What questions should a first-time home buyer ask during the open houses or home showings?

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Buying a home can be a daunting experience. Here is some advice from Answers.com contributors on what to ask/do during home showings:
  • You can ask whatever you want, but they don't necessarily have to tell you the truth. Open Houses are a great way to see a house, not a great way to get info on it. Remember that in most states the real estate agent at an open house works for the seller. Usually you have the right to be represented by your own agent, and that's the person you should direct your questions to. It doesn't cost any more. Your agent has a reason to give you accurate information and help you find a good house.
  • First of all, you need to talk to at least 3 mortgage companies BEFORE you start looking for houses to discuss rates and estimated payments. It's always better to have an idea of what you can afford. There are also online payment estimators. In my experience, banks will preapprove you for more than you can really afford once you add in insurance and taxes. While it's fun to go look at million dollar homes, it will do nothing but frustrate you if you can't get a loan for even a quarter million dollar home. Yes, an agent can contact a mortgage company for you. Banks and credit unions usually have lower fees and commissions, though.
  • You should ask the sellers any and all questions that you may have regarding the foundation and any problems with the house. Ask about anything that concerns you but remember that unless you put it in writing as part of your offer the answer is not legally binding upon the seller. If the seller completes a seller's property condition report then you should have it written into the offer that the seller's property condition report survives the closing of the purchase & sale.
  • Ask the seller: What do you like most about the property and what do you like least about the property? Sellers will almost always lie when responding to this question, and it will give you a feel that there are issues relating to the property that the seller is concealing. Sometimes the seller give you a totally honest answer and even tell you what he or she don't like with the property. TRY to listen carefully to the seller, because sellers like to talk a lot about their property and in the process disclose more information than their broker would like them to.
  • Go into all closets and cabinets and look up at the sealing for fresh paint or brown spots, which is evidence of roof leaks. Flush toilets and turn on faucets which will reveal evidence of plumbing or septic issues etc.
  • After going through two property buying experiences I discovered that it is pretty difficult to find Realtors and Mortgage Brokers that are truly looking out for your well being 100%. Problems, such as city liens and delinquent personal property tax (missed by a title search) that a Realtor should know and address or informed us about, we found out a month or close to a year after owning the property.
  • An open house is more or less for the agent to gather leads. When you are shown a house and it is not YOUR agent be aware as with the above answer that they are not looking out for your best interest. It is always best to find a buyer agent. They will look out for your best interest. They will remember anything you say about how much you are preapproved for.
  • DO NOT CALL every agent listed on each house you are interested in looking at. Real Estate agents work on commission only. It is a waste of your time and theirs to come out to show you a house and then you sign with another agent. Yes, the agents are paid after closing, and the check given to their broker for their cut. Many people in the general public don't realize this. Would you want to work for nothing?
  • I highly recommend getting a buyer agent to show you any homes you are interested in. They may also help search for homes that fit your needs. The agent will ask you questions, talk with your mortgage company and get the seller's disclosure for you. If you are a first time home buyer, there are many advantages to having someone guide you through it. Once you have an agent and you want to go to an open house, take the opportunity to do it. Be sure you tell the agent holding the open house that you do have an agent and will be calling them if you like it.
  • You should find yourself a buyers agent to solely represent your interests, get referrals to 2 or 3 lenders and arrange your loan. Then have your agent search for property that matches the properties in your price range. Alternatively, you can research homes on the Internet for your agent to arrange visits to. It's a good idea to always use your agent to communicate to the sellers agent or to the seller. Don't go to an open house and express your interests to the other agent, they will want you to use their services. And when one agent represents both the buyer and seller there is an obvious fiduciary conflict on who the agent should be more loyal to.
  • Although one might be scared by the thought of a fiduciary conflict, the issues of conflict in representing both the seller and buyer on a price negotiation is worse. Also, if you do not have a buyer's agent giving you detailed advice on what has sold in the area in similar properties, you may overpay, not realizing the home is overpriced.
  • In Massachusetts, and perhaps other states, the agent holding the open house is working for the seller. If you ask that person to help you with the process and write up the offer, that person is still working for the seller, and is only assisting you with it, but does not represent you. Only if you sign something saying that person is your buyer's agent does that person work for you. In Massachusetts, if they are working for both, they are a dual agent. If the person helping you is a seller's agent, he/she can tell the seller any information about you that you tell, including personal and financial info, and that can be to your disadvantage in negotiations, and that person's purpose is to get the most money out of you to give to the seller. If you already have a buyer's agent and you enter an open house, put your agent's name on the sign in sheet, and perhaps give the agent the card of your buyer's agent. If you wish to make an offer, the seller's agent can then cooperate with your buyer's agent. The commission percentage is decided when the seller lists the property. If the seller's agent also handles the offer, the seller's company gets the whole commission. It is not less because it is handled by one company. If there is a buyer agent, the commission, same amount, gets divided between the two companies.
  • I would ask: when was the gas boiler last serviced and has it been regularly serviced tested, if there are trees overhanging the gardens, fences and gates, who is responsible for maintenance and pruning, look at the exterior gutters and fashia boards - when were these painted if at all, how old is the gas fired boiler, and consider if it may need replacing, if there have been replacement double glaze windows, are these still under guarantee.
  • The first thing you should ask when you are going to buy your own house or property and also you are just a first time home buyer is about the safety of the place, then next ask if the house already undergone on home inspection, then you need to ask also about the possible calamities that the house already experienced and of course do not forget to ask about the contract and price whenever you are decided to get the place.
  • If you are looking at a distressed home (repossessed or short sale) ask for an amount of repair money to be included to cover electrical, water heater, furnace, stove and roof deficiencies. Otherwise once the offer is accepted, you may be in a bind if your mortgage company will not give you a loan if the house has appraisal issues and the bank or FNMA will not repair them. Really, this is not for cosmetic issues, but rather house systems.
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