Important questions to ask when buying a house

Find out what you need to know, and who can give you the answers, as you navigate the homebuying process.

Homeownership is a goal for many Americans. But dreams of trendy city condos or big backyards in the ’burbs can get sidetracked thanks to the realities of the homebuying process—and having to save for such a major purchase.

But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can help simplify things by knowing what questions to ask when buying a home. Whether you hope to buy in six months or five years, keep these questions in mind as you develop a plan to purchase a home.

What are some of the most important questions to ask when buying a house?

Buying a home is one of the largest purchases many people will ever make. And there’s a lot to consider: You want a home that meets your needs. You want to make a competitive offer on a home you can afford. And you want to be sure you don’t constantly have to make repairs.

If you come prepared and know what to expect, the entire process could be more enjoyable. There’s a lot to learn and explore along the way, but here are some important questions you may want to ask when buying a house:

1. What’s my total budget?

2. How long has the home been on the market?

3. What’s the condition of the home?

4. How old are the appliances and major systems?

5. Is the home in a flood zone or an area prone to natural disasters?

Questions to ask the realtor when looking for a house

Working with a real estate agent can be helpful as you navigate the homebuying process. An agent can help you find your home, set up tours, give you advice about your offer, assist in negotiations and more. Before committing to any one person, here are some questions you might ask a real estate agent when buying a house:

1. How long have you been a real estate agent?

2. How will you help me find a home that matches my wants and needs?

3. How will you keep in contact with me during the buying process?

4. How many clients are you currently working with?

5. How many homes did you help buyers close in the past year?

Questions to ask the seller about their home

Once you have your real estate agent and a home in mind, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the property. And the sellers might be a good resource. They may understandably want to highlight the positives, but they still may be able to provide helpful information that can’t be found in real estate listings. If you can’t talk to the sellers directly, see whether your real estate agent can relay your messages. Here are a few questions you could ask the seller when buying a house:

1. Why are you selling the home?

2. What’s included in the home sale?

3. Have you made any major repairs or renovations?

4. What’s the neighborhood like?

5. Are you willing to exchange contact information in case I have questions after I move in?

Questions to ask the lender about your homebuying eligibility

Knowing your financial situation can take some of the guesswork out of buying a home. And knowing where your credit stands before you meet with a mortgage lender is a good start. 

A tool like CreditWise from Capital One can help. It lets you actively monitor your credit information and alerts you about changes to your TransUnion® credit report. You could also get an idea about how credit inquiries during the mortgage application process might affect your score.

If you’re applying for a mortgage, you’re likely to receive offers from a variety of lenders. As you shop around and compare rates, you can ask lenders to help you understand how things like debt-to-income ratio relate to homebuying. They may also be able to explain how much money you’ll need—and where it will go. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) even has a helpful worksheet for comparing multiple mortgage options. With that in mind, here are a few questions to consider asking a mortgage lender when buying a home:

1. What credit score do I need?

2. Which type of mortgage is best for me?

3. How much will my down payment and monthly payments be?

4. What’s the interest rate?

5. What are my estimated closing costs?

Questions to ask the inspector about the condition of the home

The home inspection is among the final steps before you close on your new home. The inspector should be able to tell you what’s really going on with your potential place. The inspector should give you a full report. But don’t hesitate to ask directly about things like heating, air-conditioning units, plumbing, electrical wiring and structural issues. Here are some questions you could ask the inspector when buying a house:

1. How many more years should the roof last?

2. Is the electrical system safe and current?

3. Are there plumbing issues or leaks?

4. Are there any potential fire, safety, health or water hazards?

5. Will the house need work to be brought up to code?

Other questions to ask

There are always a few unanswered questions. So if you forgot to ask something, reach out to your real estate agent, the homeowner, your mortgage lender or the inspector to get the answer. If it’s about the final steps, it may be a question to ask the closing attorney. And remember, there are some questions that only you can answer. Here are a few other questions you might want to ask if you haven’t already:

1. What are the average monthly utility costs?

2. Are there any HOA fees?

3. What will my commute to work be like?

4. Are there any area nuisances or neighborhood issues?

5. What will happen during closing?

Capital One is also there for you as a new homeowner. When used responsibly, credit cards can be useful budgeting tools. And they can even help you prepare for unexpected financial needs.

By asking the right questions, you can put yourself in a better position to make a homebuying dream a reality. And once you’re all moved in and the last box is unpacked, there’s really only one question left to answer: 

When’s the housewarming party?

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