer process). Knowing more about the listing can help you better position yourself to make an offer on the property that will be accepted, even if there are competing offers.
1. Questions about systems and structure
The MLS listing sheet – if it is filled out – tells you a lot about the home structure and the systems. For example: Is the heat gas or electric? Are there radiators or is there central heat? Is the structure wood or brick? Is the roof rubber or asphalt? MLS provided many more possible answers for each of these questions, and MLS covers many other elements.
But, what MLS does not cover is the age and condition of the systems and structures. If the agent didn’t address these things in the MLS Remarks section, or in a supplementary handout, it is a good idea to probe at the open house regarding any systems and structures that concern you, or that look problematic when you view the house. A basic list of systems to address at the open house is:
2. Additional questions to ask at the open house about the house itself
- When was the last time the kitchen and bathrooms were renovated?
- Have there been any floods or fires in the house? (Ask agent to point out location within the house.) When? How was it addressed?
- Is there a home warranty? What does it cover?
- Ask the agent to expand on the disclosure(s) in MLS and handouts. Ask if there are any items requiring disclosure that aren’t in the materials you received.
3. Questions about the neighborhood
Even if you are familiar with the neighborhood, there may be new developments and plans that are worth investigating.
- Any major building planned in the immediate vicinity? Any major improvements planned? (They may cause construction noise; they may block your view; they may have a big impact on traffic/street parking; they may just change the neighborhood for good or bad.)
- Any environmental issues in the immediate vicinity?
4. Questions to ask at the open house about the listing
These questions relate to the marketing and selling of the property. Please note that the law or the owner my prohibit the agent from answering some of the questions. But you are allowed to ask whatever you want. And many times the agent will answer even if they are not supposed to. Some of these questions are geared towards getting information that the agent won’t provide unless asked. Others are geared towards helping you make your offer more attractive to the seller if you decide to go for it!
- Why are the owners selling?
- When would the owners ideally like to close?
- Have there been any offers? If so, why didn’t the owner take them?
- Has the house been under agreement. If so, why did the agreement fall apart?
- Are there any offers currently pending? What can you tell me about them? When does the owner plan to make a decision about the offers?