A house is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make. To avoid disappointment as well as wasting time and money, you need to know which are the right questions to ask when buying a house and who to ask for details.
From questioning why the house is for sale to issues with the neighbours, here is a list of the questions you need answers to before buying a property.
One of the first questions to ask estate agents when buying a house is how long it’s been sitting on the market. If it has been for sale for three months or longer, you need to ask why—there might be an issue that is deterring buyers from making an offer or the home may simply be overpriced.
The estate agent might not be willing to tell you if there are any problems, but if you believe closer inspection is required, arrange for property searches and surveys.
Remember that a home that has been on the market for quite some time might have a motivated seller so you could get some wiggle room on the price.
Finding out about other potential offers will not only tell you if you are about to get into a bidding war but will also give you an idea of how much you should offer—if there are several offers and you really want the house think about going over the asking price or offering to pay cash (if you can).
The estate agent should be more than happy to give you the answer to this question as it is in their best interest to up the price of the home.
Next on the list of questions to ask estate agents when buying a home is the reason behind the sale. You may feel that the question is too personal, but it can give you a unique advantage in negotiations with the seller.
For instance, the vendor may be moving to a bigger house and is in a hurry to sell the existing property. A property chain can seriously prolong the average time it takes to sell the home, so they might be motivated to seal the deal faster and accept a lower price in the process.
Other times the reason for the sale might uncover a potential issue with the home, so the more you know about why the property is on the market, the stronger your position as a buyer will be.
Related reading: How long does it take to finalise a house sale?
It never hurts to ask how low the vendor is willing to go. After all, it is the best indication that there could be some room to negotiate on the price, which could save you thousands of pounds.
The sale of a house typically includes the building itself and the land it is built on, but sometimes it may include bathroom and kitchen fixtures. A detached garage or garden shed are usually considered separate structures, but in some cases, they might also be included in the sale. Similarly, any personal property inside the house, such as furniture or appliances, will normally be removed, but the sellers may agree to leave certain items behind (if you arrange it so in the sales agreement).
Even though the vendor will formally supply details on fitting and fixtures once you decide to buy the property, you should know what you are getting for your money before you make an offer.
A property that has changed hands a lot in the past few years is bound to raise some red flags. What’s more, the current owners are selling the house after living there for a short time might also suggest a possible issue with the home. That’s why getting the answer to this and similar house-buying questions is a must before making an offer.
It is important to consider how much the property will cost you after you buy it. So when viewing the house ask about the monthly expenses, such as utility bills, daily running costs and council tax, and then throw in your mortgage repayments into the calculations to check whether you can afford the cost of owning and maintaining the property.
Damp issues can cause a lot of complicated and costly problems in a home, so you should ask about potential issues with water leaks and burst pipes. Also, look into how well the home is maintained and enquire about the drains and gutters—have been replaced recently, how often are they cleaned, have there been any issues with the roof and leaks in the past. Answers to these questions will tell you how likely the home is to experience damp problems in the future.
What’s more, if you notice a musty smell, peeling wallpaper or dark patches on the walls and ceilings, chances are the home has had issues with damp before. You can ask your conveyancer to look into this issue further—in some cases, severe damp issues could be enough to make the buyer change their mind and cancel the sale.
You might be interested:
If so, you need to see planning permits and consents from the freeholder (if applicable). Extensions, such as garden sheds or greenhouses, as well as major renovations, can add value to a property, but if erected without meeting the necessary building regulation, they could cause a lot of problems later on—starting from investing in indemnity insurance to potentially tearing down illegal extensions. To avoid these costs, put this on your list of questions to ask when viewing a property.
On the same note, it is important to enquire why renovations have been carried out—sometimes, rooms may have been repainted to cover up cracks or mould.
If you decide to buy the house, your conveyancer will look into these matters for you and provide you with additional reassurance that everything is in order.
If the property is listed, it will limit the number and extent of changes you can carry out on the exterior, and sometimes the interior of the home, too. The same applies to properties that are located in a conservation area or homes with restrictive covenants in place (these are set by the owner and may restrict or prohibit the construction of additional structures).
