5 Questions to Ask the Seller When Buying a Property

Buying a piece of property is a big investment. If you have plans for it, you'll need to ask the seller some specific questions before proceeding with the transaction. The ability to make an informed decision will give you peace of mind and confidence in making the purchase of a property.

1. What Type of Zoning Does It Have?

When you're buying a single-family home, the zoning is clearly residential. However, if you're purchasing a property with no structures, you'll need to know if it's zoned for residential use, commercial use or a mix of these. The zoning will specify how you can use the property and what type of structure you can build on it.

2. Where Is the Property Line?

Before you can build on the property, add landscaping, erect a fence or do anything else, you'll need to know where the property line is located. A surveyor can tell you if the seller isn't sure. It may be a good idea to have a survey of the property even if the seller is confident of where the property line is. Variances and easements can affect what you're allowed to do and where you can erect structures.

3. Is There Anything Hazardous on the Property?

Ask about anything hazardous that might require special cleanup on the property. This could include an old fuel tank, farm fertilizer or old solvents or paints. Older homes might have an old fuel tank, and properties zoned for commercial use may have chemicals that require certain disposal procedures.

4. What Is the Property's History?

You may want to know more about the property's history, such as whether or not a violent crime took place there or if it is infamous for some other reason. A property with history may attract tourists or curious people. If you don't want to deal with strangers coming up to your property or snooping around, you might not want to purchase that particular home or piece of land.

5. How Has the Property Been Maintained?

If you're buying a home, it's important to know the maintenance history. You should ask about the age of the roof and whether it's had any leaks. You'll also need to know the age and maintenance history of the mechanical systems, including the heating, air conditioning and ventilation equipment. You may want to know about any problems with the foundation. Make sure to have a structural engineer inspect any structures that are more than 50 years old. 

If you're buying a property in an earthquake zone, have an engineer inspect it regardless of its age. You may also wish to hire specialists to check different components of the home if the seller can't provide a full maintenance history. Consider hiring a plumber, electrician, mason and roofer for specialty inspections. You may also want to have the home and other structures inspected for pests.


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