7 questions to ask your real estate agent before it's too late

  • Buying a home is one of the most expensive decisions you’ll ever make.
  • We askedreal estate agents the most important questions you should ask before you close the deal on a new home.
  • They said you should ask them how long the house has been on the market, why the owners are selling, and other questions before it’s too late.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Buying a home is one of the most expensive decisions you’ll ever make.

But all too often, buyers can forget to ask key questions that can help them make smarter decisions around the buying process.

Not asking the right questions can leave you with a home you’re unhappy with, or worse, have trouble selling in the future. And with themedian US listing price sitting at $300,000, choosing the wrong house is not a mistake many can afford to make.

We askedreal estate agents to share the most important questions home buyers should ask before they close the deal.

Here are the questions you should ask before you buy.

How long has this home been on the market?

Homes sit on the market for a number of reasons, and for savvy buyers, that can represent an opportunity. Ask your agent to do a little digging when it comes to the listing details.

“Some sellers take their listings down for a while, then re-list after several months in order to disguise the true first date of offers,” Dolly Hertz, a broker withEngel & Volkers in New York City, told Business Insider.

That information can impact your offer.

“A seller who has been on the market for 12 or even 24 months is growing increasingly desperate to move on and will be much more negotiable on price,” she said.

What have nearby homes sold for in the past six months?

Sale prices for homes in your immediate area can be an indicator of a hot or cold market, which can help you plan your bidding.

Hertz said, “In a cold market, there could easily have been several price reductions as well as a substantial discrepancy between the ask and sale price. In a hot market, there may have been multiple offers, driving the final sale price over ask.”

Have your agent look beyond asking prices and see the final closing prices of comparable homes in your area to gauge the market.

Are there any noise concerns?

When you look at a home that abuts a highway or is in the flight path of an airport, you know what you’re getting into from the start.

But there are all sorts of hidden noises you might not see or hear the first time you tour an apartment on a quiet weekday afternoon.

Hertz tells buyers not to be shy about making multiple visits.

“It’s okay to be a pest — keep asking for another visit at different times of the day and different days of the week so you can be fully cognizant of what living there will sound like,” she said.

What does maintenance look like on a home like this?

If you think the only costs you have to worry about are your utilities and mortgage payment, think again.

Depending on the age of your home, you should also consider maintenance costs. Matt Miner, a Seattle-based broker withGet Happy at Home, said that “buyers should talk with their agents about what it costs to properly maintain a home so they can budget accordingly for different types of homes.”

That’s especially true if you’re considering an older home where heating and cooling costs can be much higher than a new build.

How ‘healthy’ is this home?

Real estate agents see hundreds, if not thousands, of homes throughout their careers, so they are experts at spotting potential trouble spots.

Miner encourages buyers to tap into that expertise as they move through the process.

“We can tell if a water heater is old and will need to be replaced, or if the roof is towards the end of life so that they know what they’re getting into before wasting money on an inspection,” he told Business Insider.

How many owners has the home had?

Jodi Moody, an agent withSmoky Mountain Realty outside Knoxville, Tennessee, stresses that it’s important to ask about the ownership history of any home you’re considering.

“Generally, the fewer times a home has changed hands, the better the maintenance and upkeep,” she said. “A smaller number of owners also decreases the chance the home was used as a rental — and everyone knows owners keep up with maintenance better than renters.”

Those details can make a difference when budgeting for maintenance costs.

Why are the owners selling?

Being a little nosy to figure out why the sellers are moving can go a long way.

While answers often revolve around a job relocation or more space for the new baby, sometimes you might get a red flag that can change your mind about a home.

“It’s a tough thing to find out from the ‘helpful’ neighbor that someone died in the master bedroom, or some other potentially disturbing event, after you have put a down payment and signed a contract,” Moody said.

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