Not sure what questions to ask when buying a home? Be sure to download my FREE home buying workbook over at How to Buy a House in 12 Weeks. Also, be sure to check out the first 10 questions you must ask before buying a house.
I wrote a previous post called 10 Questions You MUST Ask BEFORE You Buy a Home, which has become quite popular.
And I can see why.
Buying a house is scary. If you get it wrong, there is no “let’s-return-it-for-a-refund” policy available. You don’t have 30 days to “think about it” and see if it works for your family. IF ONLY!!
So I wanted to write a follow-up with even more questions you must ask before you buy a house! So be sure to read PART 1 of questions to ask when buying a house. And to get all 30 questions, enter your name below to download the first time home buying checklist.
10 More Questions to Ask Before Buying a House
1. Are there sex offenders in the neighborhood?
The last thing you want is to buy a house next to a registered two doors down. Checking for sex offenders in the area isn’t something I did before buying my house, but you better believe it would be one of the first things I would do. In writing this article, I ran a search on my address and found seven registered sex offenders living within 2 miles of me, thankfully, not in my immediate neighborhood. Four of them had 3rd-degree sex offenses, one had a child pornography offense, and the other two were listed as “other.” Be sure where you know where they live, and think carefully about where we’re buying a home. Search for sex offenders here: Criminal Watch Dog and Family Watch Dog. Just to show you what the search can reveal, I searched for sex offenders near the White House in Washington, DC, and here’s what came up! Let’s hope your prospective neighborhood search isn’t quite so colorful!
2. Is there radon in the house?
I’m not a scientist, but let me summarize what I read on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website about radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that’s found in about 1 every 15 homes. Rocks and other things break down in the ground and radon is naturally released (even granite countertops give off low levels of radon--I had no idea!). It’s found in lower levels outdoors, but indoors, it can be much higher. Above safe levels, it can cause lung cancer. Scary stuff!!!
Our agent recommended we get a radon test done, and sure enough, there was radon. I can’t even tell you what the level was. I was too naive to ask. But it should have been less than 4.0 PUC/L and it wasn’t. A radon remediation company installed an exhaust fan in the house, which vents outside (the seller paid for it, about $600, I think). Afterward, it must have tested below4.0 PUC/L. Although “they” (i.e. experts) say that it’s safe once the radon remediation occurs, if I had to do it all over again, I may have bought another house. That doesn’t mean it’s not safe now, but still….
Here’s what the radon pipe looks like in our basement. It vents to the outside, and we just have to check the vacuum levels to make sure that it’s working properly.
Recently (as of April 2019), I was cleaning out this utility area in my basement and happened to notice that the little blue liquid levels in the indicator were even and flat (one blue level side should be higher). This meant the radon vacuum wasn’t working. It was about $250 for the radon remediation people to come and fix the vacuum on the outside of the house.
The thing is, there was no alarm to alert me that this was broken. I just happened to notice that the two blue levels were both at ZERO. Who knows how long it has been broken, which means we were breathing radon. I would recommend to set a reminder and check the vacuum levels at least once every couple of months if you buy a house with a radon abatement such as in my house.
(P.S. Don’t ask me what that weird wood thing is….Was there when we moved in!).
3. What’s the slope and length of the driveway?
Do you want to shovel a long driveway in the winter at 5 a.m. before you leave for work? If not, you’re either going to have to pay someone to do it or don’t buy that house with the long driveway.
What about the slope of the driveway? If you have young kids, will they roll right into the street, or will their toys roll down the driveway into the street? While my kids love riding their scooters down the driveway and they (now) know not to go into the street, I’ve chased many of balls into the street. I worry that one of them will run out into the street without looking.
4. How do the schools rank nearby?
Even if you don’t have small kids, how the schools rank means a lot. Because eventually you’ll sell your house, and the next buyers may have kids. If the schools suck, run. The quality of schools affects home values. When we were looking for our home, I made sure to check school rankings on GreatSchools.org and that I was buying in a good neighborhood based on elementary schools. My oldest son was starting Kindergarten soon. But even with no kids, you should buy in as good of a school district as possible.
5. Are the gutters in good condition?
Don’t just fantasize about pretty lawns and patios. Check out the gutters! Gutters are expensive home repairs! We’ve gotten quotes on them from top companies in the area, and were always quotes about $5,000, although I’m sure you could get them for $3,000. Still….that’s thousands of dollars! Do any of them look bent? If it’s raining, is water pouring over the gutters (which could mean too much water next to the foundation, which could mean water in the basement)? Are there gutter guards in place? Do they work well? Ask the sellers how well the guards work at keeping out leaves and debris. Easily backed up gutters means water pouring over the gutters--again, too much water next to the foundation. Are the downspouts in good condition? Where do the downspouts empty out the water? Is the water emptying next to the house or away from the house?
6. Who is doing your home inspection?
To avoid any conflict of interest, I think that buyers should shop around for their own home inspector. Most agents will recommend a list of inspectors. That’s fine. But make sure you select your own. You want someone who will be completely impartial when doing the home inspection. I regret that I didn’t choose my own home inspector. I didn’t know anything about choosing on, even though I’m sure my agent probably recommended some. But I went with her home inspector. And honestly, I think he could have been more objective. I feel like he minimized the things that should have been red flags, like the musty smell in the basement…the mold found in the attic (that’s a whole ‘nutha post…), and things that maybe a more impartial inspector (or even more skilled, maybe?) would have warned us about. I ended up hiring another home inspector a year after we moved in, and I have to admit that that inspection seemed much more thorough (if not daunting, as well!).
