Unlike an automobile, you can't test drive a home before you purchase it. You have to base your decision on redeeming factors such as layout, condition and much more.

Of course, the seller is obligated to disclose the property's condition, which may alert you to issues such as previous mold, defective water heater or leaky roof. Yet, that still doesn't always paint the entire picture. Here are five questions you should consider asking the seller to gain additional insight about your prospective home before you make a final decision.

1. Why is the seller selling the house?

This question may help you evaluate the "real value" of the property. Is there something about the house the seller does not like? If so, you may be able to adjust the purchase offer accordingly.

2. How much did the seller pay for the home?

In some instances, the answer to this question may help you negotiate a better deal. However, it is important to remember that the purchase price is influenced by several factors, like the current market value and any improvements the seller may have made to the home. The original purchase price might not have anything to do with the current value of the house.

3. What does the seller like most and least about the property?

By asking the seller what he or she likes most and least about the property, you might get some interesting information. In a few cases, what a seller likes the most about a home might actually be something the buyer is looking to avoid. For example, if the seller describes his house as being in a "happening neighborhood," the buyer might consider this a negative factor because the area may be too noisy or busy for his or her taste.

4. Has the seller had any problems with the home in the past?

It is also a good idea to ask the seller if he or she has had any problems with the home while living there. Has the seller had problems with a leakage from the upstairs bathroom in the past? If so, even if the leak has been corrected, the floor and walls around the bathroom might have been damaged. You should check that these items were repaired properly.

5. Are there any nuisances?

Use this question to find out about barking dogs, heavy airplane traffic or even planned changes to the community, such as a planned speed bumps. This may give you insight on why the seller is really moving.

Knowing all you can about a prospective home will help you make a more informed decision and offer. Your real estate professional can be a great resource in helping you get your key questions answered and give you advice on how to evaluate your findings.

Linda Skolnick's "Skolnick's Scoop" appears every other Friday. She is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Riverside in Westport and can be reached by calling 203-246-0088 or by through her website, www.GoAskLinda.com.