Whether you are looking to buy or to rent a property, this will most likely be one of the biggest decisions you would be making in that moment in time. Yet many people decide on a property within the first fifteen seconds of walking through the door. While your gut instinct is important, it’s vital to take a step back, engage your sensible head and keep a checklist to hand, to ensure your snap decision doesn’t leave you with a costly money pit, or noisy, problem neighbours.
So, here is a list of questions that you must ask your estate agent on a viewing:
- How long has the house been on the market for?
This could be the most important question you ask an estate agent, giving you an early indication as to how desirable the property is, if the asking price is appropriate or if there are any underlying problems turning buyers off.
If the house has been on the market for six months or more, ask the agent why, thinking about asking price, location or possible structural problems.
- Why are the current owners selling?
The estate agent doesn’t have to answer, but if you’re lucky they might hint at the circumstances. You might find that the owner is desperate to sell, perhaps because work is taking them overseas, and so would accept a lower price, or they have already found a new property and must move quickly.
- How long the owners/previous tenants lived there for?
If they’re moving out after a short period, why? Find out if the property has repeatedly changed hands – if it has there may be some neighbourhood problems.
- What exactly is included in a price?
Does the property come unfurnished? What about the appliances, are the staying or going? Is the garden shed or greenhouse included? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money.
- How much are the Council tax and utility bills per month?
Try and get exact amounts. (You can ask the estate agent to ask the seller/landlord if you have to.) These may not make or break your decision but they’re re-occurring expenses that will add to the monthly cost of owning your home.
- Has the property had any major building work recently?
Was there a particular reason it needed to be done and will it impact on you in the future? It is always good to know if the boiler has just been replaced or the property has had a complete rewiring done
- What is the local area like?
What are the schools like? What is the crime rate like? How good are transport links? Where is the nearest petrol station? While it is a good idea to see what the estate agent has to say, make sure you do some independent research as well.
- What are the neighbours like?
It is important to know what the neighbours next door will be like – are they owners? Are they tenants? Do they have any young children or pets? These are all very important factors to consider if you have specific requirements about where you want to live. Be it a family friendly place or a professionals only kind of neighbourhood.
- Which way does the garden/balcony face?
You may have pleasant visions of sitting out on a summer’s evening sipping a cool glass of wine. But that’s not likely to happen if you have a north facing garden/balcony. If you’re not sure which way the garden/balcony faces, ask.
- What offers has the property had so far?
The agent will most likely tell you if there have been other offers, but not how much they were. But again, they have a big incentive to get a price agreed, so might drop some pretty heavy hints in whispered tones. If you can find out about the other offers, it obviously makes it easier to know what you should offer.