Viewing a house is always an exciting time, after all this could be your future home for many years to come.
Whether you are looking at a New Build or Existing Home there are lots of questions to ask, there are also questions you should always be asking of any estate agent. To help ensure you are asking your estate agent the right questions we’ve split this article into 3 sections of ‘general questions’, “new build questions’ and ‘older property questions’.
General Questions When Viewing A Property
- What is the local area like?
Hopefully you’ve taken a shine to the property, otherwise, why are you there? but what is the traffic like in peak periods (an estate agent should know really), what are crime levels like (again the estate agent should know but in the UK you can also look at https://www.police.uk/ for neighbourhood crime stats over recent years) and also how good are local schools (perhaps worth looking at local exam results for this).
- What is the parking situation?
Do you get designated parking, is there a garage or is it on-street parking? How secure is any secure parking? is there CCTV to cover any ‘secure parking’ or garages? With a growing number of cars on our streets and often 2 per house, parking is hugely important – this is also more the case with a push for fewer people to drive to work and so the security of vehicles is vital.
- What are bills likely to be for this property?
Whilst its not always possible to be accurate on a new build, estate agents tend to be pretty accurate in their estimates of monthly and quarterly bills. This will tell you if you can really afford your dream home.
- How good are connections in the area?
We are talking both physical and non-physical. What is transport like and what is the data connection like (mobile and landline or otherwise), will you get good mobile coverage or are you going to struggle. Can you get to work easily on the train or is it going to be a pain in the arse?
- What exactly will be included in the sale?
This isn’t just about will you get a fridge or are they leaving that nice dressing table you are admiring, but it’s whether you are getting the carpets even. Its a huge question to ask, and our advice is to always get in writing exactly what is included and if you want something else you’ve seen (perhaps in the show home) ask how much extra it is to get it included as an upgrade.
Buying a New Build Property, Questions to Ask
- What do I get with the house?
When you view a new build home, its often a show home or sometimes even off-plan in a marketing suite. It looks amazing you imagine all the furniture in place, all the fittings are as seen but in reality what is often supplied is a basic kitchen, bathroom and the internal doors… that’s about it, no floor coverings, nothing else … you have to upgrade your home buying package if you want to get them included. That’s fine if you’ve got the cash to hand but for a first-time buyer it may just put that home out of reach, so make sure you ask this question.
- What does the warranty include, and how long is it?
Each developer will give you a new build warranty on your new build home. But it only covers certain things, so ensure to check it upfront before you even reserve that plot!
Generally warranties can last upto 10 years, which is fantastic, they are essentially your insurance against the developer having done something wrong and you can force them to come back and fix it – though the truth is it’s not always that easy.
Pro-Tip: if you have a reservation on a plot, visit it a few times and create a snag list, ensure you get a professional surveyor in too, and get your developer to fix issues before you sign on that dotted line. Get every little snag sorted, even if its just a scuffed paint mark, whilst it’s a developer fault you have that right, once it’s handed over you take on that role unless its structural and then the warranty comes into action.
- Is the property freehold or leasehold?
This is a great question to be asking and almost all new home buyers, and first-time buyers don’t ask it. Is the property freehold, your’s entirely or is it leasehold, will you be in essence paying ground rent and have probably a very long agreement with the developer for the land (often between 100 and 999 years). Ideally it will be freehold, but often it’s not. Flats tend to be leasehold for obvious reasons, where as houses can be either. Leaseholds often also come with maintenance fees.
- Are there any restrictive covenants?
Restrictive covenants come in all shapes and sizes, from not adding extra windows to a property to the prevention of adding CCTV to property and even satellite dishes at times (though this is rare). Always always ask this question, otherwise you may find yourself the wrong end of the law – also if you find that after a home is built and a covenant has been broken by the developer, your warranty should (in theory) cover them fixing it.
- Are there plans to extend the development?
Imagine buying your dream new build home with a view from the bedroom which overlooks a lovely greenfield, or a garden which has some amazing views over countryside, only for 6 months later to find the diggers have moved in… that is the reality many people find themselves in. Simply because they didn’t ask this question.
If you don’t want to ask it outright, hit the local council’s planning permission portal and see what else is planned for your area, you may find it’s not your developer who is planning a sprawling development.
Buying an Existing Property, Questions to Ask
- How long as the house been on the market?
Whilst not the most important question, it does give you a really clear indication as to how desirable the property and location is. The estate agent will also no doubt tell you how many visits they’ve had and whether there is an open-day due. Open days are a sign with many houses that it’s unlikely to sell swiftly.
If a house has been on the market for 4 to 6 months, ask the agent if they think its the price, location or another reason – this is a long period in most cases.
- Has the home owner had any major works done recently?
Always an interesting questions for existing properties is to find out why a home owner has had a major refit of a kitchen or had a conservatory fitted if they are moving, OK it may add a few thousand but it’s not a £20,000 winner for a terrace house – are they covering something more concerning up – ask the question whats been done recently beyond that lick of paint. Also remember any large works and you are liable for anything that is about to go wrong if you buy the house, so check that it’s been done to a really good standard.
- How long have the previous owners live here, why are they moving out?
These are really important questions. If it’s a new home and the answer is a few years then this is acceptable as it may just be a first step on the ladder. But if the house is older and the people in the home may be too then ask why it’s just a year or two, is it the area, does the house have something wrong with it – if the estate agent doesn’t know always look deeper at the house. But remember it could just be the family are moving to make life easier for themselves.
- Is there room for negotiation?
Always a good question with an existing property, more so than a new property which may not have much room to budge (though you can always ask). This is especially the case if you find problems with the house or you think you will need to change something hugely or you spot perhaps you will need to rewire some areas of the house, again get a surveyor in and then you can negotiate down the price.