questions to ask when viewing a property to buy

You’ve been trawling through property websites for weeks and just when you were starting to feel rather disheartened that nothing was really jumping out at you, one suddenly flashes up and you love it!  It is surely your dream home!  Exactly what you’ve been looking for!  So now for a viewing.  This is when things get a bit more serious.  The viewing is a perfect opportunity to tap your estate agent for more information and you should think carefully about the important questions to ask.  Here are a few for you to mull over …

  1. How long has the property been on the market

This is a good starting point.  It is an important question and whether the answer is a long time or a little, it is helpful for you to know.  If the property has been on the market for a long time then the owners may be getting fed up and might be keen to take an offer below the asking price so that they can get under offer and start gearing up to moving on.  In contrast, if the property has only recently gone up for sale, the vendor may well be keen to hold out for an asking price offer.  If the property has been on the market a while, it may be that it is overpriced or perhaps other offers have fallen through due to a bad survey, for example, so it is helpful to know the background.

  1.  Location location location!

Whilst you can upgrade and revamp the style of decor within a property to your personal taste, you cannot pick the place up and move it to a different location.  You may be familiar with the area where you are looking to buy but if not, make sure you do your homework and pick your estate agent’s brain about local schools, amenities and transport links. Explore the area to get a sense of whether there is general curb appeal in the neighbourhood. It may well be your dream home but at some stage in the future you will probably want to sell and move on and an appealing neighbourhood definitely helps sell your home.  

  1. Why are the current owners moving?

It may be that their business commitments are taking them overseas or they are choosing to move closer to family members in a different location.  Understanding how quickly the vendor needs to make this move may give you some room for negotiation if they are keen for a quick sale.  The owner may be leaving because they want to get away from the property and they know something you don’t!.  Perhaps they are experiencing issues with neighbours who are exhibiting anti-social behaviour.  If any formal complaints have been lodged with the council against their neighbours they are legally obliged to let you know if you ask.  

You might have fallen in love with the property because of the glorious views across the fields opposite but it may be that there is a planning application in place for a new housing estate on those very fields!  It might save you a lot of time and heartache to establish this sooner rather than later.

  1. Have the current owners done any major work to the property?

If so, you will need to check that planning permission was given if it was required.  You should also make sure that building regulations were approved and there is paperwork in place as this can really delay the sale of a property.  If major renovations have taken place then the property is likely to be worth more and therefore cost more to purchase.  On the other hand, if a house is clearly in need of some renovations this can also be a bargaining tool as you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for a dated, run down property but by undertaking the work, you could add value and increase your profits when you sell.

  1.  What’s the water pressure like?

Don’t feel shy to turn on a tap or two when you are viewing a property.  Low water pressure can be incredibly frustrating and at its worst requires investment in a pressure fed water tank which can cost £1000s and would be a real blow when it was not something you were budgeting for.  Moving house is costly enough without such hidden extras emerging.  

  1.  How much are the bills?

Unfortunately cosy movie nights in, a long hot soak in the bath and using all the mod cons in your kitchen, comes at a cost and it is helpful to have an understanding of  what the household bills might be.  Ask your estate agent which council tax band the property is in.  Look carefully at the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which gives an estimate of the current and potential energy bills of the property.  

  1.  Have the vendors found their onward purchase and how long is the chain?

The dreaded chain!  They are often unavoidable but obviously the shorter the better as the more properties involved in the chain, the more complex it all becomes and the greater the risk of it falling through. It only takes one section of the chain to be disrupted for there to be a knock on effect on everyone.  So manage your own expectations by finding out about the chain.   

  1. What’s included in the sale?

When a seller puts their house on the market and you view it, you are often buying into a lifestyle - that cosy farmhouse-feel kitchen with the handsome AGA or the plush boutique hotel style sunken bath complete with fitted flat screen TV and sound system.  You may also be envisaging yourself working from the garden office pod or socialising with friends in the scandi-summer house or barbecue shack and rustic garden bar.  You may have fallen in love with the lifestyle but you must find out whether these various fixtures and fittings are included in the sale and if not, whether the vendor is willing to leave them at a price and what that is. 

  1.  Freehold or leasehold?

This is particularly important if you are looking to buy a flat or apartment.  Such properties tend to be leasehold and the value of the property can be significantly affected by a shorter lease.  When the length of a lease drops below 80 years, it will cost considerably more to pay for a lease extension and it can be a hassle to locate the freeholder in order to arrange the extension.  As a result, it can be more difficult to sell a property with a lease of under 80 years.  

  1.  What is the best aspect for your house to be facing?

Mid morning latte in the sunshine?  Sundowners on the terrace?  The home you are viewing may boast a beautiful garden or stunning fitted kitchen but the property’s orientation is also very important.  Properties with south facing gardens are always in high demand as they tend to get the most sun, making the home and garden brighter.  Homes can be quite dark and require more artificial lighting when they are north facing for example.  That said, artificial lighting can be very aesthetic and natural nowadays.  Don’t write off a northwest facing aspect as that’s the perfect direction to enjoy a summer’s evening G & T at sunset! 

There are plenty of questions to ask and factors to consider when viewing a property.  Make sure you take on board all the answers to the questions you pose to your estate agent and also make sure you do your own research.  Buying a house might be one of the most important decisions you ever make and the questions you ask at the viewing will play a major part in informing that decision.  

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