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Questions to ask a Realtor?  RSS feed

 
Tom Kozak
Posts: 89
Location: Sudbury ON, Canada
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Hi All

My wife and I are considering buying a homestead and have made an appointment with a local real estate agent to visit a potential property. What questions should we have prepared in advance to ask her? What should I be looking for?

thanks
TomK
 
Derek Brewer
Posts: 113
Location: Hatfield, PA
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Tom Kozak wrote:Hi All

My wife and I are considering buying a homestead and have made an appointment with a local real estate agent to visit a potential property. What questions should we have prepared in advance to ask her? What should I be looking for?

thanks
TomK


  • Can I afford to live here? Bar none the most important question. Take stock of your finances, run the numbers, and use an online mortgage calculator to figure out your monthly payments ahead of time. Make sure to include taxes and homeowners insurance. Then add enough to cover basic maintenance and an emergency fund. Yes, you can play with how much you put down, but avoid any adjustable rate loans if you can. Rates are really low right now, and it's a good time to lock in for the long haul, imho.
  • What businesses are around here? Heavy industry or ag? (Google earth is good for this, but you also want to gauge how well the realtor knows the area)
  • Do you have any experience with homestead properties? If so, show me some samples of ones that you've sold.
  • Try to figure out if the realtor "gets" you and your wife. Homesteaders aren't normal clients for most realtors, so making sure that they will look for your requirements instead of what they're used to is key.
  • How are the schools? (even if you're planning on homeschooling, it's good to take advantage of after-school programs and such. Unless you're not planning on kids.)
  • Is this a good area (for resale, yes, even if you're not planning on it you want to be in an area where you can recoup your losses in a worst case scenario)
  • What's the community like? Will I enjoy living here and does it suit my lifestyle?
  • What was the land used for in the past?
  • Water/Mineral/air rights?
  • Any rights of way or easements that they are aware of?
  • Where are the borders, is there a plot plan available?
  • What comes with the land? House? wood stove? That skiddable shed? Make sure it's in writing.
  • Is there water on the land? Spring, well, stream... what and where?
  • Take note of the contours and walk the land. All or as much of it as possible.
  • Use the NRCS to get a soil map of the area and make sure it will do what you want.


  • Also, I would brainstorm a list of your dream site ahead of time and bring it to the meeting, along with any examples you find. It really helps to dial the realtor in to what you're looking for and also helps to make sure you and your wife are on the same page.

    There are literally a hundred more questions that I've been asking, but we're a bit further along in the process. The above are some that we started with.
    Good luck!
     
    John Wolfram
    Posts: 652
    Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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    Having made offers on a couple properties of raw land, my experience has been the only question worth asking a realtor is:
    You look busy, do you mind if I continue to look around after you leave?

    Ask this question once the realtor starts to get antsy (about the 15 minute mark, typically), and then spend an hour or two looking around for yourself. If possible, meet one of the neighbors too.
     
    Chadwick Holmes
    Posts: 618
    Location: Volant, PA
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    Depending on your state, get a lawyer to research the oil and mineral rights both surface and subsurface......they might have been sold 100 yrs ago, and just because the seller says they don't retain the rights doesn't mean you will receive the rights.

    All mining companies are required to leave you is a radius from your dwelling and an access, I'd hate to have your work all mined up after yrs of building up!
     
    Cristo Balete
    Posts: 428
    Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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    Everything mentioned above that you can write down. Take very thorough notes with photographs so your head won't be spinning when you try to remember all the different places you've seen. Start a binder and keep all the flyers and documents available for a piece of property they give you, plus your notes, plus photos, plus any research you do.

    This is usually done once you've decided to make an offer, but try to stay objective. Ask if there are any buried tanks, have the water tested for quality and gallons per minute. Don't assume more acreage is better. You'll need to fence it at some point, and it could be a big expense. If it's on a hillside look for evidence of slides, or hire a soils engineer to look at it for you. If it hasn't been surveyed recently you need to have that done to be absolutely sure where the boundaries are, and that no buildings are on the wrong side of the property lines.

    A long dirt road into a beautiful piece of property can become a struggle in the winter. Some people end up leaving their cars out at the main road (risk of vandalism) and having to cart things back and forth through slop and snow and ice. Propane tanks are heavy and hard to haul if you don't have a full-sized vehicle.

    Propane delivery trucks, gravel trucks, fire trucks and septic tank trucks won't cross bridges that aren't up to code. The fire department might require you to install a very expensive up-to-code bridge, or roadway that fire trucks can pass each other on.

    I am not a fan of sharing a driveway or a road with a group of people, or having an easement for someone else's driveway. It becomes a huge expense for maintenance. Iff 3 of them want to do it one way, and two want another, it becomes a war among neighbors. Some people use the road way more than others, and you can see that you are having to pay for their use of it. Other people come and go at all hours, teenagers and fast drivers kick up dust going fast, etc.

