Buying a house is daunting. Even if you’re not a first-time buyer, chances are it’s been a few years since you last went through the rigmarole of moving house. It won’t surprise you to learn that buying a home is usually the single most expensive purchase you will ever make. Here we answer our 10 essential questions to ask when viewing a house.
If the house has been on the market for three months or more, then you need to ask why. Is there a problem with it that you haven’t discovered yet but more savvy buyers spotted? Surveys will discover any potential problems but it’s better to find out before you get too attached to the idea of buying a property.
If you really like a property, there’s no point wondering how many other people feel the same way as you. Ask how many viewings there have been and if any offers have been made. Choose a busy time to view the home, like a Saturday morning, and if other people are viewing before and after you then you know it’s popular. You should also ask what (if any) offers there have been so far – the estate agent will usually tell you although they cannot disclose the amounts.
What are the schools like? What’s the crime rate like? One of our experts’ favourite questions to ask your estate agent is 'Would you be happy to live here?' Make sure you do some independent research as well. Keep in mind that any house can be renovated but it can’t be moved.
If the owners are moving out after a short period, why? This is vitally important. The owner might just be moving to a different area or a bigger property, but there could be plenty of other reasons that are unappealing to a prospective buyer. Remember, sellers are legally obliged to divulge any disputes with neighbours. Also remember to ask how long the owner has lived there – as a quick move is another sure sign of issues.
If you don’t intend to have a full structural survey on your home make sure you find out about work that’s been recently undertaken and ask to see evidence, like builder’s receipts or guarantees. Make sure you can see planning permission for any recent works and consent of the freeholder (if applicable). If proper permission wasn’t obtained for an extension then you could have to tear it down. A fresh coat of paint could mean the sellers are covering cracks or damp. Lift rugs to make sure they’re not hiding anything unsightly. Keep your nose trained for the musty smell of damp.
This will show up during the conveyancing process but why wait until then? If you buy a listed property the changes you can make both outside and, in some cases, inside too can be restricted. And if the property is in a conservation area other restrictions may also apply.
Check the water pressure and plumbing. It may seem trivial but imagine waking up on the first morning in your new home to discover that the shower is a trickle. Check the taps and shower yourself as you’re looking around. These things may not make or break your decision but they’re recurring expenses that will add to the monthly cost of owning your home and are important to think about.
Investigate how much the Council Tax and utility bills are and try and get an exact amount from the owners, if they are at the viewing, for monthly bills. You can even ask the estate agent to ask the seller if you have to.
Is the garden shed or greenhouse included? Are the fixtures and fittings? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money.
When are they planning to move? Being in a chain can create complications for buyers as any delays or complications for the sellers will have a knock-on effect for you. The ideal situation is that the property is chain-free but, if not, knowing the sellers are organised and keen to move quickly can bode well for a quick and uncomplicated sale.
Another thing to find out is whether the property is leasehold or freehold. The listing will probably display this clearly. If the property is leasehold, how long is left on the lease? A short lease reduces the value of a property so you'll need to extend when you come to resell. Is it possible to buy the freehold or a share of the freehold? How much is the service charge? Are there any issues with the management company?
Finally, which way does the property face? If you have a garden or terrace then you’ll want to make sure it gets the sun when you want it to – whether you like to wake up with the light streaming through the windows of your bedroom or you prefer sunny summer BBQs in the late afternoon.
Speaking to a mortgage adviser from Mortgage Advice Bureau in branch or online could help you find the right mortgage for you. They’ll search over 90 lenders and hundreds of different mortgage products to find one that suits your circumstances and needs.
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