Buying a property is one of the; if not the biggest financial commitment that many adults make; therefore; there are some important questions worth asking to ensure you have as much information about the property and the surrounding area. You cannot guarantee that estate agents or owners will be 100% honest with their answers, but it’s better to ask rather than not ask!
We’ve listed some questions worth asking below:
What is the area like?
It’s important-to get an understanding of the local area (especially if it is new to you) e.g. schools, shopping centers, crime, neighbours etc. We would also suggest driving or walking around the area to get a better idea of what is available. You can also ask the local shopkeeper; they often interact with the community the most so they will be well placed to give you an honest viewpoint.
Why is the seller moving?
Is it because the house is now too small for them? (this could also be an issue for you in the future if it is) Is it because the location is not central enough? It’s a good idea to ask why the seller is moving as it may trigger some reasons for why the property may not be suitable for you. Furthermore, a motivated seller may be open to accepting a lower offer.
Is there a chain?
A property chain is when the sale or purchase of a property is dependent on the sale/purchase of another property.
If there is a chain, you need to bear in mind that there is an increased risk of someone in the chain pulling out or agreed dates being missed.
If you are in a chain yourself, you may find the seller unwilling to accept your offer because of the risk associated with a chain. Alternatively, a seller may be willing to accept a lower offer if you are chain free as there is less risk of the sale falling through or stalling.
Remember, the longer the chain, the more opportunity there is for a chain break to occur.
When do the sellers have to move out?
This question goes hand in hand with the above. If the owners have already found a new property, a quick sale might be exactly what the seller wants. However, if there is a chain and they still need to find a property, this increases the uncertainty of when the sale may complete.
Knowing when the sellers have to move out will give you an idea of how quickly or slowly you may need to move to complete the purchase.
How long is left on the lease?
This is something you should always ask when buying a leasehold property. Your conveyancers will get all of this information for you later down the line; however, the earlier you have it the better. A short lease may lead to additional future costs when it is time to extend. A short lease can also affect the future value of your property and can lead to difficulties when selling.
How much is the service charge and ground rent?
Another question for those buying a leasehold property and another future cost.
Service Charge is a charge made for maintenance on a property which has been leased.
Ground Rent is rent paid under the terms of a lease by the owner of a building to the owner of the land on which it is built.
It’s important to remember that you have to pay the service charges and ground rent for as long as you own the property. They are definitely two costs that you want to know as early as possible!
How much are the bills/running costs of the house (electricity. Council tax, water etc.)?
The existing tenant/ owner should be able to give you a guide on how much they currently pay for utilities/running the house. Once again, it is good to know these costs beforehand so you can compare the costs to other properties that you view. Remember, you will be responsible for these costs for as long as you own the property
How long has the house been on the market and has it had much interest?
This is a common question to ask an estate agent. It gives you an indication of how desirable the property is and if there are any underlying issues which may be turning buyers off. Zoopla and Rightmove let you know how long a property has been on the market for, it’s always interesting to see if the owners/estate agents match up to what Zoopla and Rightmove say!
A property that has been on the market isn’t necessarily bad, but it Is worth asking and considering why it has been on the market for so long.
An owner that has had their property on the market for a while may be initiated by a low offer.
How long have the previous owners lived there?
There are 2 reasons why you may want to know this.
- If the house has had the same owner for several years, there is an increased chance that any issues with the property may have gone unnoticed.
- If there have been several changes of ownership this could be a tell-tale sign that there is an issue with the property or location.
Have you had any planning applications accepted or rejected?
If you’re buying a property with the view to apply for planning permission; it’s good to know upfront how likely you are to succeed with an application. If the current owner has already had planning permission granted you may want to ask if you can use their drawings as a starting point.
What will be included in the sale?
The owner will have to complete a property information form which highlights what will be included and excluded in the sale of the property.
However, knowing exactly what is and isn’t included in the sale of the property up front will give you an early indication of your potential costs. Find out if white goods will be included e.g. dishwasher, washing machine, fridge freezer etc.
Can I test the taps and the heating?
Plumbing in a property is very important! Always open the taps and ensure the water flows properly, the pressure is sufficient and both cold and hot water taps work. Don’t be scared to check for leaks under the sink also!
PC Case Study: We didn’t check the taps or heating for a property we purchased in 2015. When we finally got the keys and moved in, we found out that the boiler was broken, and we had to spend close to £1000 to purchase and install a new one!
Has the house had any major building work recently?
We would always recommend carrying out a property survey before buying a property. You can read more about the different types of surveys here.
Always ask if any building work has been completed on the property and if the work carried out is under warranty. It is important to remember that any problems that occur will be your responsibility once you are the new owner.
What is the minimum price the seller will accept?
Some sellers have a minimum price that they will be willing to sell for. Estate agents tend to be willing to give an indication on what the seller would be willing to accept. Just because a property is on the market for £250,000 does not mean the seller will not accept less.
What offers have they had so far?
Finding out what offers the seller has had given you a good starting point for negotiation. Furthermore; if there have been several offers then you know demand for the property is high and you may end up in a bidding war. If there have been no offers; it may be a great opportunity for you to get ahead of the game and put an offer in.
Some extra tips:
- Keep your nose and eyes open for signs of damp! Damp is not always visible but normally leaves an odour. Identifying it early can save you a lot of time and money later on down the line.
- Visit the property at different times of the day/week to see how much light comes into the house and get a feel for the local area.
- Go with someone to view the property. A second opinion is always valuable, and they may notice things you have missed.
- Take pictures and videos of the property. It is very easy to forget what the property/layout looks like once you’ve left.
- Always make a note (and pictures if possible) of any observations and use it as a tool to negotiate on price.
- Try not to become emotionally invested in the property. This can cloud your judgement!
- Ask if you can speak directly to the seller if the agent is giving vague answers.
These questions can help you save money in the long term and provide a great basis for negotiation. Surveys will unveil a lot of problems; however, surveys take place a lot further down the line. Asking all of these questions initially can save you a lot of time and money in the future!
*This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published.