The ultimate list of questions to ask when buying a house

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When working out how to buy a property, there are certain things you must do. Even if it is the second home you are buying and you think you know how the process works, there are always things you can do to make sure there isn’t a major problem you have to fix past the point where you have purchased the home and there isn’t much you can do about it.

What questions should you ask when buying a house?

Whether you are buying a house from the open market or buying a property at auction, you may have to view a house and there are certainly questions to consider when viewing, The below questions give you a good idea as to whether the house you are interested in will suit your needs and will reduce the risk of you buying a house you aren’t happy with.

Because buying a house is such a big decision with all the things involved including paying stamp duty, taking out a house mortgage and making sure you have the right home insurance, you’d want to be as sure as you can you’re making the right decision and have considered all the risks involved by asking the below questions when buying a house.

A buyer asking questions when buying a house

What is the length of time the house has been on the market?

Knowing how long the home has been on the market can be a crucial factor in deciding if a property is worth buying at that price. The chances are, if the property has not sold in a very long time then the property’s value isn’t actually what it is advertised to be.

It is likely that upon viewing the house further, buyers think the property isn’t worth their money. This is a good opportunity to offer a lower offer to what the seller is asking for as this is a good indication they have priced the home too high.

In cases where a house has been on the market for a long period of time, it could also be due to the current economy. For example, when interest rates are high, it is hard for buyers to gain affordable mortgages and therefore harder to buy a house.

What has the interest been like for the property?

Asking an estate agent what interest has been like for a house may give you an honest answer. However, you can also wait around for a house viewing to see if more people come to visit the property or speak to other buyers to see what they think.

Knowing this information will give you a good indication of if you should act quickly to secure the sale of a house or not. An estate agent will usually give the hint that things are getting busy and there have been offers made very close to what the seller is asking for though. So, staying aware of this will give you the best chance of the seller accepting your offer.

Is the home on a floodplain?

Flood plains mean the price of insurance is likely to be higher. If you have already gotten a mortgage in principle, this figure will likely change therefore because the AiP doesn’t necessarily take into consideration where the house is and things like flooding risk.

This is useful to note as you may have to consider this within the price of the property. Asking the seller to accept a lower offer so the price of home insurance makes sense.

The flood risk found after asking questions about buying a house

What is the reason for the owner selling?

Getting an idea about the mindset of the owner of the house is important to understand. If the seller is trying to move out of their house for an issue that the new buyer will adopt, this can be interesting to think about.

Examples include if the seller has intimidating or disruptive neighbours or if the prices of property in the area is going down so they want to move while the price is still okay. In order to work this out, you could ask the estate agent but they may not tell you the truth. Asking neighbours about the local area or asking the owners of properties that have already been sold nearby could give you an accurate answer.

However, the reason for the owner selling isn’t always negative and it depends on if you can take advantage of these factors as the new owner. For example, if the seller is getting rid of the property because they want to move out of a busy city near transport links and into the countryside.

A new buyer can take advantage of this by taking out a buy to let mortgage and finding a tenant for the property that enjoys the hustle and bustle of a city and will gladly pay the rental income for the house.

What kind of problems are there with the neighbours in the property?

No one wants to deal with troublesome neighbours in a house. If the seller is not sure what to do about intimidating neighbours, this can be a good reason to get rid of the home.

Paying close attention to the neighbours during a visit and looking for signs of neglect in neighbouring properties or flats could be a good idea. Things like rubbish left outside of a property, the curtains of neighbours being ruined or the outdoor space of a neighbouring property being overgrown and unkempt.

Unfortunately, what neighbours are like isn’t something that is usually included as part of a residential property valuation although it is a big factor in the quality of the space that the new buyer will have. So, pay close attention to the type of neighbours in a house.

Is the house a listed building or in a conservation area?

Listed buildings are buildings that cannot be redeveloped because they are historically significant and protected by the government. If someone owns a listed building, depending on if the property is grade one listed or grade two listed, they may never be able to change anything structurally with the property.

For a guide on how these listed buildings are protected by the government, click here to find out if your building is listed and what you can do about it if you want to make any changes.