It should also be noted that not all insurers are willing to provide coverage for listed homes or might require that you take out a specialist insurance policy. Still, terms vary among providers, so if you are set on owning a slice of history, compare quotes from the best home insurance companies in the UK to find out which one will offer the best deal.
Even if the house you are interested in is not listed, it still pays to know just how old the property is. The cost of maintaining older homes is much higher and there is always a risk of unexpected repairs showing up, even with houses that have been well-maintained. Newer houses may have a higher price tag but come with plenty of innovative and energy-efficient features that may cut down on monthly expenses.
One of the more specific questions to ask when viewing a house to buy concerns the water pressure—ideally it should be between 30 and 60 PSI. Keep in mind that the estate agent might not have this information on hand, so ask if you can test the taps and the shower. if the water is not free-flowing or the pressure is too low, there could be an issue with the plumbing. In this case, you may have to instruct your conveyancer to hire a professional to check all the pipes.
A new boiler can cost up to £2,000 or even more to repair (depending on the damage and the age of the model). What’s more, in most cases your insurance will not cover broken boilers so you might end up paying for the upgrade yourself. To avoid this cost, ask about the age and condition of the boiler, its energy efficiency rating and the date of the last service. If the boiler is very old, you might be able to negotiate a new one as part of the sales agreement.
The home’s Energy Performance Certificate is another significant consideration. Homes rated higher on the scale tend to have loft insulation, double-glazed windows and insulated pipes, all of which can help you save on energy bills and make the home safer.
A lower EPC means the house will need some work to become more energy-efficient. If that is work you are not willing to do, it might be better to move on to another property.
There are some legal questions to ask when buying a house that will directly impact your decision and one of them refers to the property’s tenure, i.e. whether the home is a leasehold or freehold.
A leasehold property gives you ownership of the home for a set amount of time (until the lease expires), while freeholders own the building and the land it sits on. Most leasehold properties in the UK are flats—houses can be leaseholds too but only if purchased through a home ownership scheme. Put simply, if you are buying a standalone house, it is likely a freehold.
The orientation of a house can have a big impact on things like temperature, lighting, and even your utility bills.
For example, a house that faces south will be warmed by the sun during the day, making it more comfortable in the wintertime. Conversely, a house that faces north will be cooler in the summer. In short, the way the property is facing will impact the functionality of the home, making it an important factor to consider.
For homeowners who have a green thumb, orientation is an even bigger consideration. South-facing gardens get more hours of sunlight during the day giving you a wider choice of plants and flowers to grow, in addition to plenty of opportunities for summer outdoor entertaining.
Ask the estate agent about planning permits in the area to check for possible restrictions on extensions. You might be viewing a property with a lot of potential that you cannot utilise.
Also, inquire if there are planning applications for future development in the area—property searches will give you the answer to this later on, but there is no harm in getting a heads up on future projects that might disrupt your view or quality of life.
Here are some neighbourhood-related questions to ask when viewing a property:
Don’t rely on answers from the estate agent only, but do your own research as well by visiting the area a few times during the week.
Nosy neighbours can have a huge impact on your quality of life, which means you need to find out more about the people living around you. Don’t expect the estate agent or seller to give a 100% honest answer, so look for signs of hesitation. Also, bear in mind that if there have been any formal complaints made against the neighbours, this information should be disclosed in the sales pack provided by the vendor.
Seeing as how 96% of Brits use the internet, broadband quality definitely deserves a place on the list of questions to ask when buying a house in the UK. Also, enquire about the mobile signal and double-check the data you get on Ofcom’s broadband and mobile coverage checker.
If the house does not have a pirate driveway, you need to ask for more details regarding on-street parking. Is the street safe to park? Do you need a permit?
Before you view houses, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Last but least, view the house more than once—this is the biggest purchase you are likely to make so don’t rush the process. Go over the list of questions to ask when buying a house as many times as needed with the estate agent or seller until you are happy with the answers. The more information you have beforehand, the easier it will be to make the right decision.
My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.