10 questions home sellers hope you
4. How old is the roof?
Aw, jeez, doesn't every seller hate that one? The seller may have
to disclose that on the property-condition form, but if the roof
predates the current homeowner, he can truthfully say he doesn't
Consider this follow-up: Who was the previous owner
and how can I contact him? It's cheaper to do a little digging now
when you can still haggle over a full or partial roofing credit
than to foot the whole bill yourself later.
5. When was the last time the
furnace was cleaned?
Who cares? You do!
"That's a huge gauge that I use," Wemett
admits. "Furnaces should be cleaned every year. If it has been
and there is a nice service record on the side of the furnace, chances
are the rest of the house has been cared for. If that furnace hasn't
been cleaned in three or four years and it's just filthy and has
dirt and dust and so forth, I would say the rest of the house is
probably the same and has not been cared for."
6. Is this house haunted?
Laugh if you like, but some home buyers will turn heel and exit
promptly from houses that have been the scene of murders or suicides.
Some states require sellers to disclose the presence of ghosts,
poltergeists or paranormal activity on a property.
The seller likely won't rush to disclose that the
place shakes, rattles and rolls after dark, but you may be able
to draw the information out of them gradually.
"It could be divulged by asking why the house
is on the market," says Wemett. If the answer is, "It's
an estate sale," it's reasonable to ask how the guy died. You
just might get the reply, "Well, it was a young guy and he
was murdered in the house."
"Talking to neighbors might do the trick, too,"
7. Has this property ever been
Any landlord will vouch that rentals take far more abuse than residences.
If the property was used as a rental at some time, it speaks to
the general condition of the place and may convince the seller to
dicker on the sticker price.
8. What is your impression of
the area schools?
If real estate is all about location, a top priority is a quality
"You get two types of buyers: Those who are school
district buyers and will look at that priority first and choose
their towns and even neighborhoods based on it, and house-based
buyers who don't need the absolutely top-tier school district but
are looking for a certain housing level," says John Herman
of The Buyer's Representative in Connecticut.
If schools are a priority for you, chances are you
are already aware of the district's strengths and weaknesses. By
asking the seller about schools, you may gain additional valuable
information, such as whether they send their children to public
or private schools.
9. Do you mind if I schedule
a few inspections at my expense?
Some inspections, such as termite checks, may be required before
a home can change hands. Increasingly, however, buyers are asking
for professional inspections of chimneys, furnaces, roofing, air
ducts and to detect the presence of Radon and other household gases.
"This is your one shot to learn about this house,"
says Wemett. "Litigation is expensive. Maybe the seller moves
out of state. So you better figure out ahead of time and not rely
on the seller to give you the information you need when it comes
to the condition of the property. At least you have the opportunity
to ask the seller to make repairs or write in a repair credit so
you can go back and fix something."
10. Would you mind showing us
This is the one that selling agents fear above all others.
"That gives an opportunity for my buyer to schmooze
the seller and to start a relationship so that if that is a house
they're going to buy, it will help us in our negotiation,"
"I had one case where the seller fell in love
with my client and ended up dropping the price five grand just so
my client could buy the house, and it was solely because of the
relationship that had developed between them. Listing agents should
tell their clients to get as far away from the house as possible."
Jay MacDonald is a contributing
editor based in Mississippi.