Buying a House

25 Essential Questions to Ask When Buying a House

Most of us take longer to choose a pair of shoes than we do a house. With viewings only lasting around 15 minutes, asking the right questions could be the difference between you buying your dream home and it ending up a nightmare. To help you prepare for buying a home, here are the most […]

Most of us take longer to choose a pair of shoes than we do a house. With viewings only lasting around 15 minutes, asking the right questions could be the difference between you buying your dream home and it ending up a nightmare.

To help you prepare for buying a home, here are the most essential questions to ask when buying a house, at what point in the process and why.

Questions to Ask Before Viewing a House

When buying a house, there are some questions that can be asked before you even view it. This will save both you and the agent time on the day. Estate agents are legally obliged to answer honestly so should share key information with you.

Why is the owner selling?

This is a key question to understanding how quickly the vendor may want to sell and may influence how much you decide to offer. For example, somebody emigrating may want to sell more quickly than someone who hasn’t started looking for another property.

How long has the property been on the market?

If the house has been on the market for more than a couple of months, there may have been other interest, offers and feedback, which can give you an idea of why the property hasn’t sold. It would be as simple as a previous sale falling through or there may not have been any interest due to the price being too high.

Are you the first agent to market the property?

Sometimes if a property is not selling, a seller will change agents. Understanding whether the property has been marketed before will give you an idea of previous levels of interest.

Have the sellers had any offers?

Although the agent won’t tell you how much others have offered, they will tell you if any other buyers have offered on the property. This helps you to decide where to position your offer.

What’s the local area like?

If you are a young couple new to the area you may want somewhere that is near nice bars and coffee shops, so ask what the area is like. This is also something you can research yourself online.

Is the property freehold or leasehold?

Freehold means you own the property and the land it sits on. Leasehold means you will owe an annual fee to whoever owns the land. It is usually a minimal fee, but it is worth checking as a lease under 80 years is likely to affect the value of the property and may affect your mortgage application.

Leaseholds are not all the same, most have different clauses. If the property is leasehold, find out how long the lease is for and you may want to know if there is an option to buy the freehold for the property and for how much.

How old is the property?

Knowing how old a property is helps to guide you to what to look for on a viewing. For example, the older the property, the more attention should be paid to the roof and structure of the property. Older properties are also more likely to have issues such as dampness and asbestos, compared to newer properties.

Questions to Ask When Viewing a House

We have put together a moving house viewing checklist PDF that you can download for free

What’s the local area like?

This is a good question to ask as the agent will likely know about things such as local amenities, but you can also have a look around the area yourself. Look for things like amenities that are within walking distance, traffic, parking, and anti-social behaviour. Have a drive over at different times of the day. Also, ask how good the local transport links are.

Which way does the property face?

It is a good idea to take your smartphone with you as you can use the compass app to check which way the garden faces. South-facing will get the sun all day.

How much are council tax and utility bills?

This is something the owner, if doing the viewing, should be able to tell you. A property may fall into a different council tax band than other houses on the street due to expansion, for example. Getting an idea of the cost of utility bills will help you to understand what you will need to budget monthly to live in that property.

How is the broadband signal in the house?

You can use your mobile phone to test the phone signal yourself.

How old is the boiler and when was it installed/serviced? When were the electrics last checked/updated?

Central heating and electrical upgrading can be messy and expensive jobs, so it is useful to have an idea of the age and condition of both the boiler, central heating systems and electrics before you put an offer in.

Can I check the water pressure?

Always ask permission, but one check to do to check the water pressure as low pressure may indicate a leak in one of the pipes.

Have there been any issues with the guttering or drains?

Water can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. Knowing if there are any ongoing issues will not only help you to decide if the property is right for you but will help you to plan in terms of maintenance.

How much is the service charge?

This is a question if you are viewing an apartment, as they usually have an annual service charge for things like grounds and maintenance and some can be quite expensive. It is also worth checking if there are any issues with the management company.

What are the neighbours like?

This may not be a question that can be answered by the agent, but if the owner is doing the viewing, while they may not disclose any disputes, you will be able to get a sense of how strong their relationship is with their neighbours.

Questions to Ask When Buying a House

What’s included in the sale?

When buying a home, you will get a fixtures list as the sale is going through. However, it is useful to ask beforehand as something that you really like may not be staying as it may influence your decision to buy that property over another.

Are the owners in a chain?

Knowing how long the chain is (how many other parties are involved in the overall sales chain) can help you to plan for potential delays. The longer the chain, the more chance there is of delays further along the way.

What are the owner’s plans if they don’t find a property to move into or if their purchase falls through?

This is a discussion that you want to be having early on and not further down the line when you were expecting a completion date to be set. Sometimes these things are unavoidable but knowing the seller has a relative to stay with, for example, will put your mind at ease.

Have any major renovations been made?

If, for example, an extension has been built, the sellers should have the relevant planning and building regulations consent. It is also worth asking if there are any restrictions on expansion. For example, is the property in a conservation area or have previous planning applications been rejected?

Can you speak directly to the sellers?

Once you have an offer accepted, the agent will manage the sales process, alongside yours and the seller’s solicitors. It is useful to know if you can contact the seller directly as sometimes this speeds up queries further down the line.

Will the seller take the house off the market if they accept your offer?

The seller does not have to take the house off the market until the exchange of contracts which is further down the line, but it is in your interest for this to happen as soon as possible once the offer is accepted to reduce the risk of another buyer gazumping you, which means putting in a higher bid than you and getting it accepted by the seller.

Research you can do online

Has the property price changed?

Use the chrome add-on called Property log and see all previous listing prices when you log into Rightmove, including price reductions.

What is the sale history of the property?

This can be viewed on the sold data on Rightmove. If the property has changed hands frequently you can then ask the agent for the reasons.

What is the energy performance of the property?

A copy of the EPC may be available on the listing, but if not, it will be provided by the agent. The EPC will inform you how energy efficient the property is.

What’s the area like?

  • Crime rate – You can compare the area on the police website.
  • Schools – You can see local schools and their OFSTED rating on Rightmove
  • House prices of neighbouring properties – Has the value of the property and neighbouring properties gone up in recent years?
  • Development plans – Look at the Local area development plan for the Local Authority. You may back onto a field now but that may soon become a housing development.

For More Information About The Home Buying Process

Are there any more questions you tend to ask when buying a house? Or do you have another home-buying issue you’d like us to cover?

Ask us a question and we’ll address it as soon as we can. For more information about buying a house as a first-time buyer, follow this link to learn more.

Buying Your First Home? Read Our Buyers Guide…

From mortgages and insurance to viewings, offers, exchange and completion, our Buyers’ Guide will take you through everything, step by step, from start to finish.

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