Retirement has always seemed to be a distant term. Then all of a sudden, it is not so distant. Well, that time of life for us is here. Because we want to downsize, we are looking to make an offer on a small Brooklyn home in a quiet area. I really like it and have imagined us living there with our belongings thoughtfully placed inside. There are many things we must take care of and consider before we can make an offer and move. To feel confident that we are making the right move on that small Brooklyn home we must be well informed.
7 questions we will ask before we make an offer on that home
- What is the property worth in today’s market?
Charles can’t tell us how much we should make an offer for because that would be unethical. So we will investigate what we want to know about comparable sales instead of asking directly how much the home is worth. Charles will load us up with plenty of comps.
Comparable sales, or comps, list prices of nearby homes that have been sold recently. These homes are similar to the small Brooklyn home we are looking at. Comps list high and low ranges for the home we like also.
Charles can tell us how long homes in the area are staying on the market and how much of the asking price sellers are getting. This information will tell us how hot the market is, what the Brooklyn home we like is worth in today’s market and how much we should make an offer for.
We need to know how long the small home has been on the market. If it’s been on the market for months with hardly any offers, that could mean the market is slow or this Brooklyn home could be overpriced.
- Is the seller flexible on their asking price?
We can choose to speak directly with the seller’s agent or have Charles ask this question. To make an offer to the sellers that is really low could be an insult and run the risk of us missing out on this home we like so well. Charles has advised that we ask the seller’s agent how firm they are on the price. If we do decide to talk with the seller’s agent ourselves, we will ask, “How flexible are they on the price?” instead of, “How much less will they take?” Asking in these terms will allow us to assess the situation without offending the seller.
The sellers may or may not even be willing to negotiate. But, if they were, and if our strategy were to make low offers, Charles told us we would need to plan to make an offer on several different homes before we would find a seller who would want to negotiate.
“Is the seller willing to help with the closing costs?” This question kind of goes hand-in-hand with, “Is the seller flexible on their asking price?” It’s okay to ask this question, too. Even if the answer is “No,” you will never know unless you ask.
This question is usually answered with a “Yes,” on foreclosed homes though. With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it is common to have sellers help with closing costs. They want to sell their properties especially when they have equity in their property.
- What is wrong with this house?
Just because a home is listed as “in perfect condition” doesn’t mean it is. The home we want to make an offer on looks like it is in mint condition. However, knowing how badly today’s sellers want to move their properties and that many today are not disclosing any real problems, we must ask directly, “What is wrong with this house?”
Charles recommends that we remind the sellers that if there are any problems with the home, the problems will be discovered when the home inspection takes place. He also said we should encourage the sellers to just get it out in the open to avoid wasting each others’ time.
Charles also told us that if the sellers’ agent recommended a home inspection before putting the home on the market, we should ask to read the report.
The State of New York mandates disclosure forms in which sellers have to reveal any issues or problems with the house. Disclosures provide great information and can even start a dialogue with the seller. Read about New York disclosure obligation here: Selling A New York Home: What Are My Disclosure Obligations?
- Is this home in a flood plain?
We don’t think the Brooklyn home we are interested in is in a flood plain, but we still plan to ask this question. If this home is in a flood plain, we’ll have to budget for and pay for flood insurance, which will affect our cost of living in the house.
We can check with The Federal Emergency Management Agency. The agency posts online maps that show if a home is in a flood plain, and the maps are free to access. If we want to, we can double-check with the county and talk with Charles about this, too.
If we do discover that this home is in a flood plain, Charles told us we should ask to see the seller’s flood insurance bills. We need to know what type of flood plain the house is in and how much flood insurance will cost. Some ratings show higher risks than others and therefore, the flood insurance costs are higher.
If we find out that the house is in a flood plain and how much flood insurance will cost, we can then determine whether or not we can afford these additional costs. We can also decide whether or not we are still in love with this little Brooklyn home.
- Will the lender allow a short sale?
First, what’s a short sale? Charles told us a short sale means the bank will allow the home to be sold for less than what is left on the mortgage. But, a short sale on this home or any home won’t happen if the seller’s bank won’t give its consent.
Sellers sometimes list their properties as short sales without talking with their lenders first. Even if a buyer and the seller were to agree on a price, if the bank won’t give its consent, there won’t be a closing. A seller must find out whether or not their financials meet the lender’s criteria for short sales before listing their property as a short sale.
That’s why we will ask if the lender agreed to allow the home to be sold for less than what is left on the mortgage if it is listed as a short sale. We would dig a little deeper and also ask, “What is the bank’s reason for giving permission for a short sale?” Then we can decide if the reason (divorce, loss of income or a job transfer) sounds reasonable. If you ever wonder about banks granting short sale requests for any reason, just ask.
- Are there any foreclosures for sale in the area near this Brooklyn home?
Sellers and their agents hate this question. Foreclosures usually cost less, so we would have to figure this into our buying decision and the offer we make on this house.
We’ll ask if there are other houses for sale in the neighborhood, and we’ll ask if any of these sales are foreclosures. Foreclosures encourage price competition, and we could make an offer for less on this Brooklyn home.
- Do you have the paperwork for the mechanical systems, hardwood flooring, etc.?
This is one of those questions not many even think about. Thanks to Charles, we will ask it!
For example, this house has air conditioning. If the seller replaced the air conditioner or happened to replace it shortly before they put it on the market, it would be great to have the paperwork. Simply put, if the unit malfunctioned after buying the home, we could use the documentation for the warranty. Warranties on the mechanical systems are great if and when a unit malfunctions. We don’t want to pay out of pocket if we don’t have to, right?
The Brooklyn home we are interested in has hardwood flooring in the kitchen and dining area. It would be nice to have the paperwork on the hardwood. With paperwork in hand, we could get an exact match if we wanted to install hardwood flooring in the living room or bedrooms.
We will make an offer on this Brooklyn home with confidence. With over 30 years of experience marketing Brooklyn homes, we know Charles is the real estate agent for us. Call him, Charles D’Alessandro, your Brooklyn real estate agent with Fillmore Real Estate at (718) 253-9600 ext. 206 or email [email protected] today.