No one knows a home better than the homeowner. This makes the homeowner an invaluable source of information for homebuyers. If the homeowner is selling the home through a realtor, your chances of speaking with him or her are slim.
But if the opportunity does arise—or if you are considering a home being sold by the homeowner—here are a few questions you may consider asking. (The seller’s realtor might also be able to answer these questions as well.)
1. Why are you selling? The homeowner is leaving for a reason. Are they tired of the winters? Wanting to move closer to family? Looking to move into a bigger home? They may be unwilling to explain exactly why they are moving, but it never hurts to ask.
2. How old is the house, the roofing, the plumbing, the wiring and the HVAC system? A home inspection will answer all of these questions for you. But asking the seller ahead of time is a good way to learn that information earlier in the process. What you learn may help you determine whether you’re interested in pursuing the purchase and moving toward the home-inspection stage.
3. Do any homeowner association fees or guidelines exist? Many developments have homeowner associations that include a set of fees and rules. Association rules could include bans on washing the car in the driveway, hanging laundry in the yard or leaving trash cans in visible areas. It’s a good idea to understand these rules ahead of time. If the association has fees as well, you’ll want to know that so you can budget accordingly.
4. What are your neighbors like? When you buy a home, the neighbors come with it. So it never hurts to ask about them. The homeowners will likely outline the positive aspects of their neighbors, but there is value in what they don’t say as well as what they do say.
5. What makes your house special? This question will delight sellers and give you a better understanding of the property as a whole. Follow the homeowner or realtor as he or she shows you the pool, the lawn, the deck, the fire pit and/or the game room. The things they truly enjoy about their home will likely appeal to you as well.
The information you learn from the sellers themselves likely won’t make or break your purchase decision—but it is valuable all the same. No one knows the home better than the homeowner, so it’s a good idea to learn all you can.