What you should ask when buying a home

HOUSTON – Ben and Andie Ten Have are shopping for a new home.

They need to find one because they are quickly being squeezed out of their current home by a lack of space.

Their family is quickly expanding. Andie gave birth to her son, Ford, seven months ago.

“Cramped is a good word to describe it. We are just outgrowing this place pretty fast,” Andie said.

“We are really crammed into the house right now. The kids' toys are all over the place. We need a lot more room,” Ben said.

The Ten Haves are just starting their house search in the Spring Shadows neighborhood and they know what they want.

They're looking for four to five bedrooms, definitely want an updated, new-looking home and are absolutely stressed out about the whole process.

“It’s a huge life decision for us. So it is very stressful. I mean, let’s face it, it’s the biggest financial decision we’ll make. My kids' futures are actually at stake in whatever decision we make right now,” Ben said while taking a big, deep breath.

Of course, Andie and Ben have a ton of important questions to ask at every showing they attend.

“I was wondering how old this water heater is,” Ben asks an agent.

“Am I going to have to worry about this AC system breaking down anytime soon?” Andie asks.

“I think it is critical to ask the right questions during this process,” top-selling real estate agent Alex McCauley, with Keller Williams Memorial, said.

So now, with help from McCauley, an agent who sold more than $10 million worth of homes last year, and Michael Bossart, broker with Keller Williams Memorial, who manages more than 700 agents, we are about to show you five critical questions you need to ask before you buy your next home.

1. Has this house ever flooded and is it located in a flood plain?

“It is so important to ask that question. Did it flood during Harvey, has it ever flooded. Is it located in a flood zone. Do I need flood insurance in this area? These are questions you have to ask at this time in Houston,” Bossart said.

2. How old are the major systems in this house and am I going to have to replace any of them anytime soon?

“Ask: 'How old is the roof? The air conditioning system? The water heater? Is the foundation in good shape? Have the windows been recently replaced and how old are the windows?' These are critical to your decision and could cost you tens of thousands of dollars more depending on the answer,” Bossart said.

3. What makes this house a good investment? I don’t want to lose big money on it when I have to sell it.

“Am I going to get appreciation in this particular area? Are the schools considered strong enough to help this place appreciate in value. Real estate agents can’t promise future appreciation but we certainly know the trends in different areas,” Bossart said.

4. Is this neighborhood safe for my family?

“What you are really looking for is the crime rate. Are there sex offenders living close by? Is the crime rate, break-ins, car burglaries, violent crimes going up or down in this area?” Bossart stressed those are questions you want to ask.

5. What will life on this street be like for us? What is my drive time to work? What are my neighbors like as people? What school will my kid go to?

“For example, your neighbor’s kid across the street may be going to one school that’s fantastic, but your street is zoned for a completely different school. It’s imperative that you research this before you fall in love with that house,” Bossart said.

As for Andie and Ben, they are still hot on the trail, looking for their next home. They are shopping for what will become their future.

“We are just looking for a good place for our kids to grow up,” Andie said while grabbing Ben’s hand.

Here's a list of five more important questions for homebuyers to ask:

  • What are the pros and cons of this particular house?
  • What type of real estate market are we in right now, buyer’s market or seller’s market?
  • What areas have appreciated in value the most over the last few years?
  • Does my real estate agent have a team of professionals with her to help us succeed in finding the perfect home for us?
  • In selling my current home, how can I get the best price. Do I need to have it professionally staged? Do I need to upgrade rooms, the kitchen, the baths?