    The realtor wants to sell it so double check what they've told you. You need to do your own homework about the surrounding area, what the county or state has planned. I think most online realty sites now show crime statistics. If there's a lot of calls for domestic violence or alcohol related incidents, or lots of rental units instead of owner occupied dwellings, it might not be safe.

     
    Peter Ellis
    Posts: 1432
    Location: Central New Jersey
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    Some more things to have in mind when you are looking for real estate.

    The GIS system - while not every place in the US is covered, an amazing amount of it is. You can pull up current owner, previous sale prices, taxes, zoning, aerial photos. Useful stuff. Has elevation lines as well.

    Check the national superfund listings. I had a line on 70 acres in southern Michigan for under $80,000. But the parcel across the street turned out to be a superfund site. Dug deeper and both sides of the road belonged to the same series of companies. Considering one of the owners of one of the past companies had gone to prison for the way they had mishandled hazardous substances on the property.

    Make sure to check the zoning. It may be on the GSI details, which would make things easy. Or it may take a call to the town offices to check with them. But you want to check. You do not want to rely on the realtor to give you that information.

    When you think about what you want to do on the property, think about what regulations may cover what you want to do. Do you want to sell produce from the property? Are you allowed to do that? What about livestock? Raising, selling, slaughter? Do you want to run classes? Can you have students stay on your property in tents? And so on.

    Wetlands designations. There can be serious restrictions on what you can do with designated wetlands areas. If someone can give some guidance on how to find good information on wetlands I would appreciate it, my research has not been very successful in finding good data.
     
    Matu Collins
    Posts: 1976
    Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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    Lots of great questions above! I would add "What farms are nearby and what do they produce?" This will help you determine what sort of pollution you are likely to encounter. I thought it was horrible when a neighboring farmer sprayed roundup, fungicide and insecticide next to my property on a windy day with the wind blowing in my direction. Then I heard about organic germs having spray planes dropping poison from the sky over them and the surroundng area. Uck.
     
    Kate Muller
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    Location: New Hampshire
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    Peter Ellis wrote:Some more things to have in mind when you are looking for real estate.

    The GIS system - while not every place in the US is covered, an amazing amount of it is. You can pull up current owner, previous sale prices, taxes, zoning, aerial photos. Useful stuff. Has elevation lines as well.

    Check the national superfund listings. I had a line on 70 acres in southern Michigan for under $80,000. But the parcel across the street turned out to be a superfund site. Dug deeper and both sides of the road belonged to the same series of companies. Considering one of the owners of one of the past companies had gone to prison for the way they had mishandled hazardous substances on the property.

    Make sure to check the zoning. It may be on the GSI details, which would make things easy. Or it may take a call to the town offices to check with them. But you want to check. You do not want to rely on the realtor to give you that information.

    When you think about what you want to do on the property, think about what regulations may cover what you want to do. Do you want to sell produce from the property? Are you allowed to do that? What about livestock? Raising, selling, slaughter? Do you want to run classes? Can you have students stay on your property in tents? And so on.

    Wetlands designations. There can be serious restrictions on what you can do with designated wetlands areas. If someone can give some guidance on how to find good information on wetlands I would appreciate it, my research has not been very successful in finding good data.


    This is very good advice. When we bough our place we researched each town and its zoning an permitting requirements. We crossed off entire towns due to the number of permits required to do anything.

    Wetlands can be a huge deal. I found what the state considers wetland by looking at fish and game maps here in NH. Since we were looking for only a couple of acres I didn't want any wetlands to restrict what I could do with the land.

    Check for underground pipelines and other utilities. Also make sure no one is planning to try and put pipelines or power lines through it. My aunt is battling a proposed pipeline through her 8 acres. The first proposal had it going through her passive solar home that she and my uncle built in the 1980's.

    Find out if a perk test has been done. Some places require a septic and still consider grey water systems illegal.

    Check for gun ranges and quarries in the area. They both make lots noise and you shouldn't buy near one if you don't want to hear gun fire or blasting.

    If the place has a well make sure you get it tested as a condition of the sale. Finding out your water is full of radon, arsenic, and other fun stuff can make it expensive to make it safe to drink. This is a big one in NH since we have so much granite that naturally produces arsenic and radon.



     
    Rick English
    pollinator
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    Location: Central Pennsylvania, USA
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    I have bought 4 homes, and sold three. I have dealt with lots of realtors, and my biggest tip is do not trust what any of them say. Even if it is a close friend. If you assume they are lying to you, and try to get answers to all questions yourself, you will be fine

    If a someone is looking to sell a property without a realtor (for sale by owner), do not get a realtor involved. A good real estate lawyer is all you need to make the process go smoothly.

