Questions to Ask When Buying a House

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An estate agent who is being asked questions about buying a house

As a homebuyer in the UK, it’s crucial to approach the process with diligence and ask the right questions at every stage. By doing so, you can make an informed decision and avoid potential pitfalls.

When should you ask these questions?

When it comes to asking questions about a property at various stages of the buying process. Many questions are asked best at viewing but picking up the phone or sending an email to an agent or seller at any point in the buying process is something that is also advised before you buy.

Should you ask the seller or the agent these questions?

It’s essential to recognise that estate agents have a wealth of knowledge about the property and the local area. However, not all agents may be aware of specific details related to the property’s condition or the seller’s circumstances.

On top of this, they may be incentivised to bias their answers to questions to paint the picture of a property in the best possible light. Despite this, unless a seller is selling their property by themself, questions should be generally asked to the agent.

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It is also important to double check the information given by an agent where possible with online sources and do you own due diligence on the process too.

Questions about a property’s condition and maintenance

Determining the condition of a property is a crucial aspect of the home-buying process, it can have significant financial implications. In general, the costs of maintaining a property after you have bought a property are as follows. Compare what an agent says with the average.

Lowest Estimate Highest Estimate Typical Cost
Window cleaning service – per cleaning £40 £150 £95
Exterior house painting – every 5-10 years £425 £1,500 £962
Boiler maintenance – yearly service £80 £120 £100
Gardening and lawn care – per visit £30 £50 £40
Gutter cleaning and roof repairs £20 £250 £135
The costs provided are approximate averages – consult local tradespeople for precise quotes.

These figures can of course vary significantly depending on the age, size, and location of property.

1. Has the seller done any work on the property and if so when?

Inquiring about any recent renovations or maintenance work done by the seller can provide valuable insights into the property’s condition. It’s essential to request documentation, such as invoices or certificates, to verify the work carried out and ensure it was performed by qualified professionals.

This is different if a property is a new build as these are often brand new with no prior work done to the property.

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However, it is still worth noting that according to a study by leahough.co.uk, upon completion of new build homes, nearly 94 percent of homeowners report encountering at least one defect.

2. How long has the seller lived at their current address?

Another important consideration is how long the current sellers have resided in the property. The duration of their stay can provide clues about their familiarity with the home’s condition and maintenance needs.

According to data from the Daily Mail here, there is significant variation in how frequently homeowners move across different regions of the UK. Residents of affluent areas like Kensington & Chelsea tend to stay put the longest, with an average tenure of 35.5 years.

A man who is moving out of their house

In contrast, homeowners in places like Dartford, Kent and South Derbyshire are among the most frequent movers, living in their properties for around 15 years on average. Compared to modern times, mobility rates were even higher in the 1980s when people moved homes approximately every 8 years.

Inquiring about the sellers’ length of residency can shed light on how well they know the property and any potential issues that may have arisen during their time there and if it is a particularly small amount of time they have lied there beware of potential issues that they could be looking to avoid.

3. How much are their gas and electricity bills every month?

Understanding a property’s energy consumption and associated costs is an important consideration when evaluating its overall affordability and efficiency. The age of a residence can serve as a general indicator of its potential maintenance expenses, including utility bills. According to industry estimates.

Age of Residence Maintenance Expenses
Newly Constructed (Less than 10 years old) 1% of the property’s assessed value
Moderately Aged (Between 10 and 20 years) 2% of the property’s assessed value
Matured (Between 20 and 30 years old) 3% of the property’s assessed value
Long-standing (Over 30 years old) 4% of the property’s assessed value

4. Are there any renovations that need to be done? 

When assessing a property for potential renovations or repairs needed, it’s crucial to thoroughly inspect the premises during the viewing and also ask the estate agent at the same time.

A keen eye and attention to detail can help uncover any underlying issues or areas that may require immediate or future attention as the estate agent or seller may not want to tell you about these in great detail.

an estate agent looking at renovations that need to be done

By conducting a comprehensive walkthrough and closely examining the property’s structure, finishes, and systems, you can better gauge the extent of renovations necessary and factor these into your decision-making process.

Questions about the seller’s circumstances 

Understanding the seller’s situation and motivations can provide valuable context when negotiating the sale of a property. Asking some key questions can help you gauge their flexibility and timeline.

5. Has the seller had any other offers?

If the seller has already received other offers on the property, it indicates higher demand and gives them more leverage in negotiations. Asking about competing bids allows you to assess the likelihood of a bidding war and adjust your maximum offer price accordingly.

Rightmove data shows that as of February 2024, finding a buyer now takes over two weeks longer compared to the same period in 2023, marking the slowest average time to sell since 2015, excluding the initial lockdown months of April and May 2020.

6. Is the seller part of a buyer chain?

Being part of a property chain, where the seller needs to find a new home that is reliant on other transactions, can create delays and complications.

