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10 questions you need to ask when buying a property

Viewing properties is the most exciting part of buying a home.

The feeling of finding a property that could be your new dream home is incredible and the emotions can be overwhelming.

And it’s those emotions that mean it’s sometimes easy to forget to ask some key questions when viewing a property.

So, we've outlined 10 of the most important questions to ask when buying a home here.

There’s also a handy property viewing checklist, so you won’t forget anything when you start looking for a home to buy.

What should I ask an estate agent when viewing a house?

In between browsing potential properties to buy online, try to draw up a list of key questions to ask the estate agent on a viewing.

Being prepared will help you overcome the emotion that comes with viewings and the answers to your queries could help you decide if a property is right for you on a practical as well as emotional level.

1. Why is the seller selling?

Finding out as much as you can about the vendor's position is crucial. It might seem like you're being nosy, but this is the biggest single purchase you will make in your life - so ask away!

Perhaps the seller's family is growing, so they need more space, or are they moving because of a more worrying reason, such as noisy neighbours or a new development nearby?

Have they found a property to move to? If so, they may be open to an offer for the property to get things moving.

2. How long has the property been on the market?

This is one of the most important questions to ask the estate agent. Adding this information to your knowledge on why the seller is moving can really help you decide where to pitch an offer.

But more importantly than that, it can give an indication as to how sought-after the property is or if buyers are being put off by something.

Consider the asking price, location, and the condition of the property if it's been on the market for longer than six months.

3. What is the area like?

This is more a question for yourself as a buyer and you should spend time exploring the area around the property you are viewing.

That will help you decide on whether the property is right for you. But remember to look at the surrounding area at varying times of day.

What might be a peaceful wander at 11am could be a chaotic blend of traffic and people come 5pm's rush hour.

Moreover, speak to the local estate agent. Their knowledge of the area should be second to none and the information they are able to provide invaluable when you come to make your decision.

4. Are there any plans to build nearby?

Your solicitor will be able to dig out any planning applications nearby when going through the search process.

But by then you will have already had an offer accepted and be moving through the sales process.

Pulling out at that late stage due to planned building work near your new home could be extremely costly.

Speak to the agent on the viewing as a good local agent should be aware of plans to build new homes nearby or any proposals for local authority-led maintenance such as roadworks.

Keep an eye out in the local paper for major planning applications or speak to the local council to find out if anything is going through the planning process.

5. How much have other properties been selling for?

Over-bidding on a property is an easy, yet costly mistake to make.

Many buyers pay over the odds for properties simply through fear of losing them.

Speak to the estate agent on the viewing and ask what other, similar properties in the area have been selling for and weigh the answer up against the asking price of the property you are looking at.

Historic portal adverts for already-sold properties can usually be found online, so you can compare images against the property you are viewing.

6. How much are the property's bills

Working out your total monthly outgoings when buying a property is crucial to ensure affordability.

Speak to the agent and find out how much the owner is paying for things like gas and electric. Look at the heating system and ask about energy efficiency at the property.

The agent should also be able to tell you which council tax band the property falls in and if there are any charges for things like off-street parking or garden waste collections.

7. How strong is your mobile signal?

Staying connected is hugely important these days. Imagine if you moved into your amazing new home only to discover that your mobile phone has no data or telephone signal.

You may be forced to move to a new network mid-contract, which could end up costing a far from insignificant amount of money.

Check your mobile in each room of the house during a viewing and ask the estate agent about broadband speeds in the area.

If you need a super-fast connection for running your business at home, establishing the digital stability of a property could be a make-or-break moment.

8. What is included with the property?

When budgeting for buying a house, white goods like fridge-freezers and dishwashers can be expensive.

So, find out from the agent what the seller is planning to include with the property. If large items such as those mentioned above are included, take a good look at them to make sure they suit your needs and aren't on the verge of breaking down.

Clarify with the agent if things like fitted wardrobes are staying behind. Again, making sure the house works for your storage needs is vitally important and establishing this now could save you money in the long run.

9. How many times has the house been sold in the past?

If the property you're viewing has been sold dozens of times in the past decade, alarm bells should start ringing.

Find out this detail from the agent or look on a website like Zoopla which details a property's historical sale prices.

If the property has had a higher-than-average number of owners, that could be due to an issue like noisy neighbours, lack of parking or a big maintenance problem.

10. Which direction does the garden face?

Outdoor space is massively important for buyers, but many purchase a property and then discover the garden is north facing as they sit down to enjoy a celebratory glass of fizz and need to grab a jumper.

Find out from the agent which way the garden faces and keep an eye out for extreme over-looking from neighbouring properties.

Questions to ask when viewing a flat to buy

With most flats being leasehold properties with shared communal areas, buyers should be aware of additional questions they should ask the agent on a viewing.

These could include:

1. How much is the ground rent and maintenance charge?

2. Who is responsible for maintaining and cleaning shared areas?

3. How many parking spaces come with the property and is there a charge for on-street parking?

4. How long is left on the lease?

5. Are there any plans for major maintenance work that flat owners would need to contribute towards?

Your property viewing checklist

The key to any property viewing is being able to balance your emotions with practicality.

This checklist is a handy reminder of the things you’ll need to do when viewing a property to buy…

1. Don’t feel rushed

Take your time on your viewing and spend at least 20 minutes in the property so you can really get a feel for it.

2. Take a good look at the property’s structure

Explore the exterior of the property and keep an eye out for any signs of damage or poor maintenance.

If you spot anything that concerns you, ask about it.

3. Look for signs of cover-ups

Occasionally, sellers will attempt to cover up issues like mould, or damage to flooring.

So, look out for signs of freshly painted patches on walls or woodwork and be aware of musty smells or overuse of air-fresheners.

Also, don’t be afraid to look under rugs or furnishings, as these can also be used to cover up scratched flooring or carpet burns.

4. Always view a property more than once

The more you view a house, the more you’ll notice.

The emotions and excitement of that first viewing sometimes means you’ll miss things, so always view any property you’re interested in at least twice.

Think, too, about viewing at different times of day, so you can get a feel for the area and any noise issues during busy periods like rush hour.

5. Look around the area

Either before or after your property viewing, spend some time looking around the local area.

Think about the things that are important to you, like shops, pubs, coffee shops, schools, or transport links, and explore these.

Also try to look around at weekends, so you can get a great idea of how lively, or quiet, the area is when people aren’t working.

Further reading…

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