    Every now and again you will come across an honest seller. The realtors conspire to keep you from meeting the seller before the closing date. I would try to force a meeting with the seller of any property, especially if they have lived there a long time. Definitely try to meet the neighbors. Use Google maps to see what the neighborhood and surrounding area is actually like.

    Use all your senses when you visit the property, look, listen smell and feel everything. If somebody is trying to rush you out of a place on the property, look harder at that place. Even honest people start to push to sell a house.

    There is no perfect property, but being aware of as much of the details about the property makes for a better experience for you. There is never a rush to buy a property, it is always better to feel good about it before you take the leap and buy it.

     
    John Polk
    steward
    Posts: 8019
    Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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    Not a question for the realtor, but something worth looking into:

    Every county has its own Assessor's office (the guy who assigns property values and taxes on the property).
    These records are public. You can usually access these online.

    Through these records, you can see the property taxes, assessed values, sales history, etc.
    You can also do this for any house in the neighborhood.
    Checking neighboring homes gives a good feel for the neighborhood.

    I recently bought a house, and my diligent searches of this Assessor's info showed that very few of the homes had sold in the past dozen years. These were older homes, and most owners were the children of the previous owners. Almost all of these homes were occupied by the owners, rather than renters. (A high percentage of renters shows instability in a neighborhood.)

    The neighborhood is an old one. Almost every home was built between 1900 and 1920. Most families there have been there for over 40 years. Most homes & yards are well maintained. To me, this shows that there is stability to the neighborhood. It is not likely to deteriorate in the near future. That makes me feel confident in my investment. (Plus, I bought it for 67% of market value...the 90+ year old passed away, and his heirs have their own homes.)
     
    John Wolfram
    Posts: 652
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    John Polk wrote:Not a question for the realtor, but something worth looking into:
    Every county has its own Assessor's office (the guy who assigns property values and taxes on the property).
    These records are public. You can usually access these online.

    The assessor is definitely a great resource. Another good one (often located in the same building) is the county recorder who can help you find the legal description of the land. The last piece of property I put an offer on was listed as being 20 acres at $3k an acre. That's a very reasonable price around me, but a trip to the recorder's office showed that 4 to 5 acres of the property was part of 200 foot wide river. Knowing that, I made an offer based on the actual land area rather than the advertised 20 acres. Ultimately, I didn't get the property since another person (who probably didn't bother to check the actual size) paid the full price.
     
    matt hogan
    Posts: 71
    Location: Tennesse, an hour west of Nashville, zone 7
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    I like Paul's sneaky way of finding out about pesticide usage on agricultural land: "How do I know the place isn't full of weeds?"

    Also, you might want to check for internet access. Satellite internet is expensive.
     
    Joe Ruben
    Posts: 27
    Location: Southern Colorado 6200 ft elevation, 20" annual precip, zone 6a/5b
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    People here have given some good advice! I'm afraid some seems a touch cynical, imo.

    Look up and understand the meaning of the term "due diligence". This is the buyer's responsibility, often overlooked by the inexperienced buyer, or imagined to be someone else's responsibility.

    Make sure that legal access to the property is a recorded fact! You may have to hire a surveyor to find out for sure. Don't think that a realtor will know. Realtors usually relay information given to them by sellers. Sellers often don't know, have forgotten, or are lying to get the property sold fast. When it comes to land, my experience is that many seller's do not know where their true boundaries are located, especially if the land has much slope. I've seen several instances where the sellers had never seen the land!

    Find out whether your area of choice uses title insurance issued by a title insurance company or whether the local law and custom is to use an attorney to verify an abstract of title ( the history of the ownership of the property in question ) Depending on your location, a title company may or may not insure access.

    Law and custom vary widely in the US and I realize you are not in the US. My experience is in the US.

    Real estate brokers are incredibly like the rest of the population: bad and good. You get to imagine the ratio! Remember to consider the meaning of "cynicism" when you are deciding!

    Everything associated with real property is expensive! Be prepared to spend and learn.

    I'm not now a real estate broker. I had a license for a few years about fifteen years ago. I have been involved in buying/selling/renovating/building for more than thirty years.

    Be careful! Be positive! Work to find a realtor who actually understands your motivations. Such a person is very likely to be found out there, but it's up to you to find them.
     
    Peter Ellis
    Posts: 1432
    Location: Central New Jersey
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    Joe, you don't sound all that cynical to this former title reader and residential real estate appraiser
    We had one closer catch someone trying to sell the same property twice in one day. If the same title insurance rep had not shown up at both closings, both transactions might have gone through and then it would have been years of court to straighten it out!

    I have seen multiple properties that look promising right up to the descriptions of access. Easement, not my favorite word. Seasonal road not my favorite phrase. Property only accessible by forest service two track, not my thing.
     
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