Buying a property can be a daunting process, especially if it’s your first time. A good estate agent will be willing to answer all of your questions, or come back to you with the information you’ve requested from the seller.
You may have found your dream home, but it is essential to know any inconvenient truths before contracts are signed. Buying a home is a major investment, and it’s important that you ask plenty of questions about the property and the surrounding area.
Be aware that professional advice should be given by a RICS Chartered Surveyor who will help you make an informed decision on the property.
Here are the top ten things to ask when buying a home:
Why is the owner selling and how long have they been living at the property?
Many people move for legitimate reasons, including a change of circumstance, for work, or to upsize or downsize. The estate agent may not be able to provide detailed information about the current owners, but they may be able to provide general advice that can give you a clearer picture of the home. If the owners haven’t been living at the property long, there may be an underlying issue with the neighbours or the area. If the home has tenants in it, when does their rental contract expire? Knowing this key information can give you information on the flexibility of the seller, and the timeline of the purchase.
How long has the property been on the market?
If it has been on for a long time, this could potentially be a red flag. There may be something unfavourable about the neighbourhood the property itself or its price.
Have there been any offers? How much interest has there been in the property?
Asking these questions can give you a better understanding on how much competition there is for the property, which can affect the offer you submit. The real estate agent should give provide you with as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision about your new home.
Have the sellers found a new home?
If the property is part of a chain, you’ll need to plan around other people’s moving dates and requirements. A chain of more than a few houses can cause delays.
Is the property leasehold or freehold? Is it Listed or situated in a conservation area?
When you purchase a property, you can either own it on a freehold or leasehold basis. Freehold means that you own the property and the land it is built on outright. Leasehold ownership means that you own the right to occupy the property for a specified period of time. There may be extra costs involved in being a leasehold owner, such as ground rent and service charge. If the property is listed or situated in a conservation area, there may be some restrictions on what you can change once you move in. For example, adding an extension, changing the interior layout or reshaping the garden may be difficult or require extra paperwork.
How old is the property and have there been any major renovations in that time?
The age of the house can give you an indication on the potential for maintenance and repair in the future. An older home may have character and charm, but it can come with higher risk of structural or system issues. Find out what major renovations or repairs the sellers have done since owning the property. This can help you decipher whether there have been past structural issues, and the general history of the home.
What is the local area like? How are the neighbours?
Getting the true feel of a neighbourhood can be difficult before moving in, but this aspect shouldn’t be overlooked. Noisy neighbours or barking dogs can impact your quality of life once moving in. A good estate agent will know the local area well, and will be informed about schools nearby, amenities and have a sense of the neighbourhood. Collect all the details you can about the lifestyle in the area of your potential new home.
What’s included in the sale?
Find out if the sellers are planning to leave any furniture or white goods behind. If they’re planning on taking everything with them, be sure to include a buffer in your budget to purchase new furniture.
How old is the boiler?
Boiler repairs and replacements can be very expensive, running from hundreds to thousands of pounds. If the boiler is more than a year old, check that it’s been serviced annually and see if there have been any issues with it recently. If it looks you’ll need to replace the boiler, factor that into the price you offer to pay for the property.
What other costs are associated with the property?
It is important to know all other costs that may push your budget once you’ve moved in. Find out the council tax for the area and ask how much the average utility bills are per month. Refer to the EPC rating to determine the energy efficiency of the home. Ask if there are any extra maintenance charges or service costs for the building. What do they include and do they increase annually?
What to check when you're viewing the property
How is the water pressure? Don’t be embarrassed to turn on all the taps in the bathroom and kitchen to check for strong water pressure.
Which way does the property face? If you like to enjoy a morning coffee in the sun, or sunset drinks, it is important to consider which way the property faces. A south-facing property will receive the most direct sunlight, which can provide a lot of warmth in the winter months.
How is the phone signal? Be sure to turn on your phone and check the signal when in the property. Also ask the estate agent about the broadband speed. There would be nothing worse than moving in and facing issues with communication and unreliable internet access.