10 questions home sellers hope you
Think you've found the home of
your dreams? So did Hansel and Gretel.
The fact is, every property has its dirty little secrets
that only the owner knows about.
In a perfect world, owners would come clean about
the quirks and glitches in the old homestead when they fill out
the property condition disclosure form that many states require.
But as Hansel and Gretel found out, real estate is fraught with
Real estate agents routinely caution sellers to dummy
up and clear out during showings lest they inadvertently spill information
that might give the buyer leverage to negotiate a lower price. For
this reason alone, it's rare that seller and buyer actually get
together prior to closing.
But if you happen to meet the seller or pepper the
agent, as query intermediary, with the right questions, you may
just wheedle enough information to satisfy yourself that you're
getting what you're paying for -- or justify trying to pay less.
Here are the top 10 questions home sellers don't want
you to ask.
1. Why are you selling?
Your first order of business as a buyer is to find out the seller's
motivation; that is, how desperate are they to sell?
"If you hear something like, 'Well, we'd
like to move out into the country,' you don't have a motivated seller
and quite often you're just not going to get a decent deal on a
house that way," says Tom Wemett, past president of the National
Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents and a buyer's broker in Rochester,
"But if you find out that they've already
bought another house and are about to carry two mortgages, there's
motivation. A divorce, loss of a job or job relocation, now there's
Sometimes the seller will be forthcoming, other times
not. In the latter case, says Wemett, "you need to use some
intuition and gut feel. With divorce, for instance, you see women's
clothes but no men's clothes. You have to take whatever is told
to you by the seller or the listing agent with a grain of salt."
2. What did you pay?
When the homeowners moved into their house and how much they paid
for it are matters of public record, so it's futile for sellers
to try to withhold this information. Nevertheless, they don't want
you to know these particulars, again because they can help enormously
when it comes time to write an offer.
Generally, if a homeowner has been in the house for
many years, they probably bought it at a relatively low price, built
up considerable equity and benefited from appreciation. Conventional
wisdom holds that this seller may be more inclined to come down
on their asking price than someone who has only been in the home
a short time and built up little equity in the property.
3. What can you tell me about
Such a lovely loaded question! By keeping it open-ended, you may
stumble upon references to the garage band next door, the dog kennel
over the fence, the upcoming picnic to raise money for the neighborhood
"You can also find out positive things,"
says Wemett. "For instance, if you are a family with kids,
are there other families with kids in the neighborhood?"
It's always a good idea to drive, walk or bike through
the neighborhood at different times of the day and night to try
it before you buy it. And don't forget to chat with the neighbors,
especially about your prospective new address.