It always puzzles me when I go around to inspections to see buyers coming and going without uttering a word to the agent, other than their mobile number on their way in to be granted entry.
You’ll sometimes see savvier, more experienced buyers making a concerted effort to introduce themselves to the agent and asking a lot of questions. This is very important when you’re a serious buyer searching for a home. It lets the agent know you’re genuinely interested, conscientious and a good prospect for them to follow up.
It also gives you an opportunity to scout out and bond with good real estate agents in your areas of interest, so they can notify you when new properties become available.
Once you have a shortlist of potential properties you’re interested in the next step is inspecting them to see if they meet your requirements. Here are ten questions to help make the most of your next inspection and avoid any nasty surprises after moving in to your new home.
1. ‘Has the seller made any modifications or renovations?’
This can give you an idea if there have been any significant renovations, updates, problems or DIY fixes completed on the property that could save or cost you money in the future. It could also be worth asking if there are any existing pre approved extension or subdivision plans or council restrictions or covenants on the property. In a few years’ time you might want to extend the home out, renovate or subdivide and sell up part of the land, so you need to know where you stand.
2. ‘Do you have recent building inspection, soil and survey reports?’
To protect yourself from being sold a ‘lemon’ and costly structural issues down the track (such as termites and rising damp) it’s smart to pay your due diligence by requesting condition reports on the property. So, request a copy of the building inspection report and soil and survey info to see exactly what you’re buying.
3. ‘Are there any major property disclosures?’
Be on the look out at every inspection for any structural issues and defects that can be expensive to repair later on. Keep an eye out for flaws like water stains, sloping floors, sagging ceilings, mouldy walls, damp smells in wet areas, cracked brickwork and bubbles in paintwork (which can be a sign of termites). Take pictures of any problem areas and factor what it would cost to repair them into your budget. Read more about the property inspection checklist here.
4. ‘Are there key amenities available nearby?’
Phrase this question depending on what’s important to have in close proximity to you and the other people you live with. For example, you could ask about local schools, childcare, parks, cafes, universities, public transport, medical centres, gyms or shopping options.
5. For apartments and units: ‘Does the body corporate allow pets?
Can you have BBQs on balconies? Is there permit parking available?’. There’s no point buying a place to live in only to realize come moving day that Fido can’t move in with you and your wife has nowhere to park her car. If you require multiple car spots, pets and BBQ space be sure to check what restrictions the apartment’s body corporate has.
6. ‘Why are the owners selling now?’ and ‘How long has the home been on the market?’
The responses to these questions will give you valuable information that’ll be handy come negotiation time. If the place has been on the market for months and the sale is a matter of urgency because the owners have to relocate interstate for work or the kids are starting at a new school next month, the seller might be more flexible and open to lower offers. If it’s an older couple wanting to downsize, they probably won’t be in a big hurry to sell and will have a set price in mind that they want to achieve. The more you know about the seller’s mindset and needs the better you can put together a tempting and winning offer.
7. ‘Do you have any similar properties listed at the moment?’
This lets the agent know that you’re a serious buyer and helps you to get a leg up on future listings, where as soon as something similar comes onto the market the agent can get in touch with you.
8. ‘What is the owner expecting for a sale price?’
This can give you an indication of what price the owner is seeking and whether or not the place is within your budget. At this point be careful how much and what information you share with the agent. It’s wise to keep some cards close to your chest, like your own budget for instance. If you're planning on making an offer on the home the agent can use the knowledge of your maximum buying capacity against you in negotiations and you may miss out.
9. ‘Have you had any offers yet?’ and ‘What are recent comparable sales in the suburb?’
Knowing whether any other offers have been made and what other similar homes sold for can let you know how much genuine interest there is in the property/area, whether or not you should make an offer sooner rather than later and give you an indication if the home is reasonably priced or not. If an agent has had several offers chances are they’ll be very keen to tell you in the hopes that you’ll put in your best offer and push up the price and your competitor’s offers.
10. ‘Are the sellers open to negotiate/ open to offers below the asking price?’
This will let you know whether there is any room to move from the advertised price. If you find your dream home but the asking price is a bit outside your price range, it never hurts to ask if a seller would be open to negotiating the sale price. You may even get the property for less than you were willing to pay for it.
We strongly recommend asking questions at inspections to learn as much about the history and features of the property as possible, but always keep in mind the agent is trying to sell the home and they will be painting the most attractive picture possible to do so.
At the end of a weekend of open house visits it can be very difficult to keep track of which house had the large master bedroom or which one the owner was willing to negotiate on. So always remember to take a trusty pen and notepad along to jot down the answers to all your questions for each property right away.
Larissa Gardner is a blogger, social media strategist and marketing coordinator at arguably Australia’s best looking real estate website Homely.com.au. With over 340K listings and 500K local reviews and insights, Homely is a faster and easier way to search for property to buy and rent in Australia.