We all know that buying a home is probably the most expensive single purchase we will ever make, which leaves us scratching our heads at the fact that on average, we spend around 30 minutes viewing the house before deciding to buy it. People spend longer choosing holidays or cars than they do inspecting a house. Yes, your survey will bring up any problems with the house itself (if you have a comprehensive one done), but there are so many things that should be considered and so many questions you can ask to alleviate any later disappointment.
What are the questions? Glad you asked. Here are our ten top questions to help you find the perfect home.
Question 1: How long has it been on the market for
This is an incredibly important question, for more reasons than you might think.
The obvious reason you should be asking this is that if the property has been up for a while, there might be something putting buyers off that you haven’t spotted, or that might come up in the survey report. If it’s been up for six months or more, you might need to try to enquire as to what is preventing people from wanting to buy it.
There is another reason to ask. If the property is brand new on the market, depending on the circumstances of the seller, they are probably not going to take an offer much lower than their asking price. However, if the property has been on for a while, and there are no issues that bother you, you are more likely to get them down on price.
Knowing how long a property has been on the market can help you to decide the offer you would put in if you were to make an offer on the house.
Question 2: How much interest has there been?
This is also important and it gives you all the information you need if you’re interested in buying. Always ask how many other viewings there have been, and if any have been again for a second viewing – the more interest there is the more likely you might get gazumped on price.
You should also ask if there are any offers currently being considered for the property. Most estate agents/sellers/brokers will tell you if there is a current offer, but they won’t be able to tell you how much the offer was for. You should also find out if there have been previous offers, and try to ascertain why they were rejected or the sale fell through. If you know there has been a previous offer that was rejected for being too low, and you are told that the offer was close to the asking price, you know you don’t have much leeway.
Question 3: What’s the area like?
Are there schools in the area and are they any good (check Ofsted reports for this)? Are there parks for the children to play on or for the dog to run on? Are there shops within walking distance? What’s the public transport like and the traffic nearby? What’s the crime rate like for the area?
These are questions you should be asking, or finding out for yourself before you consider buying the home.
Question 4: Has there been any major work on the building?
For buyers that don’t intend to get a full structural survey done, you should find out any recent work that has been done and ask to see any builder’s receipts or guarantees.
Question 5: Is it a listed property or in a conservation area?
This is something that will be flagged during the conveyancing process, but you can find out before that to save yourself some hassle. Buying listed properties mean that changes you can make may be restricted, so it’s worth knowing before you agree to buy.
Question 6: How long have the current owners been there?
Knowing how long the owners have lived in the property gives you a good indication as to an issue that may be unseen or unnoticed. If the current owners recently bought the home and are looking to sell, try to find out why. It may be due to financial difficulty, moving abroad or to a different area, or it may because of nuisance neighbours, damp, mould or other issues.
You can look up the history of the property with the land registry to see how often the property has changed hand. If there have been several owners over the last few years, this might be a red flag.
Question 7: What comes with the house?
It’s imperative to know exactly what is being sold with the house so that you know where you stand. Sometimes there are pleasant surprises, but sometimes things like garden sheds, fixtures and fittings, blinds, light fittings and even carpets may be taken with the current seller and you might not find out until it’s too late. If you see something you like, and you want it to stay, ask!
Question 8: Is there a chain?
A chain simply means that the seller is waiting on the sale of their home to purchase another. Chains can make the process longer and can cause the sale to fall through if their sale does also.
Sellers who already have another property to move into aren’t likely to delay the sale and are in fact more likely to want it over with quickly.
Question 9: What’s the council tax band and average utility?
Try to get exact amounts rather than just the band the house is in. You can ask the council directly if you’re not sure, or the broker isn’t sure either.
Ask the seller what their current electric and gas and water bills are, to give you an idea of the running costs of the property.
Question 10: Which way does the property face?
Think about the garden, as well as the rooms you’ll use the most often, and find out which way they face, as well as spotting any other houses or trees that may block the light at certain times.