It’s quite incredible, when you really think about it, that the most significant purchases we make in our lifetimes often hinge on a 30-minute viewing tour. In such a short time, you’re expected to decide whether the property you’re seeing will be part of your life for many years to come.
Naturally, you’ll want to get as many details and as much information as possible; and the best source of this are the current homeowners. They’ll be able to tell you about everything that’s not obvious to the naked eye – be that how long the home has been on the market to any recent renovation works, all of which could make or break your decision to buy.
There are any number of questions you may wish to ask, but here’s our list of the ten most important:
1) How long has the property been on the market?
This is a question you can learn a lot from. If the home has only been on the market a short time, you’ll know it’s something of a gamble to hold off if you’re really in love with it. Conversely, if it’s been on the market a long time, this lets you know that dragging your feet carries little risk. It also suggests you’ll have some bargaining power when it comes to negotiating on the price, and it could be well worth discussing a reduced offer. Most importantly though, if it’s been on the market a long time – you may want to probe further as to why. If everything looks great at first glance, is there an underlying factor that’s stopping the home from shifting?
2) How long have you lived here and why are you moving?
Many avoid this question out of fear of seeming nosey, but bear in mind your sellers will be wondering the same of any properties they’ve been viewing themselves. Most people will have very reasonable reasons for moving that shouldn’t spark any concern. But if your sellers haven’t lived there very long and they give an unclear or generic answer about why they want to move so soon – this should sound some alarm bells.
3) What work has been undertaken on the home?
The answer to this question can have both positive and negative implications, but is vital nonetheless. It should flag up any major – and potentially ongoing – issues with the property that could cost you down the line, should you buy. Conversely, you’ll find out about any recent works or enhancements that may still be covered under warranty and are free from wear and tear (e.g. a newly installed boiler), giving you added peace of mind. If major works have been carried out, such as a loft conversion or extension, you may wish to go away and check that any necessary planning permission was sought and granted.
4) Is the property in a conservation area?
As soon as you view a property you really like, you’ll be racing around it, bursting with ideas and inspirations. But save yourself potential heartache by asking this simple and straightforward question. If the property is listed or in a conservation area, you may be very limited in how far your big plans can go. This is something that will always come to light during the conveyancing process regardless – but better to know sooner rather than later.
5) Have you (the sellers) found your next property?
This has a huge impact on the certainty of your sale and the timescales involved with it. If they’re already making moves on a new property, they’ll be keen to sell up fast. This gives you added confidence your purchase should complete, and suggests you may have some bargaining power. If they’re yet to find somewhere else, there’s a greater degree of uncertainty and a risk of ending up in a long chain. Essentially, your completion could be held up by – and ultimately hinge on – them.
6) What’s included in the sale?
This may seem obvious, but it’s better not to end up surprised or disappointed further down the line. You’ll want to know which white goods could be included, along with any outbuildings like sheds, that the current owner may or may not be planning to take with them. It’s also important to know exactly where the property’s perimeter is – this isn’t always as clear as it seems on first glance.
7) What are your favourite and least favourite things about the area?
Asking the current owners about the neighbourhood, particularly if it’s one unfamiliar to you, is practically instinctive. But depending on how you ask, you may be leaving the door open for a waffly and generic answer that doesn’t tell you what you need to know. Homeowners looking to shift a property won’t want to give much away about the area’s less desirable traits, but by asking in this way, you prompt them to reveal a little more.
8) How much are the bills?
The cost of things like council tax and electricity can seem trivial and tiny while you’re weighing up a property’s asking price. But bills have a huge impact on your budgeting week-to-week and month-to-month, so it’s good to get an idea. If you can, push for exact rather than ballpark figures.
9) What are the internet speeds and phone reception like here?
Being connected matters more than ever in the world of today. Even if you’ll only need to be online for entertainment rather than work, internet speeds and phone reception are now make-or-break factors when determining whether a property works around your lifestyle.
10) Can we come back again?
Most agents will always recommend you view a property at least twice before making any big decisions. Allow yourself some time to cool off and assess what you’ve seen and heard, so discuss with the current owners about coming back in a few days’ time. If possible, aim for a different time of day, when you can see the property from a different light and perspective. This question may also prompt the homeowners to offer up information on any other interested parties.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, and there are many more questions you’ll need to ask of yourself than of the current homeowners. For more information about what happens next, should you choose to make an offer, read our guide to the home buying process.
If you do move forward with a property purchase, you’ll need to appoint a conveyancer to carry out all the necessary legal work for you. See what we could do, when you get a quote from My Home Move Conveyancing today.
Disclaimer: The article above is only a rough guide to give you some idea of the of what is involved when asking questions at a property viewing.