7. How much noise is in the neighborhood?
The noise you hear during the day when people are at work may be different from the noise at night. Be sure to ride by the house during the day and night so you’ll know. Same for weekdays and weekends. Is there a hospital nearby? Will ambulance drive by at 2 a.m., blaring their sirens? Is there an airport nearby and loud jets will be landing at 10 p.m., right when you’ve settled into bed? What about trains nearby? Do they blow their horns? Is there a guy that lives next door and runs his power tools at all times of the day and night? You need to know this.
8. Have there been any new renovations lately?
One reader said it best: no one renovates their house to sell unless they’re trying to hide something. Well, not every renovation has to be so sneaky, but you never know. Is there fresh paint in the basement, covering up water stains? Is there anything else that they’ve replaced just to sell? What’s the real story behind their renovations? Don’t just “ooh” and “ahh” over the new whatever. Ask about the renovation and why they decided to renovate now. Sometimes a home looks brand-spanking new because it was recently renovated by investors that bought the property for a discount, fixed it up, and then re-listed it for a profit. If that’s the case, that’s okay. Just do your research and ask your real estate agent if that particular investor has a good reputation in the area for quality rehabs.
9. What would your commute to work be like?
Imagine finding the perfect house and telling yourself, “Well, it’s only 20 miles from work!!” But little did you know that 20 miles takes 1.5 hours on a good day? Is that acceptable for you? If you’ve found a house you really like, wake up extra early and see if you can run that morning commute around the same time you would be if you were to buy the house. What about the evening commute? Instead of going home, drive to your “new” prospective house. If you can’t stomach the commute, it’s not the house for you, no matter how “perfect” it seems.
10. How old are the appliances?
This is something that a home inspector will tell you during an inspection, but here’s my advice: look for this info while you’re at the open house! Think of it this way: if you know that you’re going to have to sink $5,000 into new appliances or repairs, you may be able to adjust your offer price accordingly or you may decide not to even put an offer on a house. Don’t wait until you’ve gotten so far into the process only to find out at the home inspection, “Oh. Yeah. Your appliances are old as crap and will need to be replaced as soon as you move in.” Know this info upfront so that you can either walk away or be able to use that info to come up with a reasonable offer.
It’s also good to know that you definitely should either ask the sellers to buy you a 1-year home warranty. A home warranty will cover many of the home appliances (e.g. washer, dryer, garbage disposal, water heater, HVAC unit, etc.) depending on your policy. If something breaks within that year, you pay a service fee (anywhere from $50 -- $100) and the home warranty company will send a professional to fix or replace the item, at no extra charge (although many times where are fees that the home warranty company won’t cover and you’ll be responsible for covering, like HVAC connection fees).
Some people debate whether it’s worth continuing a home warranty service contract after that 1-year warranty contract that the seller pays for (usually around $600 for the year). In my experience of owning three homes, the answer is YES! Pay the monthly premium and have peace of mind that if one of your major (or minor) appliances breaks, you may not be responsible for paying thousands to replace it.
BONUS QUESTION #1: How Will You Afford to Decorate or Repair Your New House?
Here at Thrift Diving, I’m passionate about inspiring people to not only buy the right house but to also not go into debt trying to decorate, improve and maintain that house! I learned how to find quality furniture at thrift stores and to paint the furniture (or strip and refinish it), I learned how to use power tools to do repairs in the house, and I create blog posts and videos on my YouTube channel to inspire others. Here are some projects you may be interested in for your own house:
Decorate Your House
- How to Paint a Dresser
- What is the Best Paint for Furniture?
- See my Room Makeover Project Gallery
- BEFORE & AFTER: French Provincial Vanity Makeover
Improve Your House
- How to Paint an Old Tub or Shower (Why we green and blue tubs so popular?!)
- How to Remove a Toilet
- How to Install a Toilet -- Don’t Pay for Plumbers
- How to Fix Big Holes in Drywall
Maintain Your House
- DIY vs. Professional: Should You DIY or Hire a Contractor?
- How to Add Curb Appeal
- How to Use a Pressure Washer to Deep Clean Your Exterior
BONUS QUESTION #2: What if the Water Pipes Break?
Did you know that if a waste pipe or water supply pipe breaks on your property, you are fully responsible for it? That’s right. Your homeowner’s insurance and your water company will not pay for the repairs. And these repairs can cost you upwards of $10,000. There is insurance that can cover these repairs if they are needed, but that’s something you have to purchase out of pocket. It’s only $60-$100 per year, but most people have never heard of it. I am enrolled in carpentry classes at my local community college and this is just one of several surprising facts I learned. Read the other 20 surprising things I learned in carpentry class that will help you save money and be safer when doing projects in your new house.
Download the 30 Questions Checklist
Enter your name and email below to download a handy first time home checklist that I’ve put together for you with all these questions and the other 20 more questions that you should ask before you buy a house. Take it with you along to any homes you’re checking out, including open houses! Good luck with buying a home!!
What to Buy For Your New Home
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There are a few things that you should put on your list of things to buy, as well.
Congrats on your homebuying journey! If you have any questions about what to ask before buying a home, leave your comment below!
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Thrift Diving inspires women to decorate, improve, and maintain their home themselves...using paint, power tools, and thrift stores! Use these 5 printables, checklists, and ebooks to get started!