Other than the information on the sell sheet, additional information a real estate agent may share with you can help you find your dream home at a price you are willing to pay. When you work with a real estate agent and find a home that you are interested in buying, don't hesitate to ask for information that isn't normally part of the marketing on a house but that may be critical in your decision to buy.
Find out exactly what's included in the sale. Make certain that what you see is what you get and then ask for it in writing. If existing light fixtures, ceiling fans, window coverings, or major household appliances are not included in the sale and will be replaced with something else, that information should be stated in the sales contract.
Ask if the home has recently undergone major renovations. Find out too in what year the home was built. If there haven't been upgrades and it's an older home, you may be looking at some expensive repairs. It's a good idea to find out when the roof, water heater, and furnace were last replaced in addition to whether or not there have been plumbing or electrical upgrades, such as replacing old metal pipes with plastic or installing a new electrical panel.
If you are interested in buying a home that is vacant, ask for how long the property has been unoccupied. Although you may be getting the home at a bargain price, there may be damage and maintenance issues, including mold, that aren't immediately obvious.
Ask why the owner is selling the property. For instance, the seller may have to move because of a job transfer to another area and is eager to sell quickly or the home must be sold to settle an estate, either of which could give you an opening for making a lower offer.
Find out when the seller intends to move out. If you need a home now and the seller hasn't found another home yet, it could delay closing on the sale.
You can also ask how long the current owners have been living in the home. If the answer is only for a short period, that could be a hint of trouble, such as bad neighbors or the home is tied up as part of a divorce settlement (as a confrontational divorce can delay property settlement).
Ask how long the home has been on the market. If it's been on for several months, that could mean that there is a problem with the property, that it's located in an undesirable neighborhood, it's in a flood zone, or it's overpriced.
Find out how the agent arrived at the asking price. Ask whether he or she performed a comparative market analysis (CMA), considered current market prices, assessed the inventory of unsold homes in the area, and compared the sale prices to list prices of similar homes in the neighborhood that recently sold.
Ask if there have been any offers and, if so, how many. Although state laws vary on whether it's allowed, depending on the state where the property is located, if more than one buyer is interested in the home, the real estate agent may be allowed to tell you the price and terms of competing offers, particularly if he or she has the seller's permission. Even if a real estate agent can't disclose the details of an offer, he or she can let you know that there have been other offers or if there currently are any offers in the works – information that can weigh in on your decision on whether or not to make an offer.