What to ask when buying a home

MetroWest Daily News real estate

You've found a home you love--congratulations! But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s a good idea to gather some background information on the home. Here are a few tips on what to check out before you submit your offer to purchase the home.

Information gathering

Read the seller’s disclosure. Many homeowners will fill out a seller’s disclosure form identifying historical information about the home such as material defects, including pest damage, mold, etc. If there is a disclosure form, be sure to read it before making your offer, or make your offer contingent upon reviewing it.

Check to see if there are any easements on the property. Easements are a certain right to use property without owning it. Commonly easements are granted to utility companies to run power lines or to public works departments to maintain drainage systems. Sometimes easements are granted to a neighbor whose property is landlocked and needs to traverse your property to get to theirs. Easements are usually noted on the property deed, which you can find at www.masslandrecords.com.

Find out about permits. Ask for a list of upgrades the owner made to the home. Did they expand the home, do electrical work, or install a wood-burning stove, for example? If so, ask for copies of permit approvals for this work to ensure it was done safely and within proper building codes.

Check into major systems. Inquire about major systems in the home. For example, how old are the roof, furnace, and hot water heater? When was the furnace last serviced? Do the chimneys work? If the home is quite old, check to see if the electrical system has been updated.

Ask for a C.L.U.E. report. Many home buyers make their offers contingent on reviewing a C.L.U.E. Home Seller's Disclosure Report. These free reports provide a five-year insurance loss history for a given address, without divulging personal information about the property owner. For more information, visit lexisnexis.com.

See about energy updates. Have the homeowners made any energy efficiency improvements, such as replacing the windows or adding insulation? This can significantly reduce your heating and cooling costs.

Home checklist
Your offer to purchase should include a contingency that you have the right to conduct a full home inspection. However, before the inspection takes place you should also take some extra time in the home to look around closely.

Carefully check out the condition of the home. Before making an offer, take a close look at the condition of the property. Does the home have missing handrails or gutters? Stained carpeting? Broken floor tiles? Those are things that should be taken into consideration when making your offer. (i.e., the seller would not be required to make price adjustments for these defects, as they are issues that should have been noticed beforehand.)

Take a look at the ceilings in each room. Check for stains or patches that would indicate a roof leak.

Look at the siding. If the home has wood siding, take a look around the perimeter of the home to see if there are areas of the siding that are soft and may need replacement.

Keep an eye out for water damage. Basements with water damage often have peeling or discolored paint or in some cases, buckled walls.

Scope out the roof. You won’t be able to see the entire roof yourself but you can see warning signs, including sags or warped shingles, of issues to investigate further.

Look for signs of structural damage. While you and I can’t be sure what is structural damage and what isn’t, we can look for clues of these. For example, home inspectors tell us that if we see small hairline cracks in the foundation those are usually not a concern. However, if the crack is wider apart than a dime, or is offset (i.e., the wall has shifted in two different directions), it’s a good idea to have it checked out by a professional.

Note: The above is merely a cursory look at the home, and should never take the place of a home inspection by a licensed home inspector. They’re simply steps you can take to identify potential problems. If you notice issues of concern, ask your buyer’s agent to check into them.
Hopefully doing your due diligence up front will help ensure a smooth home purchase.


Follow http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/onthemove for the latest real estate tips. Have a real estate question? Contact Leslie Mann at realestatequeries@yahoo.com or 508-904-4967 and she'd be glad to answer your confidential questions here. Mann is a real estate agent with Gibson Sotheby's International Realty in Weston, MA.