What are the local amenities like in the area?

The quality of the local amenities is a big factor in determining if the value of the house will go up over time. This is because if there are new facilities added to the area, this will attract new residents and increase buyer demand over time. If this demand sustains, property prices will increase.

A fun local area discovered after asking what the local amenities are like when buying a house

This is extremely important if a buyer wants to benefit from capital appreciation in their property over the coming year after they have bought. This means they can later sell the house for more than they bought it by providing the homeowner not only with a place to live but also with an investment.

What is the energy efficiency of the home?

A home’s energy efficiency is a good indication of what you are likely to pay for electricity and gas to heat the home. For example, if the home has poor energy efficiency, heat will escape through the walls, floor and ceiling and result in the tenant or owner of the home having to pay additional utility bills in order to maintain a comfortable temperature.

An easy way to check if the property is energy efficient is to check what the property’s energy performance certificate says. This will give information about the home’s energy efficiency by providing a score from A (the highest, most efficient score) to G (The lowest, least efficient score). The certificate will also include information about what a property owner can do to improve the efficiency of the property if they want to.

What is the water pressure like?

Asking what the water pressure is like is a suitable question to ask when buying a house. The estate agent or landlord may then turn on the tap in the property or even in the shower. After you have asked this question when buying a house, check if there is a delay before the water starts to turn on and if the water pressure is strong and consistent.

If not, this can indicate there are plumbing issues in the property that you’d have to fix. While you’re doing this, you may also want to keep track of how long water takes to heat up in the bathroom or kitchen as this is also a factor that can be checked. If the hot water takes too long it could suggest there are boiler issues or gas piping problems in the premises.

Is the house a leasehold?

Most of the time, you should be made aware of if the property is a leasehold property straight away. Leasehold properties are those that the buyer owns either temporarily or forever but the land that the house is built on is owned by another person. This person can be a company to a landlord and they are known as the freeholder.

This is common in newly built homes which are commonly called help to buy properties as they are typically bought with an equity loan. Although there are still many opportunities to own a home outright once you have paid off a mortgage without becoming a leaseholder. 

Becoming a leaseholder has its pros and cons though. If you have a particularly long lease, the price of the lease will not go down for a while because it is still appealing for those looking to buy the lease. This means you can still sell the lease to a new owner before the end of your term and perhaps sell it for a profit.

99-year leases seen here are common in the property industry and a lease this long is effectively the same as a freehold so the answer to this question to ask when buying a house should be considered individually.

A buyer asking for the leasehold agreement when buying a house

What are the owners spending on bills?

Getting an idea of the utility bills of the house is a smart move because while you will be paying for the mortgage if you buy the house, you will also be paying for the utility bills to operate the property.

The amount that the owner pays for gas and electricity can also indicate the quality of the appliance and insulation in the space too. High costs are associated with lower-value insulation and electricity.

Have the current sellers found somewhere to live?

As you develop an interest in a property and perhaps place an offer, you may become part of a buyer chain. This means the offer you have made is dependent on the outcome of another offer higher up in the buyer chain. If one of the offers falls through, then this can result in complications.

A seller may accept the offer a buyer has made and while they are in the process of exchanging contracts, accept a different, higher offer. This may be due to the initial house the seller is looking to move into being more expensive than they initially thought so they accept a higher offer due to needing more money. This process is known as gazumping.

What are the estate agency fees?

As you view a home, an estate agent may make you aware of the estate agency fees involved if the deal was to go through and if the estate agent fees become too much, this may make the sale of the house less desirable. Usually, an estate agent will charge between 1% and 3.5%, however, it is up to the individual agency as there are no laws surrounding what this can be.

In addition, more commonly with online estate agents, a flat fee of £1000 to £3000 may be charged. If the price of a property is small, then this flat fee may become too much. As an example, a house that is sold for £80,000 that is sold with an online estate agent with a flat form of £2000 will have a fee of 2.5%. For an online estate agent, this may be too much for your liking.

The good news is, for estate agents that operate in person, their fees are often negotiable. Following asking what the estate agency fees are as a question when buying a house, you can then negotiate the fee and agree on a commission structure you are happy with.

