When people buy a car, they almost always ask a ton of questions. For example, how hard was it driven, and what kind of miles, highway or town? How often was it serviced? Does it use any oil? And on and on till they are satisfied. Oddly, though, home buyers don’t ask that many questions about a house that costs many times what a luxury car does. But they should. In fact, it is imperative because the questions can keep you from getting gouged on the price and getting stuck with major repair bills down the road. Here, then, are 6 questions to ask before buying a house in Los Angeles.
1. Have there been any major water leaks?
This is a question you should ask before buying a house in Los Angeles not because the actual leak or pipe break is a big deal – actually it’s a pretty easy fix – but to find out the likelihood of any hidden water damage. The truth of the matter is that most houses have some maintenance issues.
Your chief areas of concern here will be exposed pipes in basements with no or inadequate heat, in crawl spaces, and in exterior walls. A leaking supply line in an exterior wall can leak for years before the evidence is noticeable. And when you have a leak behind the drywall, you may have mold, which is a genuine health hazard and very costly remediation.
Sellers are obligated by law to disclose any problems, but they don’t always do it. If you ask, though, you’ve done your part.
2. How old is the roof?
The purpose of asking this question when you’re buying a house inLos Angeles is to find out how soon you will have to replace the roof. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median cost for replacing an asphalt-shingle roof is around $7,500. That isn’t the kind of money you want to shell out right after buying a house.
The seller may honestly not know old the roof is, so be on the lookout for these telltale signs:
- Grit from shingles accumulating in the guttering
- Bare spots on shingle where the grit has washed or worn away
- Brittle shingles that are cracking and breaking
- More than two layers of shingles
One home maintenance professional states that top-of-the-line asphalt shingles have a functional life of only 24-30 years. So be sure to ask about the age of the roof.
3. What is your reason for selling?
People move and sell their house for all kinds of reasons, both rational and silly. It’s not that you’re really interested in why they want to sell, but in what you can learn from that and leverage. Basically, if you can get close to a truthful answer, it can give some negotiating power.
If, for example, the seller is moving for a job relocation, she may have to move right away and sell fast. And when you’re buying a house in Los Angeles, this situation puts you in the driver’s seat. The seller very well may be willing to take a little less on the sale price in order to get it over with and move on to the new location. It never hurts to ask, anyway.
4. How long has it been on the market?
Most often, a house stays on the market for a long time because it is priced too high. And the longer it stays on the market, the harder it is to sell. As with the reason for selling, if you discover that the house has been on the market for a while, you may have some negotiating leverage. Even if the price is the result of poor pricing strategy, when a house is on the market for months, potential buyers automatically assume something is wrong with it (other than just price). At the point, the seller will likely be more motivated to sell and at a lower price.
5. What were the previous selling prices?
When you’re buying a house in Los Angeles, you want to ask this question in order to find out a couple of things. First of all, it will tell you whether home values in the area have gone up or down. “Second,” according to experts in this area, “it may help you determine how open the sellers may be to negotiation, and here’s why: if the sellers bought the home at rock bottom, they may be more willing to move down on price since they will still make a reasonable profit. If your sellers purchased the home for close to or more than the asking price, however, they probably won’t be willing to move much.”
And if the seller refuses to answer your question about previous selling prices, you can find out on your own. This information is a matter of public record at places like the county courthouse where deeds are recorded.
6. What is really included in the sale?
People buying a house in Los Angeles often don’t ask this question because they just assume they know. But you really shouldn’t operate on assumptions here. Be sure to ask exactly what is included in the sale and get the answer in writing. Permanently attached fixtures usually stay, but that’s not the case for appliances. You wouldn’t want to move in thinking you had a stove and refrigerator – after selling yours – only to find those spots in the kitchen empty.
These are all important questions to ask when buying a house in Los Angeles, and they can definitely protect you and help you get a better price. Your agent can help you get even more, and sometimes better, answers. Your experienced local agent knows the questions that matter and how to extract the information.