You have fallen in love with a house. It’s a nice neighborhood in the Dallas Metroplex; the price is right. You have your loan pre-qualification in place. Is it time to sign the offer?

Step Back for Just a Moment

Buying a home is an emotional decision. When you find a property that meets your needs and sets your heart racing, it’s only natural to want to move quickly on it. But, there are several questions to ask a real estate agent to save yourself from a hasty decision that could cost you money and cause you heartache.

Keep this checklist handy; when you find a property that you like, consider these important questions to ask a real estate agent. Your agent is your best resource in the transaction, and chances are he or she will already have supplied you with some of the answers. Just take the time to be completely satisfied before you proceed with an offer.

Questions to Ask

  1. What are local comparables, including neighborhood high and low prices for recent sales?
  2. What is the average price per square foot, and how does this house compare?
  3. What other homes are currently for sale in the area? Are there any foreclosures? This will give you a feeling for the area’s stability, and for whether prices are deflated or inflated. It can also help you to evaluate appraisal concerns.
  4. This will give you a feeling for the area’s stability, and for whether prices are deflated or inflated. It can also help you to evaluate appraisal concerns.
  5. How flexible is the seller? Would the seller consider help on closing costs? Your agent can ask these questions of the selling agent, in order to get some idea of the seller’s situation. It may give you some insight, and guide you toward a higher or lower first offer. Be aware that an initial offer that is too low may not be to your advantage. You can ask why the property is on the market; this also may give you some insight into where your initial offer should fall, and into the urgency of the seller.
  6. Are there any known problems with the property? Has there been an inspection, and is the report available? In Texas, a seller disclosure form is required. Ask to see it.
  7. Is the home in a flood plain? Is obtaining insurance a problem? What about costs to insure against tornado, wind, and hail damage? The Dallas area sees some wild weather on occasion, so weather-related damages could be a concern.
  8. Ask about tax assessments and reassessments. Your real estate agent should have basic tax information, but you can also call the county’s central appraisal office to ask pertinent questions. Staff in Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton counties are very helpful, and will be happy to tell you if taxes have trended up or down over the past several years.

Due Diligence

Questions to ask a real estate agent, and the answers you obtain, lead to a more informed decision. But, buying a home involves more than factual information for most people. Spend some additional time in the neighborhood. Visit the street at different times of day, or plan a trip over the weekend. Try to meet some of the neighbors. See if people spend time out of doors, or in a nearby park. If you have children in school, visit the schools they will attend. Scout the area for shopping, restaurants, gas stations, and churches.

TV personality Barbara Corcoran, who has made a fortune in real estate, advises that would-be buyers ask to see previous monthly utility bills, inquire about sanitation charges, trash pickup schedules and recycling requirements, and check on local high school SAT scores. Higher scores mean higher real estate values, she notes.