Buying a property is one of the biggest purchases you will make in your life, but it’s also an emotional decision where buyers describe ‘falling in love with a house’ in a way that we never would with other purchases. This means it’s crucial to dig deep to get as much information as possible, to make sure you make a smart financial decision.
We’ve collated a list of questions that you should be asking the estate agent, or the seller, when viewing a property to avoid surprises later down the line.
Current owners & selling situation
Why is the owner selling?
Most of the time, homeowners will sell their property for a personal reason, such as wanting to upsize to a larger home, or moving nearer to work to cut commuting times. However, there could be an underlying problem, such as crime rates in the area increasing, or limitations on planning permission. Being aware of these problems might influence your decision on making an offer on the property.
According to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) estate agents must provide “open, honest, clear and timely sharing of relevant information”. For example, it is illegal for an agency not to reveal planning permission or development in the area or proximity to a power station or sewage works, according to the Home Owner’s Alliance. Check why the owner is selling just in case there is a problem they’re trying to escape from.
How long has the property been on the market?
If the property has been on the market for several months, it may indicate hidden underlying problems with the house. Or it could be that the seller’s asking price is too high, putting you in a good position to negotiate with a lower offer.
If the property is new on the market and you decide you want to make an offer, you should get into action quickly to avoid disappointment. According to Accelerate Homes, the average home in the UK takes 91 days to sell. Remember that even if your offer is accepted, the seller can still accept a higher offer from someone else, meaning that you could lose the hundreds or thousands you’ve already spent on fees. You can protect yourself against the losses for £35 with Home Buyer’s Insurance here. Please read the full policy terms and conditions before buying.
Is the seller part of a chain and when can they can move out?
If the seller has already found another home then they could be looking to sell quickly, which again puts you in a strong position to negotiate.
Alternatively, if you would like to move into the property promptly but the current owners are not willing to move out straight away, it may leave you waiting or even temporarily leave you without a roof over your head if you have to move out of your current property.
Have you had any offers so far?
While an estate agent cannot tell you the price of the offers made, they can give you an indication of how many offers have been made so far. This will give you an idea of desirability and how much leeway you have to go in under the asking price.
Are any appliances or furniture included in the sale?
Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. You may be wowed at the viewing by the shiny new kitchen fitted out with all the latest mod-cons, but the current owners may want to take it all with them to their new home. This would leave you having to factor new appliances into the cost of the property.
If you are moving from a flat to a house, you’ll need furniture to fill your new property with. If the owner is including furniture in the sale price, this could save you hundreds of pounds.
Has there been any building work done on the property?
The previous owners may have carried out works on the property, such as extensions, in which case you should request to see planning permission, builder’s receipts and guarantees.
If it turns out that an extension has been completed without planning permission in the last five years, neighbours can still lodge a complaint that the council can legally enforce, which means as the new home owner you would be liable and have to knock it down. Imagine finding an ideal home with a beautiful open plan kitchen-diner extension and then having to pay to get rid of it!
Can I try the taps?
You don’t necessarily have to ask this question, you could just go ahead and do it! But you should certainly turn on the taps in the property. Nobody likes a weak shower with no water pressure. If it takes ages for the hot water to come through, it may also indicate a problem with the boiler or plumbing.
Is there allocated parking?
This is an important question that is often overlooked. If the property comes with a garage or a driveway, then the answer is obvious. However, if the property has no off-street parking, you may need to apply to the council for a permit. This will not only incur additional costs, but is a general inconvenience. If you live on a busy residential road and you finish work late, all the parking spaces could be taken up on your road by the time you return home.
Is fibre-optic broadband available?
Streaming music and TV, extensive internet browsing and working from home all require a higher bandwidth from your internet. You should ask if the property is wired up for high speed internet access or risk forever complaining that it’s taking ages for your film to buffer.
If the estate agent doesn’t know, you can use USwitch broadband postcode checker to see what broadband speed is available in the area.
What are the bills like?
It is likely that you will have a mortgage in principle based on a calculation of your monthly incomings and outgoings. You should therefore check that the household bills are within your budget. Enquire about Council Tax to see which band the property falls under and ask about water, gas and electric bills to find out things like whether the house is on a pre-paid metre and how efficient the house is. The property may have an electric boiler, which means you won’t have to pay gas bills.
Is the property listed?
Only 6% of buildings in the UK are listed, so this isn’t a question that everyone needs to ask. But if you’re looking at purchasing a beautiful old building, you should definitely ask if it is listed. A listed property means that you are restricted when it comes to building and decorating refurbishment as they are protected to preserve their character due to their architectural or historical importance. This can even apply to the interior of the house or something as minor as putting up a satellite dish. If you want to make any changes to the property then your options may be limited, and you will be responsible for the upkeep of the building in the years to come, which could become costly.
The estate agent should be able to answer all these questions for you, and if they don’t they can check with the owner and get back to you. If you have any additional questions, you can ask to speak directly to the seller, although most people prefer to funnel all interest through the estate agent. By viewing properties armed with this question list, you make sure you fall in love with the right house for the right reasons.