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Questions to ask when buying a house or a flat

  • 12, Oct 2023
  • Read time: 11 mins

Buying a house can be daunting. But fear not, this handy guide will provide hints and tips to make the process clearer. Yes, house buying can be tricky but estate agents are duty-bound to tell you the truth. So, asking the right questions can help you pick home insurance cover to suit your needs.

Couple speaking to a solicitor.

1. How long has the house been on the market? 

This is a great place to start. If the house has been on the market for 3 months or more, then try to ask why this might be. There could be a problem that you haven't spotted yet.

Surveys will help uncover potential issues. But it’s better to find these out sooner rather than later.

2. How much interest has there been in the property? 

Consider things like how many people have viewed the house and how many offers have been made. If you visit the property on a weekend. Look out for viewings before and after yours to give you an idea of popularity.

Estate agents will usually say if any offers made are close to the asking price. This way you'll know how fast you need to move.

3. Why is the owner selling the property? 

This is very important. The owner might just be moving to a different area or a bigger property, but there could be plenty of other reasons. Is the property too near a noisy road? Are they tired of the upkeep? Food for thought.

4. Are there any problems with the neighbours?

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.

Boundary disputes can be long running sagas that you could inherit. But it's your responsibility to find out to begin with - not the sellers.

You can check the boundary by asking for a copy of the title plan from the Land Registry. This shows the boundary marked in red.

5. What do you like about the area?

You could ask your estate agent if they'd be happy to live in the area themselves. Even better, query the seller about the area if they're present when you view the property. Remember, do your own research!

If the schools are bad, the crime rate is high or you're too far from public transport, then you might need to think again. You may wish to check local schools’ OFSTED reports or crime rates in the neighbourhood to inform your decision.

6. What work has been done to the house?

Make sure you can see planning permission for any recent works. 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. Lift rugs to make sure they’re not hiding anything. Knowing about the history of the house will make it easier to check you have the right level of home insurance.

7. What's included in the sale?

If it isn’t in the contract don’t presume it will be there when you move in. This is what contracts are for, after all. So, that wall mounted TV (and the wall mounting itself) will likely not be there when you move in.

8. How old is the property? Is it listed?

Finding out how old the property is will give you clues on how the property has been built. Consider whether it's a new or recent build. You might want to see if it benefits from greener building regulations.

18th century homes might have been built with a substance that insurance companies have an issue with. Like bungaroosh or mundic.

If you'd like to get home insurance for a listed property or one made of unusual construction, please call us for a quote.

9. How’s the water pressure? 

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 the property.

10. How old is the boiler?

The best way to check how old the boiler is in the home you’re viewing is to get the serial number. This will be unique to that boiler, so finding out how old it is shouldn’t be a problem.

Check the drop down panel for the serial number. This will contain the date the boiler was manufactured. If it’s not in the drop down panel, check under the boiler or on the side. There should also be a user guide or manual that provides you with the answers you need.

11. What's the energy performance like?

Getting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required if you sell, lease or rent.

Arranging an EPC survey will help to determine how energy efficient the property is. They'll give it an energy rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). It'll also include a list of recommendations on how to improve it.

Buildings with a good EPC rating may enjoy several benefits. Like lower energy bills, higher property values and a lower carbon footprint.

12. When do the current owners need to move by? Have the sellers found somewhere new?

Being in a chain can create problems for buyers. Any delays or complications for the sellers will have a knock-on effect.

The ideal situation is that the property is chain-free. If the property has a chain, it's good to know the sellers are keen to move quickly. This should bode well for an uncomplicated sale.

13. Is there any evidence of damp? 

Use your senses when viewing a property. Especially when it comes to spotting tell-tale signs of damp such as:

  • Stains or patches of mould on walls, around windows and doors
  • A musty smell
  • Excessive condensation on windows
  • Peeling wallpaper
  • Paint blisters
  • Crumbling plasterwork

Remember, damp repair isn’t covered by many buildings insurance policies. This is because it occurs gradually. This means it'd fall within the 'maintenance and normal use or ageing exclusion'.

14. How’s the broadband service and mobile signal in the area?

Go online to check the broadband providers and coverage in your new neighbourhood.

You’ll find the providers that have listed their service in that area. Then, do a check with those providers to see what speeds they offer.

It's also a good idea to see who currently supplies broadband services to the property. So you'll know whether a new line needs fitting.

15. Has there been an asbestos survey carried out?

Asbestos kills more people every year than road traffic accidents. Try to find out whether an asbestos survey has been carried out. This may not apply to new or even recently built houses.

You might find asbestos in old fire blankets. It may also be in roofs including the garden shed, insulation panels, ceilings and doors.

16. What council tax band is the property in?

Finding out the council tax band of your property an help you estimate your household bills. Visiting the government website and putting in your postcode will provide instant answers.

17. Has the property had any claims?

When buying a new home, you'll need to contact the insurer with relevant details of the new property.

It might be a good idea to find out about any previous insurance claims. From water leaks and storms and flooding to subsidence or theft. You'll then be able to share these with your insurance company. Ensuring you're better prepared for any future events.

Get extra peace of mind

You don't need to play a guessing game when buying a new home! There's plenty of key questions you can ask to ensure you're in the know.

It's important you ask the right things to put your mind at rest before the big move. Feel free to come back to this guide if you're ever in need of a quick refresh.

Learn more about home insurance

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