8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Putting in an Offer on a House

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated January 21, 2022
The exterior of a Cape Cod style house
Photo: KenWiedemann / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Don’t shy away from asking yourself the tough questions about putting in an offer 

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Buying a house is a big deal, and, of course, you're asking yourself all kinds of questions related to the potential new house, moving, and everything in between. To avoid losing sleep over the endless possibilities a new house may bring, focus on addressing the most important questions about homeownership. They’ll put you on the right path to find the perfect house and let you get back to the fun part of house hunting—scrolling through home photos. 

1. Am I Financially Ready to Buy a House?

After inspecting hundreds of dreamy real estate photos and estimating mortgage payments, you might feel ready to buy a house. But what does the reality of your finances say? Before you take on a home loan, you’ll need to dig into the numbers, especially your total monthly budget. 

Before you consider putting in an offer on a house, ensure you’re financially ready to pay for the following: 

  • Down payment  

  • Home purchase costs, including closing fees and homeowners insurance 

  • Operating costs, including utilities and landscaping 

  • Maintenance costs, including repairs 

  • Potential updates and renovation costs 

  • Homeowners association fees, if applicable 

  • Yearly property taxes

2. How Close Is the House to the Places We Love?

If the closest coffee shop is 15 miles away and your day can’t start without the perfect pour-over brew, you might need to rethink the location. The destination doesn’t matter—family and friends, daycare, the corner bakery with the best donuts, pharmacy, or veterinarian. If your favorite places aren’t close, your quality of life could diminish. 

If you haven’t joined the work-from-home crowd, your commute into the office is also an important factor to consider. Decide how long is too long to ride in a car, bus, or train for work. Plus, if your household enjoys taking frequent trips to a certain area or city, you should also take into account the distance to that special spot.

3. Why Do We Like the Neighborhood? 

Are you gushing over the neighborhood because you’ve seen neighbors walk their dogs together? Or because the street is quiet and tidy, and you love the curb appeal? 

When touring a potential new home, it’s easy to get swept away by a charming street or a seemingly low-traffic neighborhood. That’s why you should get to know the area by researching crime statistics, traffic patterns, school ratings, and community activities. Plus, it never hurts to stop and chat with potential neighbors and let them know you’re looking to buy. You’ll be surprised at how much information you’ll learn about the area.

4. Do the Nearby Schools Offer What We Need? 

If you have or plan to have kids, you would probably list “great school system” as a top home-buying priority. So it’s no wonder that some home sellers list nearby award-winning school systems in the property listing description. But like every child is different, every school is different. You’ll have to research multiple resources to find the schools that meet your family’s needs.  

Start by researching your state’s education department and local school district for reliable statistics about student demographics, test scores, special programs, and capacity. You can even join online neighborhood groups to ask questions about the school district. For more rankings and ratings, check out these resources: 

  • SchoolDigger

  • GreatSchools

  • Niche

  • U.S News & World Report 

5. How Long Will the House Fit Our Family?

A family of three talking to someone on the laptop
Photo: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Your mortgage will likely last for 15 or 30 years, but will you want to live within the same footprint that long? If you can foresee your household growing out of the house—due to limited space or the location—it might not be the right choice for you.

If you want to buy a starter home, that’s fabulous, but keep possibilities like adding children or aging parents to your living situation in mind. If you predict that you’ll have to build extra living space and bathrooms to accommodate a growing family, you should consider searching for a larger house instead.

6. What Items Does the Sale Include?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “everything is negotiable” in real estate. But if you’re unsure whether certain items or features are included in the home sale, you should talk with your real estate agent or the home seller. You can’t assume the appliances, light fixtures, and window coverings will stay.

But if you fall in love with a house that has negotiable amenities, go ahead and make an offer that includes the hot tub or pool table. You never know what could happen. 

7. Do I Need a Home Inspection? 

The short answer is yes. Your loan lender will likely require your potential new home to undergo a home inspection before moving into the final stages of the sale process. 

There are very few times, like an intense bidding war on a relatively new house, that your real estate agent might suggest considering waiving the inspection. But mainly, home inspections protect you from a lot of heartache and hassle down the line. Plus, any issues found in the inspection report can generate negotiation points later. So rest assured, a home inspection is worth the cost

8. Does the Seller’s Timeline Match Ours? 

They say timing is everything, and that’s true in real estate, too. There are plenty of reasons why your timeline won’t match the seller’s move-out dates, so it’s important to learn the other party’s ideal schedule before putting in an offer. 

For example, if you want to move quickly, but the seller wants to take their time finding a new home, you may not be able to secure the move-in date for several months. In some cases, renters may currently live there, and everyone has to wait for their lease to expire before the house can change hands. With a bit of flexibility from each party, you should be able to find the sweet spot on the calendar that makes everyone happy.

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