11 questions to ask your estate agent when viewing a property.
Picture this: after months of searching, you find the property of your dreams. It ticks all the boxes. Four spacious bedrooms, a large modern bathroom and a south-facing garden to make memories with the family. You buy it instantly.
But as you wave goodbye to the removal team and start to unpack, your dream home reveals its darker side. Cracked plaster in the kitchen, smells of mildew coming from the cellar and wall-piercing yelling from the couple next door.
It’s at this point you realise your love-struck eyes have tricked you into the biggest financial mistake you’re ever likely to make. And all because you didn’t ask your estate agent the right questions before making an offer.
So, if you want to avoid a homebuyer horror show, grab your notepad because we’re about to reveal 11 questions to ask your estate agent when viewing a property.
Question #1: Why is the owner selling the property?
Even if your estate agent doesn’t know the answer to this question, they might hint at the circumstances.
It might be the case that the seller wants a lifestyle change, a move abroad or to downsize due to financial hardship.
Whatever the reason, try to gauge any potential wriggle room in your offer. If the buyer’s desperate to sell, you might grab a bargain.
Question #2: How has the property value changed in recent years?
It’s always advisable to research previously sold prices before making an offer. You can find the Price Paid Data for any property by visiting the HM Land Registry. It’s completely free and the results are instant.
If there’s wild disparity between previous sold prices and the seller’s current asking price, it’s worth asking your estate agent if any changes have been made to the property or local area.
This’ll help you decide whether the property is truly worth its price tag or the seller is chancing their luck.
Question #3: When will the seller be ready to move?
Even if you find the perfect property, it could be months before you’re handed the keys.
To know where you stand from the start, ask your estate agent if there’s an ongoing chain. If so, has the seller found a property? Have they had an offer accepted? And when will they be ready to move?
That way, you won’t waste your time falling in love with a property that doesn’t fit your timeline. Let’s move on.
Question #4: What can you tell us about the local area?
Investing in a property goes much further than just bricks and mortar. You’re investing in a neighbourhood, a lifestyle and potentially somewhere to raise a family.
That’s why it’s essential to scope the local area.
Of course, a wise homebuyer like yourself will conduct your own research here. But there’s no harm in asking your estate agent what they think.
If they’re anything like us, they’ll have in-depth knowledge on the area, sharing local insight on transport links and schools through to leisure facilities and must-try restaurants.
You can also gauge a better feeling for the area by taking a stroll, checking out local amenities and asking the neighbours for their honest feedback.
Question #5: Are the neighbours a noisy nightmare?
Don’t buy in doubt; ask the question. The last thing you want to hear is another argument from the couple next door as you try to unwind for the evening.
If your estate agent doesn’t know the answer to your question, pop next door and introduce yourself. It’ll put your mind at rest that no noisy surprises are waiting for you later down the line.
Additionally, your solicitor will also cover these types of concerns in their disclosure sections. It’s worth a read.
Question #6: When was the boiler last serviced?
You’d be surprised how many home-hunters fail to check the boiler.
Yet, when winter comes and your pilot light fails to light, you could be looking at eye-watering repair or replacement costs to heat your property.
Don’t take the risk. Ask the question. It could save you thousands.
Question #7: Has the property been recently decorated?
And if so, why? Sure, the sellers might want their property to look its best with a fresh splash of paint. But, equally, those thin layers of Tuscan Terracotta could be hiding something much more sinister.
Don’t fall for alluring aesthetics. Think smart and ask yourself whether there’s a possibility of damp, cracks to plaster or something far worse.
For additional peace of mind, an RICS homebuyer’s survey will inspect, assess and report any visual defects in easily accessible areas of the property.
Question #8: How long has the property been on the market?
If the property has been on the market for a few months, ask your estate agent why it isn’t selling.
Is a major development due to start next month? Is the price too high? Is there a never-ending chain? Get investigating and work out what’s putting other buyers off making an offer.
On the plus side, if a property has been on the market for a while, you might find the seller is willing to negotiate on price. Again, ask your estate agent. They’ll know what’s going on.
Question #9: How many offers have been made so far?
An estate agent can tell you how many offers have been submitted, but not their value.
If the property’s received several offers as soon as it’s hit the market, you may need to think carefully about your offer if you’re serious about securing a sale.
However, if little to no offers have been made, you’re in a stronger position to haggle. You never know, you might grab yourself an absolute steal.
Question #10: How much are council tax and utility bills?
Compared to buying a home, household bills may seem like small fry. But don’t forget, these are recurring costs you’ll pay every month. It all adds up.
If you want to know how much it costs to run your potential property, check its energy performance certificate.
This is a trusted document (compiled by companies like Skyline Energy Assessors) that rates a property’s efficiency. ‘A’ being very efficient to ‘G’ being inefficient.
Every property must have an energy performance certificate before it can be sold.
Question #11: Is there anything else we need to know about the property?
Put the spotlight on your estate agent. Ask them to share everything they know with you about the property (good and bad) so you can make an informed buying decision.
After all, it’s likely your estate agent has seen thousands of properties. They’ve done their homework. They know where to look and they’ll know where to find potential red flags.