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Let's face it: buying a house can be hard. Even if you've done it a few times before, the purchasing process is so complex that little details can easily be lost in the shuffle. That's why, in addition to having a great real estate agent by your side, you should always ask lots of questions before committing to a new home. Here's what to ask when buying a house.

How much house can I afford?

We've talked a lot about budgeting for a home purchase on this blog, so we won't dig too much into this question. Suffice it to say, a thorough examination of your finances is a critical early step in your house hunt.

What are my total monthly costs?

Your monthly payments in a home are likely to include more than just mortgage and utilities. Things like property taxes, HOA fees, homeowner's insurance, and more are important to remember when putting together your monthly budget. Check with your agent about additional fees like these once you've found a home you like.

What's included in the sale?

Of course you're buying the house itself, but what about what's inside? Are you getting a full suite of appliances and light fixtures, or is the seller taking them? Your agent can help you firm up what you're getting as part of the purchase, which will help you make more informed decisions about what you need.

What's included in the seller's disclosure?

The seller's disclosure details many things, including the condition of various structural items, potential infestations, and other possible health and safety hazards. Your agent will help you review the seller's disclosure for important items like the status of the home's roof, walls, and foundation, hazards like mold and lead paint, and any repairs that have been done to the home in the past.

Why are they selling?

The seller could be putting their house on the market for any number of reasons – relocation, downsizing, new job, etc. But it could also have to do with the neighborhood, or something relating to the house itself. Occasionally your agent may have insight as to why the seller has put their home on the market. Determining these motivations not only allows you to be more thoughtful in your purchase, but it could give you an edge in negotiating if they're trying to sell fast.

How long has the home been on the market?

A long shelf life typically happens when a home is listed at too high a price point initially. Even as the pricing adjusts, the home could still consequently stay on the market. That can scare away buyers, as they fear something must be wrong with the home that can't sell. However, that could also prove beneficial for you as the owners may be motivated to reach a deal quickly.

How old are the appliances and other major systems?

Is the air conditioning unit on its last leg? Are the kitchen appliances (the ones that are staying, anyway) ready to give out? Are the bathroom sinks one clog away from a full-blown disaster? The answers to all these questions and more are crucial to your purchasing decision. Some of this info may be in the seller's disclosure, while others will be uncovered by the home inspector. For many of the home's major systems, you can ask for a home warranty that will cover costs should they break.

What's the neighborhood like?

You won't get a true feel for a community and its residents until you've lived there yourself, but you can get a solid idea just by driving through the neighborhood and speaking with folks you see out and about – they may tell you things the selling agent might not. Visiting the community at different parts of the day can reveal a lot, too, like how many kids are outside playing and how busy common areas like dog parks, pools, and playgrounds can be.

Is the home in a danger zone?

Depending on the area, it can be easy to assess your new home's potential risk level for things like flooding. Beachfront homes are pretty high risk for hurricane damage, for an obvious example. Still, it's good to ask for homes that are in a less obvious risk zone for natural disasters. Florida homes are often required to carry additional insurance for flooding, so it's important to know. Fortunately, you can check for yourself simply by entering the property address on FEMA's flood map service center.

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