Viewing a property can be an overwhelming experience. You’re on the cusp of spending your well-earned savings on a new home and you want to ensure you make the right decision. Here are the top 10 questions you should ask an estate agent before parting with your cash.
The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Estate Agents
1. Why does the homeowner want to sell their home?
This is an essential question because you want to find out if there is something about the property that makes it undesirable. It doesn’t matter if it’s structural problems, an unsafe area or noisy neighbours, the last thing you want is to purchase a place and then have to deal with the same issues.
The seller may just be looking to make a healthy profit and move to a new home elsewhere, relocating for a new job, upsizing or downsizing due to changes in family size. If you return to the property for a repeat viewing, you can often ask if the seller can be present to ask them more questions directly but a good agent will have understood their client’s motivations and be able to share this information with you honestly.
2. How long has the property been on sale for?
If the property has been on the market for several months, it's imperative you ask why this is the case. It’s easy to think it’s for bad reasons, but this is not always the case. Certain price brackets have lower traction rates than others which means it can be slower to secure a buyer. Perhaps the seller has received offers, but not at the level they wish to accept. Of course, there might be something distinctly wrong with the home which is putting off buyers or it could be due to another reason such as an excessively high asking price. A trustworthy agent will be very honest when asked and it can help you to understand the owner’s motivations.
Likewise, if the place has only been put up for sale recently, try to discover if there are any trends in the area. It is possible that many people have decided to move to this location and there could be high levels of competition. You may need to be prepared to offer quickly and at a very competitive price to secure the home at such an early stage.
3. How long has the seller lived at the property?
Try and find out if the property has changed hands a lot in recent years. If people are not staying any longer than a few months, this may indicate there is something wrong with the home. On the other hand, if the seller has lived on the premises for many years, this could imply the property is high quality, but they just want a change of scenery.
4. Are there any maintenance charges involved?
Agents should be presenting upfront information about maintenance costs, where they are applicable. It’s always worth checking though whether the property you’re considering has an annual service or estate charge, ground rent fee or chancel payment that you need to be aware of. Being fully informed about your annual costs ensures you only see properties you can afford.
5. What comes included?
It is very easy to assume that a washing machine is included, but this may not be the case. Understanding what is and is not included, including furniture, fixtures and fittings can help you to understand what you may have to spend in the future.
6. What is the seller’s onward position?
It is important to establish is the seller’s position as their may be an onward chain. If this is the case, it is good to further ask if the seller has been actively looking at onward options to see how motivated they are to try and complete the chain. As much as a chain free purchase is preferred, it is not always possible but it may help you decide between two properties.
7. What is the tenure?
There are tree types of ownership – leasehold, share of freehold and freehold. There are pros and cons to all and there is no right or wrong way to own. If a property does have a lease, you should ask how many years are remaining as this may affect the ease to get a mortgage. Whilst you can extend the lease after two years of ownership, you may wish to ask if the seller is willing to start to process for you (at your expense) to prevent you having to wait so long.
8. Are there any major works due at the property?
If the property is within a block of flats, there should be an ongoing maintenance programme to keep the development running efficiently. This can result in a Section 20 or “major works” notice being issued, which may require additional funds to be paid by the owners. It’s good to ask from the outset if a building has outstanding works and payments due so that you can factor these into your costs.
9. Are there any restrictive time frames?
It’s possible that the homeowner is limited to move around a certain time frame and understanding this at the beginning helps to manage expectations. Perhaps they have children in a school, have a holiday or a new job in a different location which is dictating the move. The property may also be tenanted and not able to have vacant possession for an extended period of time. You can then question if you’re able to be flexible to meet these time frames, or if this rules out the properties for you.
10. Is the seller happy to enter into a legally binding commitment agreement?
The last thing any buyer wants to do is fall in love with a property and have an offer accepted only for the homeowner to change their mind. It’s worth asking if the homeowner is willing to sign a commitment agreement to legally bind them into the process and to prevent them from unreasonably withdrawing. At Right Now Residential, our gazumping insurance helps to mitigate the risk of your purchase falling through so that you have confidence that the seller is truly committed to selling you the property.