Questions to ask when buying a house in 2019

12th September 2019

Couple with woman with a brochure

Buying a home is probably the biggest financial commitment you’ll ever make, so it’s really important to ask the right questions before making an offer.

Here’s a guide to help you get all the information you need to make a decision.

Questions to ask before the viewing

Before arranging a viewing there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself. They’re pretty obvious, but it’s worth spelling them out to help you avoid potential problems in the future.

Look at where the home is on a map to see if it’s at risk of any of the following:

  • floods

  • landslides

  • coastal erosion

When you’ve got the major hazards out of the way, check on a map again to see if there’s anything nearby that you’re not sure about. That way you can investigate it before the viewing or ask the seller about it.

There might a pub nearby, for example, and it would be worth knowing if it’s got a beer garden as the noise might bother you.

When you make an appointment for the viewing, ask the estate agent whether the home is freehold or leasehold.

Questions to ask during the viewing

It’s useful to find out why the seller has put their home on the market, just in case there’s an issue that might put you off.

It’s also important to know:

  • how urgently the owner wants to sell

  • if they’ve already found somewhere to buy

  • whether they’ve had an offer accepted

  • if they haven’t found anywhere to buy yet, whether they’d have to find somewhere before proceeding with a sale

If the seller isn’t around for the viewing, or if you don’t want to ask them, speak to the estate agent.

If you’re still interested by the end of the viewing, ask the agent whether there have been any offers. If there have, ask what they were. If the estate agent won’t tell you, it’s always worth asking for a rough estimate. It’ll give you an indication of how much to offer.

Questions to ask when buying a new-build

If you’re thinking of buying a new-build, it’s the developer you need to speak to.

Find out what other developments they’ve worked on so you can check online whether there have been any significant problems with them.

Make sure you know when your home will be finished, if it isn’t already, and when you’re likely to be able to move in.

It’s really important to understand how they’ll handle any problems during and after the purchase. What will they do if cracks suddenly appear, for example?

It’s also worth asking how energy efficient the place is. New homes have to meet certain energy standards and you could get a better resale price with a highly rated home.

And check whether the home has a new home warranty. Most mortgage lenders insist that a warranty is in place if you’re buying a newly built home.

Get a copy of it, take your time reading the small print and question anything you’re not clear about.

Questions to ask when buying a property off-plan

Ask the developer for a list of exactly what’s included with the home, especially when it comes to basic amenities. Will the electricity, water and sewerage systems still be connected at the point of transfer, for example?

Also, look into any long-term restrictions that could make life in your new home difficult. Will you be free to make changes to the outside of your home, for example?

Again, ask for a copy of the building warranty, study it carefully, and ask about anything that doesn’t make sense to you.

Questions to ask when buying a flat

Most flats are leasehold, though sometimes the freehold is shared with all the flat owners in the building, which is known as 'share of freehold'.

So find out which it is.

If it’s leasehold ask the estate agent or seller:

  • how many years are left on the lease (some lenders won’t give you a mortgage if it's less than 90)

  • how much the service charge is, if any

  • how much the ground rent is

  • who owns the freehold - it could be someone in the building or a landlord you never see

If it’s share of freehold ask the estate agent or seller:

  • how many years are left on the lease (some lenders won’t give you a mortgage if it's less than 90)

  • how much the service charge is, if any

  • how much the ground rent is

  • what percentage share of the freehold you’ll own

If there is a service change, find out what it covers, such as cleaning the communal hall and mowing the lawn.

If there isn’t a service change, ask how repairs and maintenance are organised and paid for.

Check how many floors the building has as there are fewer lenders who offer mortgages on blocks of flats with more than 10 storeys.

If you can’t tell from the photo, also ask whether the flat’s above commercial premises, such as a restaurant, as it may affect your chances of getting a mortgage.

It’s a good idea to know how many flats are in the building and what percentage are owner-occupied, privately rented, and owned by the council.

And don’t forget to ask about the thorny issue of parking!

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