Buying a home is usually the single most expensive purchase you’ll ever make, which is why it is crucial to learn all you can about the property before you make that all-important decision. Your estate agent should be your go-to reference for any pre-offer questions, but what exactly should you seek to find out? Here, we uncover the 10 questions every home-buyer must ask about a property.
1) Why is the owner selling?
First and foremost, try and ascertain why the owners are selling. It could be a simple case of the owners are in search of a bigger home to cater for their growing family, or downsizing since their children have flown the nest. Whatever the circumstances, it is important to find out in case of any sinister reasons, such as neighbour disputes, or worst still, crime.
2) How long have the owners lived in the property?
If the owners are moving out after a short period, this could raise alarm bells. Find out if the property has repeatedly changed hands. If it has then this could mean some serious problems, either with the property itself or external factors – again, such as anti-social behaviour from neighbours. Noisy or abusive neighbours can transform the nicest neighbourhood into the worst.
3) What is included in the sale?
Regardless of whether the asking price is above or below your budget, it is essential to find out exactly what’s included in the sale. Items such as white goods and outbuildings (such as sheds and greenhouses) aren’t always part of the package, but your estate agent can advise you on what the owners are prepared to leave behind. It’s also worth enquiring about where boundaries lie. Don’t always assume the pieces of land you can see are part of the property you are viewing. Get the agent to show you exactly what you would be getting as part of the deal.
4) How long has the property been on the market?
It is important to find out how long the property has been on the market. If the house has been on the market for a long time (more than three months), then ask the agent why they think it isn’t selling. Is it overpriced? Have previous viewers identified a problem that you simply aren’t seeing? If the reasons given are no cause for concern then it may be worth asking if the owner would accept a lower price
5) Has there been much interest in the property?
Ask how many viewings there have been and if any offers have been made. Select a busy time to view the property – such as a weekend morning – and if fellow viewers are booked in before and after you then you know its hot property. You should also ask what offers have been made already – the agent will usually tell you, however they cannot disclose the amounts.
6)Is the property listed or in a conservation area?
If you like what you see, but still feel there is room for improvement, such as a structural remodel, it is important to ask if there are any restrictions on the property. For instance, is the building listed or is it within a conservation area? This will limit what work can be done to the home. You may find you won’t be able change the face of the property or affix items to the building, such as a TV satellite dish, so ask the agent to outline any restrictions you could potentially encounter.
7) How much work has been done on the property?
If you don’t intend to carry out a full structural survey on the property, make sure you find out about work that’s recently been undertaken, as the work itself can have both positive and negative results. If the work has been done well, then this can be deemed as something that won’t need to be changed for a while. However, if the work is shoddy, then this could mean extra costs. If you can visibly see that the rooms have recently been redecorated, ask why. This could be a warning sign that the owners have tried to cover up damp or cracks.
8) What is the average cost of utilities?
With the increasing energy tariffs, the cost of utilities is becoming an influential factor for many prospective home-buyers. Having an idea of utility bills will allow you to ascertain your expenses each month. Try and get exact figures if you can – if you brief your estate agent in advance, they should be able to get the information ready for your viewing. While these may seem like small considerations, they’re reoccurring expenses that will add to the monthly cost of owning your home. Look for heat sources too, such as storage heaters or log burners, as these will indicate how costly the property could be to heat. You may also want to enquire about the Energy Performance Certificate as this will reveal how efficient the property is. Has the loft got insulation? Is there wall cavity insulation?
9) What is the crime rate in the area?
Although you could research this information independently, it’s good to hear first-hand experiences of the area. Your estate agent will be familiar with the local area and therefore will be able to make you aware of the crime rate. You may also want to double check that the property isn’t attached to any convictions. A crime, death or murder in the property can significantly affect the resale value of the property later on – so this should be considered if you plan on selling the property in the future.
10) What are the local amenities like?
Lastly, if you’re not familiar with the area, you will undoubtedly want to know what services and amenities are available. This may include transport links, schools, supermarkets or local parks. If the property is in a town centre, this can certainly be advantageous, however keep in mind that this may also mean restricted parking, plus more noise and traffic throughout the day – and even night.
Estate agents are legally bound to tell you the truth about the property you are viewing, so it is important to ask as many questions as you can. It could make the difference between buying a dream home and buying a dud – and it could save you a fortune.
If you’re looking to buy a home, or need some expert property advice, please feel free to pop in to one of our Kent Branches, or contact our estate agents in Maidstone (01622) 524110, Gillingham (01634) 581207 & Kings Hill (01732) 424090 and estate agency in Ashford.