There’s a lot to think about when it comes to buying a home.
And the process, for many, can feel overwhelming.
Asking the estate agent the right questions when viewing a property to buy, though, can mean you’re armed with key information that will help you decide if it’s right for you.
So, here are 10 questions you should definitely be asking next time you’re on a viewing…
What to ask an estate agent when buying
Property viewings can be emotional affairs – particularly if you’re blown away by a property you’re looking at.
Once those feelings take hold, it can be easy to forget to ask the estate agent questions that can help you decide if it’s the right home for you.
So, before you attend your viewing, write down these 10 key questions on your phone’s notepad so you don’t forget to ask a thing…
1 Why is the vendor selling the property?
Finding out the reasons why the property you’re viewing is on the market can help you establish how keen the vendor is to sell quickly.
Perhaps they’re moving for work, or to be in catchment for a particular school.
Reasons like that come with deadlines, which means they could be open to an offer rather than holding out for the property’s asking price.
2 How long has the property been up for sale and are there any offers on the table?
Establishing how much interest there is in the property from other buyers will help you work out if you need to move quickly with a decision, or you can take your time and mull things over.
Asking this question can also lead to follow-up queries. For instance, if there has been low interest in the property, why? Are there issues with it that haven’t become clear yet, or is it over-priced?
All of this information can strengthen your position as a buyer.
3 How long have the current owners lived in the property?
A property that has had several different owners in a short space of time can sometimes set the alarm bells ringing.
If the current owners have only lived in the property for a short space of time, try to find out more information about their reasons for moving.
While most cases will simply be co-incidence, for instance a move for work that happened to occur soon after their purchase, other reasons like problems with neighbours are worth investigating further as part of your due diligence.
4 Are there any plans for the area that could affect property prices?
While local searches during the sales process will reveal any plans for major work close to the property you’re viewing, asking the agent now could save you time and money.
Plans for new developments of housing can affect prices of existing properties, in either a positive or negative way.
If the property you’re interested in has a view of fields to the rear, but there are plans in place to build on that land, this could affect values in a negative way.
But if a new road is being built nearby, which will encourage more investment into the area, this could have a more positive effect.
Either way, it’s best to find out early if you can.
5 Are the neighbouring properties rented or owner-occupied?
Finding out about neighbouring homes can help you establish if any issues are likely to crop up should you decide to purchase the property you’re viewing.
If the properties next door are tenanted, that could potentially mean new neighbours every six or 12 months.
If they’re owner-occupied, how long have the people been living there? What kind of condition are their properties in, how many cars do they have and are they taking up off-road parking?
All of this information can help you make a judgement on whether the area is right for you as much as the property itself.
6 How much does the property cost to run?
Any property coming up for sale must have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), so you’ll be able to see the projected running costs for heating and electricity.
On top of that, you’ll have council tax to pay and, if the property is leasehold, you may also have to pay a management charge and ground rent fee.
Find out from the estate agent how much these charges are, so you can be certain buying the property is affordable for you month by month.
7 What’s included in the sale?
The old adage ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ is true in this case.
Ask the estate agent if the vendor is planning to leave anything behind when they move. This could include white goods and various fixtures and fittings – even furniture.
Knowing what you get with the property can help you when it comes to making a suitable offer.
Even if you don’t want some items the seller is planning to leave, offering to take them off their hands can put you in a strong position when negotiating.
8 How did you reach the valuation figure for the property?
Any agent worth their salt should be able to fully justify how they reached a property’s valuation figure.
It should be based on strong local knowledge and transaction history of similar properties, with statistics to back up the decision.
9 Have the vendors had any major work done to the property?
Finding out details of previous work can set your mind at rest or reveal potential issues you’d rather avoid.
The best way to be certain the property you’re keen to buy is structurally sound and in good condition is to have a full survey done.
But in the meantime, asking the agent about previous work can either reveal previous issues that have had to be rectified or issues with building regulations or planning applications that could come back to bite you in the future.
Look out, too, for more minor decoration work that appears fresh. Is it covering up damp or other issues?
10 Are the vendors part of a chain?
Establishing how long the sales chain is if you were to buy the property you’re viewing can help you make a firm decision on whether or not to offer.
It’s a sad fact that the longer the chain, the greater the chance of something going wrong during the transaction process.
If the vendor has already found somewhere else to buy, however, this can put you in a good position when it comes to making an offer, as they’ll almost certainly want to move quickly.
If you’re a first-time buyer, these questions are arguably even more important. Take a look at our first-time buyers' guide for even more helpful information about getting on the property ladder.