Buying a House Checklist - 10 Questions to Ask Before Buying a House

Buying a house is an exciting time whether it is to be your first home or as a real estate investment. There are lots of great properties on the market, but it is important to choose the one that meets your specific needs. To make the best choice, do not work under the assumption that the written listing or the seller will have all the details you need. Do not trust the seller’s disclosure form as having every detail or that it will highlight every issue you may run into along the way. Asking the right questions to your real estate agent before you sign those final purchase papers is important.

Buying a House Checklist – Questions

1. When were major appliances (HVAC, laundry, kitchen, water heater) installed and how old are portions of the house that are replaceable (roof, windows, gutters, siding etc.)?

These items are important to ask about as the buyer can end up incurring significant after purchase costs if the appliances fail or something like windows or roofing has to be replaced. Paint and touch-ups can hide damage making it unnoticeable. Knowing the age of these things can help with price negotiations.

2. When were major renovations completed?

Knowing when major renovations were done on a building is important as is obtaining any permits and paperwork that go with them. You may love the new deck or sunroom that is part of the house but do not want to be surprised by a by-law officer if they say it was not approved or done properly. The cost of tearing down or moving part of the building will mean significant costs to you as the homeowner.

3. Is there paperwork on repairs or systems?

Make sure you have all documentation that applies to warranties and repair work done on appliances and systems. This makes for easy follow up if there are problems or further repairs needed. Water heaters, central air and heating, appliances should all have documents.

4. Does the home have any water-related issues?

Asking whether pipes have broken in the past, if sewers have backed up, if there are leaks or instances of standing water in the basement will help determine if there are ongoing water issues on the property. Knowing these details can give the home buyer a heads up on the possibility of reoccurrence as well as knowing to look for mold issues or water damage to the structure from water issues.

5. Are there chattels that are not part of the house sale?

This is good to ask so you are not caught off guard that a shed is being moved or lights are taken down. If anything is going then make sure you as the home buyer are aware to help in negotiations and have it written into the contract so everyone is clear on what stays and what goes.

6. Has the property changed hands many times?

The importance of this question is not about historical significance but to find out if there have been a lot of short term owners and/or tenants. Understand why people are selling.

7. What are comparable properties worth in the area?

This question is for your real estate agent. Knowing the value of the house you are looking at and other comparable houses in the immediate area should help you determine whether your real estate opportunity is a good deal or not. It is also good to know how long it has been on the market and if there is room for negotiation.

8. Are closing costs negotiable?


Ask which costs are negotiable other than the actual asking price of the property. If you are in a buyer’s market, ask the seller if they will help with closing costs. This can give you some significant savings.

9. Are the current owners amenable to talking?

Asking to speak to the current owners will help you get an idea of the neighborhood and the local amenities. A conversation may also give you some insight into the house. However, the seller’s agent may discourage this as they do not want something said that will hurt the sale or negotiations.

10. Is there any negative history in regard to the home?

While disclosure should be made before a sale, it never hurts to ask directly. You want to know about any crimes that happened in the home such as a grow op or violence. Did anyone famous live there or has it been affected by a natural disaster? Anything that could affect the integrity of the home is something you want to be disclosed.

Due Diligence

Once the deed is transferred you become responsible for everything on the property. It is important to ask questions, so nothing is a surprise later.  You do not want to end up with increased costs after the fact. Make sure to ask the 10 questions plus look for some other important aspects. Check on the following:

  • Check that the property is more than 1000 feet away from a highway if there is one nearby. This is important when it comes to air quality.
  • Check on the response time of emergency services and distance to your local hospital. This is extremely important if you have a family member that is in a high risk demographic.
  • Assess the wind patterns and the business around the area. You do not want to be downwind from a water treatment plant or manufacturing business where smell is an issue.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a house is both a financial and emotional commitment. You are investing a lot of both. It is important to cover all the details before you commit to purchase. Buying a house checklist is going to help ask the questions getting you answers that are not seen in the contract or experienced on your walkthroughs. While you can not spend excessive amounts of time getting details, especially if others are bidding as well, making sure there are no surprises once the deed is in your name is critical.

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