Whether you’re purchasing property at home or abroad, it’s crucial to get as much information as possible before you make any commitments.
A house purchase is one of the biggest financial investments a person typically makes, and estate agents are legally obligated to tell you the truth. The trick is to cut through the bluffing and get as much helpful information as possible.
But what are some of the main questions you should be asking? Below are some of the key points to establish!
What are the circumstances behind the house sale?
Every property has a story behind it and it’s essential to look at the circumstances of the situation, the seller, and the house itself before making a big decision.
Perhaps the two most important questions to ask about any property you’re considering are; why are the owners selling and how long has the property been on the market?
The answers to these questions can be extremely informative. If the owners are selling because they dislike the property or the property has issues, find out why.
Similarly, if the property has been on the market for many months it could mean there’s a reason why people aren’t interested. If this is the case, be sure to ask the estate agent why interest is low or what has put other buyers off for so long.
Another question worth asking is how long the current owners have owned the property for, or how often it’s changed hands in a given period.
A property changing hands regularly is a sign that something is putting people off staying put, but a very long-term ownership could mean that a lot of unseen upkeep work will need to be done.
It’s best to know if any issues with the property have put off the seller or other prospective buyers before getting too attached to the place. These questions are the most likely to bring up major potential downsides to consider, so brace yourself!
The property’s history of building work
If you intend to own this property long-term, it’s important to find out what kind of state the building is in and what further building work it may need in the future. Unless the property is detached, a neighbour’s building situation may be important too.
On top of any apparent issues that may need to be worked on, be sure to ask the estate agent if any building work has been done – both recently and in the past.
It’s possible the recent building work could impact your purchase. What reasons did the seller have for the recent work, structural or decoration?
Speaking of decoration, you should ask if you can move furniture and look under rugs. It sounds cliché, but sellers or agents may be tempted to cover up unappealing factors when trying to sell.
Definitely ask about hot water and heating too. Ask to try the taps in the house and about the quality or age of the boiler and guttering. Check for leaks and damp and make sure the property’s energy efficiency won’t become a problem. You should also talk to the agent about things like insulation and how recently it’s been put in.
If these things need to be repaired any time soon, it could be very costly and time consuming for a buyer – so be careful and make sure you aren’t inadvertently handed a property in need of tons of upkeep work.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that if you’re hoping to watch a picturesque sunset from your new garden or from a certain window, the direction the house faces is a surprisingly important detail.
As for the future, you’ll need to find out if the property is listed as protected, or if there are any other local rules or plans preventing you from doing potential new work on the house.
Definitely be careful about planning permission overall – you wouldn’t want to buy a new dream house only to find that permission has already been granted for some of it to be torn down for the sake of another project.
Any extra baggage?
A few essential items being part of the purchase deal is great, but there are some kinds of baggage with a new property that are best avoided.
You may be happy to hear that a garden shed, dishwasher or washing machine is included in the asking price and this can help to save money. Just beware that some properties may ask for extra for these things and this could definitely impact your budgeting.
If you’re not careful, the location or even neighbours could prove to be a burden to your dream home experience too.
If the neighbours are unpleasant, or if the location is unsafe or particularly expensive to live in, this can bring down a living experience – no matter how nice the house itself may be.
It’s worth asking the agent about what the general living expenses for the property are. What kind of council tax or tax band can you expect to pay? What are the utility costs like in the area?
You could also ask about things like local food and restaurant prices, reliability of nearby transport or schooling and the accessibility of the community as a whole.
Be sure to ask the agent about the neighbourhood and any hidden costs that may be involved from living on the property, from things that may not be part of the purchase to the cost of taxes and travel.
Depending on how pricey things are you may need to re-budget somewhat, or even decide on another property!
Get a good deal!
Getting more information about a property can make it much easier to get an idea of why it’s priced the way it is – or whether it’s worth the asking price at all.
You can ask your agent about why it has its asking price and you should also be able to get the agent to hint at the lowest offer the seller might accept. They might even tell you if they think the property is over or undervalued if you push them.
Remember, the agent is legally obligated to not lie to you and is largely trying to sell the property, rather than sell it for a specific price.
Depending on the seller’s circumstances they may be more willing to negotiate and accept a lower offer.
For example, a property that’s been on the market for a long time may be overvalued and the seller may be willing to talk about lower prices. A seller that has already purchased a new property may also be in a hurry to sell off the old one and could be open to negotiations.
A property purchase is an important long-term investment. You may feel rude or inconvenient asking so many questions or negotiating a lower price point, but in the long run it can make your new property more worth your time and money.