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Things to ask when viewing a home

Homes|20 May 2018
Things to ask when viewing a home
When you’re buying a home, don’t just take the property at face value. There are a few questions you’ll want to ask to ensure you know exactly what you’re buying. 

Why is the house for sale?

If you’re buying a pre-owned home, the first question is why does the owner want to sell? Although the estate agent isn’t obligated to reveal this information, if the owners are not selling because of issues with the property or the area, then it should be a simple answer. However, if the estate agent doesn’t give a straight answer, then it may hint that there is more to the sale than they’re letting on and you may want to delve further.

What's included in the sale?

Whether you’re buying a new or old property, it’s good to set out the parameters of what you do and don’t get from the outset.

With a new build home, this typically includes a new kitchen and bathroom suite to your choice, including appliances, and in some cases you may be offered free flooring throughout the home and/or turf for the garden. However, of these aren’t offered as freebies or if you want to upgrade the options in your home, all standard and optional extras are clearly set out by the sales person.

With an older home, what you get as part of the sale can differ drastically. One seller may leave everything from carpets to light fittings and even furnishings behind. Another may take the lot and leave you with bare walls, exposed light fittings and floorboards. What is left behind when the seller leaves can be negotiated at sale stage, but the estate agent should have an idea of what will remain and this will help you gauge what you actually get for your money.

When was the home put on the market?

If the home has been on the market for over three months, it can ring alarm bells and you’ll want to know why it’s not sold. It could be that the asking price is too high or that people have noticed issues with the property that you haven’t.  

How recently was it purchased?

Have the owners lived here for a short period before moving on? If so, why? It could be that the property was bought as a project, to be renovated and sold again quickly. But it could also mean that there are nightmare neighbours or issues with the home that have driven then owners out. And if the property has changed hands in quick succession before as well, then it begs the question what is causing people to want rid of this home? It’s worth investigating further.

How was the asking price determined?

Whether it’s a new build home or a pre-owned property, the agent or sales person should be able to give you reasons why the price of the property has been set. You should also do your own research on what other, similar homes are selling for in the area to show that you know the market.

If you’re buying pre-owned, the agent may even let on if they believe the seller has overvalued the home, in which case you are prepared if you wanted to negotiate when putting an offer in. You may also want to what the minimum price is that the seller will accept. The seller may have overvalued because they anticipate lower offers and are preparing themselves to negotiate.

Have the sellers found their new home yet?

When buying a pre-owned home, the chain of sale can be make or break, particularly if you already have a home to sell. If you’ve already found a buyer for your home and the sellers of this property haven’t yet, then that could mean you either have to move into temporary accommodation until they can move, or you have to let this one go. Likewise, if the owners are looking for a quick sale because they already have their new home lined up, then you’ll need to be ready to move soon.

Many home buyers find that another benefit of buying a new build home is the lack of chain. You can select a plot that is ready for when you are, and you can even eliminate the pressure to sell your existing home by part exchanging it.

Which direction does the home face?

South-facing gardens are very popular as they have sun on them all day long, although for some that might not be ideal as it means the back rooms of the home become hot boxes during the summer months.

If you’d prefer the sun on the back of your home in the morning rather than later in the day, then a south-east facing garden would suit you. On the other hand, if you want to host late barbeques and have drinks outside in the afternoon and evening as the sun moved to the west, go for a south-west facing garden. Want a nice shady spot? A north facing garden is for you.

With a new build home, you get the added benefit of being able to select your plot, which means you can choose your dream home AND the direction it faces. With pre-owned properties, you may find your dream home doesn’t have the south facing garden you were wanting, and you’ll have to consider if this is something worth sacrificing.

Has any major work been done to the home?

When major developments such as extensions are conducted, it’s important to make sure they have the proper planning and building permissions. Your agent should know the answer to this, but you can also do your own research on accepted and refused planning applications in the area. This will also give you an insight into that you’re likely to be able to do to the property in the future. If it doesn’t already have an extension but you’re thinking of adding one when you buy, it’s worth checking that the previous owners haven’t already applied for planning and been refused, as this will mean your extension plans might have to be forgotten.

What are the average running costs?

Ask the agent for a breakdown of the running costs over a year for the property, including council tax rates, water rates or meter charges, electricity and gas costs. If the agent can’t give you the figures, ask to talk to the seller about it. It’s important to know how much this house will cost you on an annual basis before you invest.

Talk through the energy performance certificate

An Energy Performance Certificate is given for every property and it gives an overall rating of how energy efficient the home. Ask the agent to go through the EPC certificate with you and explain exactly what it all means. A number of factor influence the rating, including if there is loft and cavity wall insulation, how old the insulation is, if the boiler is insulated and the number of outside walls.

Can you get hands on?

Running the taps to test water pressure, moving rugs and furniture to make sure there are no hidden surprises such as damp or cracks.

If you notice any fresh paint or decorating, it’s also worth asking why the owners redecorated. It could be that they just wanted to freshen up their home ready for sale, however it could be a sign that they’ve attempted to cover cracks or damp patches.

What's the local area like?

For families, it’s worth asking what schools are in the local area and if they have capacity for new pupils, as well as what their recent Ofsted ratings are. Other things to ask about are the local crime rate, the public transport and road links, and the amenities in the area.

Remember the estate agent’s job is to sell the home and area though, so it’s good to do your own research too. Talk to neighbours and visit local cafes, pubs and shops to chat to the locals and get a true feel for the area.
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