A seller that is part of a buyer chain

If the seller replies that they are a part of a chain, you’ll want to further inquire about the number of parties involved and the timeline to understand potential risks. Research by homesellingexpert.co.uk revealed that failed chains were the cause of around 24% of collapsed home sales in 2022.

7. Have they found their next property?

Knowing whether the sellers have already identified their next home or not can provide insights into their urgency and willingness to be flexible on price or terms.

If they are yet to find suitable housing, they may prioritise a quick sale, whereas sellers who have already purchased elsewhere may feel less urgency. By understanding the seller’s situation through these key questions, you can better negotiate appropriate terms that protect your interests as the buyer.

Questions to ask you can verify with the land registry 

The land registry is a crucial resource that provides essential information about a property, including its boundaries, ownership details, and any restrictions or covenants that may be in place.

Failing to consult the land registry records can lead to costly surprises and legal complications down the line. It’s imperative to verify the following aspects through the land registry before committing to a purchase.

8. What is included in the sale of the property?

The land registry maintains detailed records of property boundaries and the land included in a sale. It’s essential to confirm that the property you’re purchasing includes all the land and structures you expect, such as outbuildings, garages, or garden areas.

Read our full guide on using the land registry

Neglecting to verify this information can result in disputes with neighbours over boundaries or discovering that certain structures are not actually part of the property you’ve purchased.

9. Is the property listed as part of a conservation area?

Properties located within designated conservation areas are subject to additional planning restrictions and regulations aimed at preserving the character and historical significance of the area.

Failing to identify if a property falls within a conservation area can lead to costly complications if you plan to make alterations or renovations in the future. The Local Planning Authority (LPA) records will indicate if the property is part of a conservation area, allowing you to make an informed decision.

10. Is there an EPC check on the property?

According to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, all properties for sale in the UK must have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) that rates the property’s energy efficiency on a scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).

Check a properties EPC rating on gov.uk

The EPC rating not only impacts your future energy costs but can also affect the property’s value and saleability. Failure to obtain an EPC before purchasing can result in potential fines and legal penalties.

11. Is there a floodplain nearby?

The land registry records contain information on nearby floodplains, which can significantly impact a property’s risk of flooding and associated insurance costs. Check if a property is on a flood plain here.

Overlooking this information can leave you vulnerable to potential flood damage and escalating insurance premiums. According to the Environment Agency, approximately 1 in 6 homes in England are at risk of flooding (5.9 million properties) from rivers, the sea, or surface water.

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12. Is the house leasehold?

Search for a copy of the deeds on the land registry

13. Are there any plans for future developments nearby?

Questions specific to a property deal

When considering a property purchase, it’s essential to look beyond the physical structure itself and evaluate the surrounding area and potential issues that could impact your living experience.

14. What are the amenities like in the local area?

This question is crucial when understanding the availability and proximity of essential amenities

Live in London? – Check out our useful area guide

Find your local area and view things like supermarkets, general practitioners, parks, and transportation links.

15. Where are the schools in the local area?

For families with children or those planning to start a family, the quality of local schools is a critical factor. Ofsted reports that in 2022, 88% of schools in England were rated as “good or outstanding”.

16. What is the water pressure?

Poor water pressure can be a significant inconvenience, affecting daily tasks such as showering, washing dishes, and even running appliances efficiently. Asking this question or tuning on a tap on our viewing to test this for yourself would be a good idea.

17. Are there any noise disturbances?

Noise pollution can severely impact your quality of life and overall enjoyment of the property.

Live in London? – Our area guide gives you an overview

See if there are airports, busy roads, industrial facilities or pubs or restaurants nearby that could impact the noise in the property.

18. Do you think the area is generally safe?

A sense of security is a fundamental requirement for any home. While crime statistics can provide an overview, it’s also essential to gauge the safety perceptions of locals and the seller.

Potentially even asking neighbours or local people can give you a more raw, unbiased opinion on the safety.

Questions, if buying as an investment

If you’re considering purchasing a property as an investment, it’s crucial to ask specific questions to understand the potential returns and risks associated with the property.

19. Are there any tenants in situ?

Understanding the current tenant situation is essential. If there are existing tenants, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with their lease agreements, including the remaining term, rent amount, and any clauses or conditions.

Also, why the tenant is still in the property when it is being sold is useful to understand as it could be the landlord has had trouble with the tenant and is selling the property as a solution to not being able to evict a troublesome tenant.

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20. What is the current rental income?

It’s important to obtain accurate information about the current rental income generated by the property and compare it to the average rental rates in the area.

Live in London? – Use our property guide to help

This data will help you assess the property’s potential profitability by looking at the rental income of the property in relation to the property price.

Average and projection for rental rates in that area data

  • According to Zoopla.co.uk, the average monthly rent in the UK as of 2022 was £1,220, with significant variations across regions and property types.
  • Projections by the Office for National Statistics indicate that rental prices in the UK are expected to increase by an average of 3.5% annually over the next five years.

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