When you’ve found a property you’re interested in don’t take everything you see at face value. Make sure you ask these questions so you know exactly what you’d be buying.
Why is it for sale?
If the property is pre-owned, the first thing you should ask is why it is for sale. Estate agents aren’t obligated to reveal this information, but if they don’t give you a straight answer there may be issues with the property or the area that you might want to investigate.
How long has it been on the market?
If a property has been on the market for more than three months you should try and find out why it hasn’t sold yet. It might be that other people have noticed issues with the property or that the asking price is too high.
What is included in the sale?
Whether you’re buying an old or new home, you should confirm what will be included in the sale right from the beginning.
New builds usually include a new kitchen and bathroom suite of your choice, including appliances. In some cases you can also get free flooring throughout the property and/or turf in the garden. It’s always best to talk to a sales person to clearly set out what’s included and what you can pay to upgrade.
With older homes what’s included depends on the seller and can therefore differ drastically. It can range from a seller leaving everything behind including furnishings, to another leaving you with bare walls and floors. Although this can all be negotiated at sale stage, the estate agent should have an idea on what will be left so you can work out what you’re actually getting for your money.
Have the sellers found a new home yet?
The chain of sale on pre-owned homes can be a deciding factor, especially if you’re also selling your home. If you already have a buyer but the sellers haven’t found anywhere yet, you may have to move to temporary accommodation until they can move. On the other hand, if the sellers have somewhere ready to move to, you’ll need to be ready soon as well.
Buying a new build home relieves this pressure due to the lack of chains. You can choose a plot that will be ready when you are, and you can part-exchange your old property to make the move even easier.
When was it last purchased?
If the property has only been sold recently it’s worth investigating why the owners want to leave so quickly. It could be simply because the property was bought as a renovation project, but there could be more serious reasons such as nightmare neighbours or defects within the property.
What work has been done to the property?
If the property has undergone any major work such as extensions, it’s important to check that they had the proper building and planning permissions. You can either ask the estate agent or do your own research on previous planning applications in the area.
If you’re thinking of doing any work on the property, checking previous planning applications can help you work out if your application will be granted. You can also see if the previous owners have ever applied for anything similar and been rejected.
Which direction does it face?
The best answer to this question depends on your preference. South-facing gardens get the sun all day long, but they can cause the back rooms to become very warm in summer. South-east facing gardens have the sun on the back of the property during the morning, whereas south-west facing gardens get more sunshine in the evening. If you prefer shade over sun then opt for a north-facing garden.
This is another area where new build homes have an added benefit, as you can choose the direction it faces. With pre-owned properties you run the risk of finding your perfect home but with a garden that faces the wrong direction.
What are the average running costs?
Find out how much it will cost to actually live in the property by asking the agent for a breakdown of running costs over a year. This should include things like council tax rates and utility costs. If the agent can’t give you an answer then ask the seller instead.
Take a look at the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
Every property has an EPC, which will give you an overall rating of its energy efficiency. Go through the certificate with the agent and make sure you have a thorough understanding of what it all means. There are many factors that can affect the rating, including the amount and age of any insulation, the number of outside walls, and the boiler’s condition.
Go and have a look
When you visit the property make sure you run the taps to gauge water pressure. You should also check under rugs and behind furniture for anything like damp or cracks.
If the property looks like it’s been recently decorated ask why. It might just be because the sellers wanted to freshen it up for sale, but it could show that they’ve tried to cover up cracks or damp patches.
What’s the area like?
Find out what the crime rate, public transport, road links and other amenities are like in the area. For families it’s important you ask about local schools, whether they’re accepting new pupils and about their recent Ofsted ratings.
Make sure you do your own research too, as it’s the estate agent’s job to sell the home and the area. You can do this by chatting to locals at nearby shops, cafes and pubs or asking the neighbours.