House Hunting with Visual Impairment: Questions to Ask the Seller
I suggest that you develop a checklist with important questions to ask the seller or the seller’s real estate agent. This list will help you make a wiser investment and avoid unnecessary expenses in the future. Some of these questions you will want your realtor or sighted friend to point out at each house you consider. For example, are there signs of a leaky roof? Are the floors marred or carpet worn? What colors are the walls? What kind of window treatments are there? Do the windows open and close easily and are they easy to clean. Do they lock safely? Are they energy efficient? If the walls are covered in wallpaper and you hate wallpaper, removing it and painting can get costly. Window treatments and flooring are also big expenses.
- When was the house built?
- How many owners have there been?
- How much are the annual property taxes and home insurance?
- How much do the electric or gas bills usually run?
- How old is the roof? The windows? The flooring? The heating and air conditioning system?
- What appliances that stay with the house?
- Are there any signs that the roof or skylight has ever leaked?
- Does the house look like it has been well taken care of? Is it clean?
- Are there signs that the property floods or has standing water when it rains?
- Are there signs of a shifting foundation?
- Ask to see documentation for pest control, especially termite treatments or get the name of the service company used by the current home owner
- Ask to see heating and air conditioning maintenance receipts or get the name of the service company.
- Ask to see the property appraisal. An appraisal will show if the house is over priced. It will give comparative prices of houses recently sold in the area. It will also answer some of the questions listed above.
- Ask to see documentation for a clear title.
Every seller may not have the answers to all of these questions, but the more information you gather the fewer the surprises later on. As a person with no vision, I have no way of detecting signs that the roof is leaking or that the yard has standing water when it rains. I can’t see if termites are invading a bathroom through a foundation that’s been unprotected. And I don’t want these worries after I buy the house. If you really like a house but some of the appliances and the heating and air conditioning system are several years old, ask the seller to purchase new home owner’s insurance for you.
Twenty years ago I learned this lesson. All the systems in the house I was buying passed inspection, but three weeks after I moved in the heating and air conditioning system went out. I later learned that the system had been serviced several times a few months before I purchased the house. Had I asked to see records or purchased new home owners insurance for a year, I might have saved myself $2,500!