Buying a house is daunting. Even if you’re not a first-time buyer, chances are it’s been five years or more since you last went through the rigmarole.
It’s easy to feel like everyone around you knows so much more than you and is just waiting to take advantage. Before you know it, you’ll be paying £500,000 for a shed with no door in the middle of a roundabout.
Fear not. Yes, house buying can be tricky, long-winded and a little stressful, but estate agents are duty bound to tell you the truth, as long as you ask the right questions.
Follow our checklist of questions to ask when buying a house and it will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises when you move in.
When it comes to what to ask when buying a house, this is the most vital question.
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.
Is it overvalued?
A property that has sat on the market for a while may also mean the owners are open to offers below the asking price.
How many people have viewed the house? How many offers have there been? 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 won’t tell you the actual amount of offers made but they will tell you how many there have been. This will give you a good idea of how fast you need to move.
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.
Is the property near to a noisy road? Are there problems with the neighbours?
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.
Would the estate agent be happy to live in the area themselves? Even better, try to ask the seller about the area if they’re present when you view the property.
Most importantly, do your own research. Keep in mind that any house can be renovated but it can’t be moved.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Have the sellers found somewhere new? 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.
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.
Find out more tips in our guide to moving house