Buying a property is a big decision, and you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting as part of the deal. Estate agents are here to answer any questions you may have, so come armed with a list of everything you want to know to ensure you have all the facts about the property and its surrounding area before you buy.
Read on for a full list of questions to ask when buying a house or a flat.
Questions to ask when buying a house
Why is the owner selling?
Finding out why they are selling could reveal something about the property, and it could also reveal something about the circumstances. For example, the owner might be desperate to sell because work is taking them overseas, and they might therefore be likely to accept a lower price.
How long has the property been on the market and what offers have they had so far?
If the house has been on the market for a long time, ask the agent why they think it isn’t selling. It could be that other prospective buyers have identified issues that you haven’t come across yet, or the property could just be overpriced.
Knowing whether there have been any offers so far, and for what amount, will tell you something about the desirability of the property and what other people think it is worth.
How did they decide on an asking price?
The agent should be able to justify the asking price.
How much has the property increased or decreased in value in the past X years?
This information is readily available online on the Land Registry website, but if there has been a decrease in value, it’s worth asking the agent why this is the case.
What is the lowest price the seller will accept?
It’s worth asking whether the estate agent knows the lowest price the seller is willing to go to.
How long have the owners lived there?
If they’ve lived there a long time, then it’s a good sign that the property has served them well. If they’re moving out after a short period, try to find out why.
When do the sellers have to move out? Are they part of a chain?
If the sellers have already found another home, they may be keen to sell as fast as possible. If they’re still looking for somewhere, it adds to the uncertainty.
If they are part of a chain, then there is a greater chance of a delay or a collapse.
Exactly what is included in the sale?
Is the owner leaving anything behind, such as white goods, fixtures and fittings and garden furniture? Use this as an opportunity to work out exactly what you’ll be getting as part of the sale.
Which way does the property face?
Depending on your navigational skills you may not actually need to ask this question, but it’s worth knowing if the garden gets the morning or afternoon sun and which rooms in the house will get the most natural sunlight throughout the day.
Have any major works been conducted on the property?
If so, try to get access to relevant planning and building control consents to ensure that everything has been carried out with permission. You can search for most planning applications (both granted and rejected) on the local planning authority website.
Are there any known issues with the property?
Find out if there are any known issues with the plumbing or with damp. It’s also worth asking how old the roof is and when major items such as the boiler and double glazing were installed.
Is the property listed?
If you buy a listed property, there will be limits and restrictions on what changes you can make to the property.
How much is the Council Tax? And how much are utility bills in the area?
This will help you to work out your monthly outgoings and whether you can afford the property.
What can they tell you about the local neighbourhood?
While it’s worth doing your own research too, asking an estate agent about local schools, transport links, restaurants, shops, crime rate and so on will give you a better understanding of the local area.
These are questions that should be asked whether you’re buying a house or a flat. In the next section we’ve outlined additional questions you should ask if you’re buying a flat specifically.
Questions to ask when buying a flat
Who owns the freehold?
If you own the freehold, it means that you own the building and the land it stands on outright. Whole houses are normally sold as a freehold, while flats are often sold as a leasehold. Leasehold means that you just have a lease from the freeholder to use the home for a certain number of years.
If you don’t own the freehold, find out who does and learn a bit about their reputation before committing to buying the flat.
How long is the lease?
Most leases will be for a period of 90-120 years, although they can be as long as 999 years. The longer the lease, the better, as a short lease could make it harder to get a mortgage and to resell when the time comes.
If it’s a shorter lease length, find out what the cost would be to extend it.
How much is the ground rent and/or service charge?
Ground rent is the money you pay annually to the freeholder and can be set at any figure they want. This is fixed by the terms of the lease.
Service charge is payment for all the services that you as a leaseholder will use but will not be specifically responsible for, such as communal gardens and other communal areas.
Is there a lift?
A lift will add a substantial amount to your maintenance fees, whether you use it or not, so decide if it will be of use to you and if it’s therefore worth the extra cost. If you’re looking at a flat on the ground floor, you probably won’t get your money’s worth.
Are pets allowed?
If the flat is leasehold, you’ll need the freeholder’s permission in writing to move your pet in with you.
Is the flat soundproofed?
Soundproofing is now part of standard building regulations, so modern blocks will be soundproofed to a high standard. In older blocks the soundproofing may not be as good, so find out what you’re working with and how likely you are to be affected by noisy neighbours.
Has the seller lodged any complaints against their neighbours?
If the seller has made any formal complaints against their neighbours, they legally have to tell you if you ask. Finding out before you buy could save you years of torment.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most important questions to ask before buying a house or a flat. Discover more tips on what you should and shouldn’t do when buying a house for the first time, and find out how much you need to save for a deposit.