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Blog
What questions do you need to ask when buying a house?
Estate agent help and guides
15 January 2021

What questions do you need to ask when buying a house?

Daniel Strieff
Writer

Table of contents

  1. 1. Before you start
  2. 2. Property history
  3. 3. Key questions to ask when buying a house
  4. 4. Area around the property
  5. 5. Administrative
  6. 6. Interior
  7. 7. Exterior
  8. 8. General questions

Buying your own home could be the biggest purchase you ever make, so it’s essential to gather as much information as possible about the property before making your decision.

It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask when buying a house, so we’ve put together a list of questions to help guide you through the process, step by step.

You may not be able to get answers to all of your questions, but estate agents are required to disclose ‘fair’ information to buyers and sellers, so it’s always worth your time -- and investment -- to seek out all pertinent information.

Before you start

Potential buyers should also put together a list of questions to ask themselves in anticipation of their first property viewings. Doing so will help make sure they know what they want to get out of their home search.

Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • What’s my budget? Knowing what you can afford to put down as a deposit and what type of mortgage you’re eligible for determines what properties you should consider viewing.
  • What are my priorities? Knowing whether you’re going to prioritise location or, for instance, size will help determine your property hunting grounds.
  • How long do I plan to live in my next home? Whether it’ll be your ‘forever home’, just a place to live for a few years, or something in between will shape your search.
  • Do you want a leasehold or freehold? Leaseholds apply only to a building for a set number of years, while freeholds cover both building and land until you’re ready to sell.

Property history

Once you’ve decided on viewing a particular property (or properties), it’s important to establish a context for the home. That information can offer clues on the property’s livability. When you're viewing the property, use the time to ask the estate agent all about the home, and the reasons the current owners want to move.

Key questions to ask when buying a house

  • How old is the property?
  • Why is the seller leaving?
  • How long has the property been on the market?
  • How long have the sellers lived there?
  • Has the property repeatedly changed hands?
  • How much money has the property lost in value? For instance, you may want to know the value trajectory over the past five, 10, or 15 years.
  • Have any additions or major renovations been conducted?
  • Have there been any past insurance claims?
  • Has anyone ever been murdered there? Yes, you have the legal right to know.

Curious about property values and trends in a certain area? Pop in the postcode of your potential home into this nifty tool. It’ll show you the general value of similar properties in the area, and other useful data to help you make informed decisions about your purchase. Try it for free here.

Area around the property

When you buy a new home, you’re not just purchasing a property but you’re investing in the local area, too. Even before you visit the property, first check out local information sites.

Key questions to consider when buying a house include:

  • How old’s the neighborhood?
  • What are the neighbors like?
  • How much have homes sold for in the neighborhood?
  • Is the property in a conservation area? Find protected areas of the countryside here.
  • How are the schools?
  • What’s the local crime rate?
  • Are there any parking issues and what are the nearest transportation options?
  • What are the local amenities (shops, parks, restaurants, walking trails, etc) like?
  • What’s the neighbourhood like at rush hour or when the pubs close?
  • Are there any local development plans that could affect you as a homeowner?
  • Is the home in a flood zone or prone to other natural disasters?

Administrative

For many of us, paperwork is the least enjoyable aspect of any transaction. But buying a new home is such a significant investment that you need to make it absolutely clear what you’re agreeing to as part of any contract.

Key questions to ask when buying a house include:

  • What’s included in the sale?
  • How did the agent decide on an asking price?
  • What is the minimum price the seller will accept?
  • Can you speak directly to the sellers?
  • How much will I pay in closing costs?
  • Is the property listed? If so, what grade is it? This could affect what changes you can make.
  • When do the sellers need to move out? Are they part of a property chain?
  • What offers have they had so far? See our article ‘Can estate agents lie about offers?’
  • Will the seller consider any offers?
  • Can they explain the Energy Performance Certificate?
  • How much is the Council Tax?

Interior

When you visit the property, you should imagine yourself living there but don’t forget to cast a critical eye on the conditions inside the home.

Key questions to ask when buying a house include:

  • Is there any evidence of damp?
  • Have any of the rooms been redecorated recently? If so, why?
  • How old are the appliances and major systems?
  • Can you try the taps? How’s the water pressure?
  • How old is the boiler and when was it last inspected? What type of fuel does it run on?
  • What type of gas and electricity meters are installed?
  • Are all the lights in working order? When was the property last rewired?
  • Is the fuse board look up to date?
  • Is there enough storage space?
  • Is the flooring in good condition?

Exterior

You won’t be able to determine some critical issues unless you spend a good deal of time outside. Don’t forget to walk around the outside of the property if it’s a house. Even if it’s a flat, check the outer walls and roof (if it’s a top-floor flat).

Key questions to ask when buying a house include:

  • Is the building structurally sound? It’s important to check walls, chimneys, and windows.
  • If it’s a house, what kind of drainage system does the property have?
  • How new or sturdy are the drains and gutters?
  • What condition is the roof in? Does it sag, have missing tiles, or, if it’s thatched, when is it scheduled for its next re-thatching?
  • Is the fascia (the wooden board that runs along the lower edge of the roof) structurally sound or does it need repairing?
  • Which way does the property face? Does the garden get good weather?
  • Does the garden require much work or maintenance?
  • Are there any health or safety hazards? This goes for both interior and exterior.
  • If the exterior wall is brick, what state is it in?
  • Is there a garage? Is it attached or detached?
  • Do the locks work? Are there keys?

General questions

  • How much are typical utility bills for the property?
  • What are its running costs?
  • How’s the mobile reception?
  • Is there a loft? If so, is it insulated? Is there scope for extending or renovating it in order to add value to the property? Check out our guide to loft conversions here.
  • What broadband and TV connections are currently set up?

The government also has a useful guide available here to help answer the questions of people who’d like to buy a house.

But most of all, it’s important to remember that when you’re buying a house, the overarching question you can ask the estate agent is: Is there anything you would want to know about the home if you were buying it?

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