Home Buying in 10591>Question Details

TTfamily, Home Buyer in Tarrytown, NY

What questions should I ask when looking at a home that is for sale by owner?

Asked by TTfamily, Tarrytown, NY Wed Jun 3, 2009

What questions should I ask or what should I be looking for in particular when looking at a home that is for sale by owner?

Help the community by answering this question:


"Most For Sale By Owner's in today's market are listed by themselves because an agent will not take the listing."

Anyone that believes that comment has any validity is a fool IMHO....

TTfamily.....Ask the exact same questions you would/should be asking if the Home is Listed with an Agent.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 18, 2009
While all the answers are good, foremost you should get the property appraised by a professional certified appraiser. As one, I see too many buyers overpaying for a For Sale By Owner home because they are under the misconception that they are getting a bargain. Protect yourself. http://www.mgmvaluations.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Oct 18, 2009
You have already had some good advice. You should note that New York is a "Buyer beware State". Property disclosure forms are not mandatory in NY, but if one is not filled out you are entitled to a $500 credit at closing. Even if one is filled out, once you have an acccepted offer you definitely should have an engineer inspection. However, even before you get to this point you should independently verify information given to you by the FSBO such as taxes, do they have STAR, is the house overassessed, are all the Certifiates in place for the house and additions. You can ask these questions and many more but since this purchase will be the most valuable that you are probably making to this point in your life, you or an expert should be verifying this information. You SHOULD NOT rely on the answers of the homeowner who is interested in selling their home first and foremost. Finally, you should be researching what other similar properties have sold in the area so you can make a proper offer.

I hope this helps you and good luck. If you do wish to have further advice or assistance, please feel free to reach out to me.

Steve Geiger
Associate Broker
Houlihan Lawrence, Inc.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jul 24, 2009
Very good answers from all below. You should have an agent representing you. Many FSBOs (though not all) will pay a share of the commission if a Realtor brings a buyer.

However, having said that, if you (or someone reading this) decide to ignore that advice, there are various books on the market about buying homes and selling FSBO. (Not sure how many there might be on buying from a FSBO, but you can piece together what you want to know from those.)

And you want to negotiate, and you want to uncover any problems as well as the seller's "pain." So, do some research and find out when the seller bought the house and what he/she paid for it. Usually, your city or county has that information available online. It won't tell you certain things, like whether the owner's refinanced, but it would be helpful to know whether that $500,000 house was bought 5 years ago for $425,000 (not much room for flexibility) or 20 years ago for $150,000.

Ask the owner how he/she decided on a price. Maybe they had a Realtor run comps recently. Ask to see them. Or maybe that's just what they think the house is worth. (Not so good.) Or maybe that's what a neighbor's house sold for 3 years ago...at the peak of th emarket. (Not so good.)

Ask the owner how long he/she has been trying to sell the house. There's an inverse bell curve of motivation. Something that's been on the market for just a few days may or may not reflect strong motivation. But after a month or two, motivation goes up. On the other hand, if it's been on the market for 8-10 months, that tells you that the price is too high and thus the seller either isn't motivated or else doesn't have the flexibility to lower the price.

And ask the owner what he/she will do if the house doesn't sell. That helps the owner feel the "pain."

Once you've determined (through comps) what the property is worth, don't ask whether the price is flexible. Ask how flexible the price is. Follow up with "Is that the best you can do?" These are all very basic negotiating tips. For some really good information on negotiating, look up any books by Roger Dawson.

Note that I haven't suggested any questions along the lines of: "What repairs are needed?" Or "when was the roof replaced?" Sure, you can ask them, but you may not get accurate answers. So make sure that there's a home inspection contingency in any contract. Also, make sure that there's a contingency that any contract be reviewed by your lawyer. Nor have I suggested asking about the community, schools, or crime. You can, of course. But, as Reagan said, "Trust but verify." There are plenty of online sites providing information about communities and schools, as well as crime. And certainly call the local police department. Oh, a tip: If you're interested in a property, drive the block around 10 pm Friday and Saturday night. See what it's like then. Even park there for an hour or two.

Bottom line: There are lots of easy ways to get facts and figures on the property. Don't trust the homeowner for that. In your interaction with the homeowner, it's your role to reveal the pain, and to negotiate. Thus, your questions should deal with that function.

Hope that helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 4, 2009
Don Tepper, Real Estate Pro in Fairfax, VA
Most For Sale By Owner's in today's market are listed by themselves because an agent will not take the listing. They are upside down in their property and/or are not willing to price it to today's market value. They are still looking for 2005 prices and think if they sell it themselves, some foolish buyer will buy it for that price.

I agree with the other posters. Get an agent to help you or you may end up making a purchase, in which you thought you could save money by not having agents involved, the most expensive mistake you ever made.

Geoff Rossman
RE/MAX Tropical Sands
(941) 544-3232
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 4, 2009
This is one of, if not THE most expensive purchases in one's lifetime. I would hire an exclusive buyers agent & ask the seller to pay half of the Realtor fees so that you can have a professional facilitating the transaction and representing YOUR best interest: advocating for you, researching comparable home values and asking all the right questions (lead paint, oil tank isues, permits, c/o's, mold testing..etc) ?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jun 4, 2009
Ask the seller if he/she is willing to pay half the normal Realtor fees so that you can have one agent facilitating the transaction and representing YOUR best interest. Otherwise, how will you ever know you're getting a good deal if you can't have a professional advocating for you, researching comparable home values and asking all the right questions?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jun 3, 2009
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