Are you ready to buy your first home? Congratulations! You are about to embark on an exciting journey. Along the way, though, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Before you get started, we recommend that you compile a list of questions you should ask your realtor.

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Below we help you understand the top questions every first-time homebuyer should ask to help you have a good understanding of the home buying process and to help you make the right investment.

WHAT’S THE HOME’S HISTORY?

What you really want to know is how long the house has been on the market. But you also want to know how many owners the home has had and how often the owners sell it. Knowing a home’s history can give you an idea of what to expect. If the owners changed frequently, there may be something wrong with the house or the area. If the house has been on the market for a long time, there could be a good reason for it. The answer to ‘what’s the home’s history’ may lead to many more questions that will help you make a decision.

WHAT’S THE AVERAGE VALUE OF HOMES IN THE AREA?

If you decide to make an offer on the home, you’ll need the other homes in the area to support its value. When you ask about the average value of the homes in the area, what you really want to know is if there have been a lot of foreclosures. If there have been many foreclosures, these could be the comparable sales the appraiser uses, which will bring the value of your potential home down. If this is the case, you may not get the financing you need for the home.

IS THERE AN ASSOCIATION?

Even if you buy a single-family home, there may be a homeowner’s association. This means that you might not be able to make major changes to your home without getting the approval of the association. It also means you’ll be restricted to certain types of fences, certain amenities on the exterior of your home (pools for example), or even the type of pet you can have. If there is an association, ask to read the bylaws before you make a decision on the home. Knowing what the association allows and doesn’t allow can help you make a decision.

WILL I GET MY EARNEST MONEY BACK?

Every purchase contract has different ways that buyers can get their earnest money back. Aside from adding in contingencies into the contract, some contracts allow a specific time period that the buyer can get their money back. You want to know all of the details of the contract (and go over them with an attorney) before you make a decision. If you won’t get your earnest money back, you may want to think twice about your offer.

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HOW MUCH ARE THE REAL ESTATE TAXES?

You can’t escape real estate taxes, so you’ll want to know them well. The tax rates can vary from county to county or even between neighborhoods. If you find that one area’s taxes are too high, check out others nearby that may have lower assessed values, which results in lower taxes. Real estate taxes can cost thousands of dollars per year and they have the potential to increase often, so make sure you know the taxes well and that you can afford them alongside your mortgage payment.

WHAT’S THE AREA LIKE?

If you have children, you’ll want to pay close attention to the schools in the area. But you’ll also want to know about things like local shopping centers, churches, and recreational activities. A good real estate agent should know the area well and be able to tell you a lot about it. Don’t focus on what you want in a neighborhood right now only; make sure you focus on the future too. How do you see your family changing? Is this home in a child-friendly area or will you need to move as soon as you have children? These are things you’ll want to keep in mind as you look for a home.

WHAT DOES THE HOME INCLUDE?

Sellers don’t have to leave everything that you see in the home when you first view it. They have the right to take their belongings. But you also have the right to know what they are taking/leaving. Ask the realtor if the seller is leaving the window treatments, appliances, any furniture, or anything else you see in the home that you would like to stay. It’s fair to assume that anything that isn’t a permanent fixture in the home won’t be there when you move in, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Don’t be afraid to ask your realtor as many questions as you want. This is your first home purchase and you deserve to have all of the answers so that you make a good decision.