Nonetheless, it is important to understand that it may be a lot harder to buy a home without an estate agent. 

Has the house undergone any recent development?

If the owner of a home has recently done developments, this can be good or bad and the price that the house is sold for has to realistically reflect these changes.

For example, if a seller knows they are about to sell a home, it can be common for them to paint the walls or replace flooring to perhaps give a new feeling to the property. However, a fresh coat of paint will not increase the value of a house by much, so if there is a significant increase in the value of the sling price, you may have to consider this.

A construction worker working on a property before it was built

On the other hand, if there has been redevelopment to a house recently and the buyer is looking to purchase the house for an investment, this means there isn’t much value that the new owner can add to the property so they won’t be able to increase the value of the house or increase the rents by much. 

This would turn away anyone who is looking to buy by adding value to a home and making money on an investment.

Finally, recent repair works must be inspected as it could be that the renovation isn’t done to a high quality which may result in the new property owner having to tie any loose ends and take out further money from their pocket in order to make ends meet.

Is there an asbestos survey?

Asbestos is a type of toxic insulation that was discontinued in 1999 in the UK, because of its toxicity, it requires a specialist in order to remove it. These specialists may charge quite a lot and hence result in additional costs for anyone buying a property.

Sometimes, a buyer may become aware of asbestos but be able to purchase the home anyway because the price to remove the asbestos is taken off the cost of the property. This highlights the importance of asking the right questions when buying a house.

This is why it is important to communicate as the seller or estate agent may be honest and not want to ruin the investment for the next owner, especially if they want to keep up a reputation. Someone like this will know that asbestos in a property will be expensive to remove and that the landlord may experience lower rental yields as a result as they’d have to spend more to purchase the property.

What are the planning permission rules?

One of the biggest reasons for purchasing a house is to make money. Hence, an investor who is looking to increase the number of rooms in the house over time may be restricted in this process if they are restricted by harsh planning permission rules.

Is there a sitting tenant?

Sitting tenants may also be called a tenant in situ, this is where there is a tenant living in the house with an active tenancy while the house is transferred from one owner to another.

This process has its pros and cons for either party but if you are a landlord looking to expand your portfolio, it must be considered.

In general, for a landlord, the main risks are that a tenant in situ isn’t a tenant that you would have conducted tenancy referencing for yourself so they may not agree with your criteria for referencing a tenant.

Also, if there is a sitting tenant, they may be there because the landlord has had difficulty evicting them and instead decided to sell the whole home in order to exit the deal.

However, a tenant in situ isn’t always bad, if you buy a house with a sitting tenant, you will be able to save time on the letting process and money on letting agent fees.

Also, if there is a tenant in situ, it could be the case the tenant has lived there for years and takes good care of the property. Making your life easier as you become a landlord.

You, therefore, have to consider properties with tenants in situ on a case-by-case basis as every situation is different. Some deals will be fine whereas others will cause you to look for alternative investments if you’re dealing with a sitting tenant.

Are there any large rugs or furniture that could be hiding anything?

Not every home owner is honest about the condition of their property. As a result, it is common for an estate agent or landlord to use furniture or rugs to cover up anything that is in poor condition.

For example, if you notice a rug is cleverly placed perhaps in an unusual place, ask the estate agent if there is anything that could be underneath or don’t be afraid to lift up a rug if you want to.

It may not be possible to inspect every surface of a house but bear in mind you are taking a risk if you notice a property has a lot of decoration on the walls and furniture covering most of the surface of the floor.

A large rug a landlord asked to be moved before they bought a house

To conclude

As you read this article, it should be clear that knowing what questions to ask when buying a house is crucial before you make a big decision.

Not only do you have to consider the structural details of the house but also the legal issues concerning the house and also you’d have to predict how the property’s value will change over time. 

Consider all these questions and perhaps add them to your property viewing checklist before you visit.

You want to make the right decision, especially if you’re planning to use the property as a replacement to a pension.

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Donnell Bailey

Property expert

Donnell is a property expert focusing on the property market, he looks at a combination of legislation, information from property managers, letting agents and market trends to produce information to help landlords.


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