A Homebuyer’s Master Checklist

by Mark Wellborn

We have received inquiries from a few readers regarding the types of questions that should be asked when looking at a property to buy. We reached out to W.C. & A.N. Miller agent Pamela Wye to help us compile a list of questions and concerns that first-time homebuyers should keep in mind.

If you go to visit a property, the first thing that you should do is ask for a fact sheet. This will tell you the age of the home/condo, taxes, size of lot (if available), and give the general features/amenities of the property.

Here is a list of questions that should be asked by homebuyers (both first-time and those who have been through the process). Note: Most listings for sale will have disclosure packets that will answer a number of these questions.

  • How long have the sellers owned the property?
  • Have there ever been any structural problems with the roof, walls or floors?
  • Does the home have a history of leaks?
  • Is there a lot of moisture in the basement?
  • Have there been any problems with heating/cooling, plumbing or electrical systems?
  • Has the property had any problems with rodents or insects that might hurt the structural integrity of the home?
  • Has there ever been any exterior damage to the home?
  • Is the property a DC landmark?
  • Has lead-based paint been used in the home?
  • What type of updates will need to be made in the next five or ten years?
  • How far is the property from public transportation?
  • What type of development plans are in the works for the surrounding neighborhood?
  • What are the zoning laws in the area?
  • Is there a lot of undeveloped land in the vicinity? If so, what could be built there?
  • Have home values in the area been rising or declining?

Are we missing any important questions on this list? Let us know in the comments.

See other articles related to: dclofts, condo buying

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_homebuyers_master_checklist/765


  1. Katie said at 12:40 pm on Tuesday April 7, 2009:

    How about…What are the condo/HOA fees?

  1. b said at 1:19 pm on Tuesday April 7, 2009:

    “I plan on having a third part home inspection—will you be willing to make necessary repairs or compensate for the cost of such repairs as detailed in the home inspection report?”

  1. Matt said at 1:27 pm on Tuesday April 7, 2009:

    I am currently looking, so this is very helpful. Thank you!

  1. Sasha said at 11:22 pm on Tuesday April 7, 2009:

    Here’s a few tips to expand upon this list:
    How long have the sellers owned the property?
    -You can find out all of the details of the prior sale using on-line tax records at dc.gov and the other municipal sites in VA and MD, or try to search the property using washingtonpost.com, they have a good tool under their “real estate” tab. As a follow on, ask “why are they selling.”  This helps to gauge seller motivation and is helpful when negotiating.
    # Have there ever been any structural problems with the roof, walls or floors?
    -Look for cracks which might point to foundation problems. Also, sagging door frames (doors don’t open or close w/out dragging) can indicate foundation issues (house is sinking on one side).
    # Does the home have a history of leaks?
    -Look for dark spots on ceiling or under sink, which is an indication of a prior or current leak.
    # Is the property a DC landmark?
    -Means you can only make approved changes to the facade, and usually more expensive (like wooden window frames etc). Also, inquire whether a historical easement has been taken out on the individual property - especially relevant for cute little DC row homes.
    #What type of updates will need to be made in the next five or ten years?
    -For houses, pay special attention to the plumbing.  Make sure it is copper.  Most people know that lead pipe is a no-go, but the plumbing may be galvanized steel, which will corrode and affect your water pressure, or leak and you can expect to have to replace it. 
    # How far is the property from public transportation?
    Check out http://www.hopstop.com - good website for mapping commute times. In general “walking distance to metro” means a mile or less, and that may not be walking distance for you.

  1. Michael Kiefer said at 12:23 pm on Wednesday April 8, 2009:

    One thing buyers overlook much of the time is

    1. Cost of operating a home. Request copies of recent gas, water & electric bills.  Some of the use is related to lifestyle however you can learn quite a bit from reading a few utility bills and gauge your use a bit from seeing what it is currently in the home.

    No matter what home you buy it is good to estimate that you will have about 1% of home value in repair / replacement costs over the course of the 1st year if you are purchasing non-renovated DC home.

    In this market many buyers are looking at bank owned purchases because they can be a very nice opportunity much of the time however bank owned properties tend not to have property disclosures nor know anything about the property, so asking the tough questions poses a problem here.

    The best measures you can take as a buyer are take a flashlight to look across the home and do a visual inspection as you wonder through the home no matter whom the seller is.

    As for the plumbing in a home, if you see anything other than plastic PVC pipe or copper it could be that the home has galvanized plumbing which in most cases should be replaced before moving in.

  1. Benji said at 12:29 pm on Wednesday April 8, 2009:

    Thank you for this list!

  1. Joey said at 4:35 pm on Saturday April 11, 2009:

    One thing we did not know to look for in buying an older home (1923) was to count electrical sockets.  Our agent didn’t mention it either. It wasnt till we moved in that we discovered that all the bedrooms only had one outlet. Of course we would probably have still bought the place but then factoring in the remedial cost for installations in our offer.

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