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  1. Guides
  2. Questions to ask estate agents when buying a house
Checklists
Checklists
Last Updated 20 October 2021

Questions to ask estate agents when buying a house

Daniel Strieff
Writer
  1. Moving house checklist
  2. 3
  3. 4
    Questions to ask when viewing a house
  4. 5
Table of contents
  1. 1. Questions about the sellers
  2. 2. Questions about the property’s history
  3. 3. Questions about the area around the property
  4. 4. Questions about the property before you buy

You can never prepare too much before setting out to buy a house. It's a big life decision and one which will affect the rest of your life.

One of the best ways to get started is by researching your short list properties as much as possible. When the time comes, these details will help you decide which property is the right one to pursue.

All of your questions about the property should be directed towards the seller’s estate agent. While all agents must legally provide important information pertaining to the property, their priority is to sell. This means you need to ask the right questions to get the information you need.

Thinking of the right questions to ask can be tricky however. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and some questions, more than others, can reveal a lot about a property’s value. To make things easy, we’ve compiled a list of questions for you to ask agents during viewings.

Questions about the sellers

Knowing more about the sellers of the property you’re hoping to buy will help you make the right decision when it comes to making an offer, and negotiating a contract.

1. How long have the sellers lived in the house?

This is a useful question to ask because the answer lends insight into possible issues with the home and area, as well as the desirability of living there. The length of time the homeowners have lived in the house may correlate with how carefully they’ve tended to the property. Plus, people who’ve spent many years in one place may be better positioned than a short-termer to deliver inside information.

2. Why are the sellers leaving?

The estate agent doesn’t need to answer this question, but knowing the answer will help you understand the sellers’ position. For instance, circumstances that suggest the sellers are in a hurry to sell - such as an impending move for career reasons - could indicate a willingness to consider a lower price.

3. What is the minimum price the sellers will accept?

Being direct can pay dividends, or in this case, save you money. Knowing the sellers’ bottom line will help set the parameters for your negotiation. An estate agent’s primary goal is securing a sale, so it’s in their interest to be direct about what price is realistic.

4. What offers have the sellers received so far?

The more you know about other offers, the better you can calibrate your own. The estate agent will certainly be open about whether the property has received an offer, but you may need to pry a little harder to learn about specific figures. Read our article ‘Can estate agents lie about offers?’ for more information.

5. When do the sellers need to move out? Are they part of a property chain?

These are important questions to ask, as their answers speak to the motivations of the sellers, and can help inform your negotiations. For example, if the sellers are part of a property chain, they may be under pressure to move quickly, which could increase your leverage power. On the other hand, if the sellers are not in a rush, they will likely sit back and wait for the highest bid.

6. Can I speak directly to the sellers?

This can be a touchy issue for some estate agents, who would prefer to act as the go-between, but they can’t prevent you from reaching out to the sellers. Many buyers find direct contact helpful. Sellers can give candid answers to questions without the professional filter typically employed by estate agents.

Questions about the property’s history

Asking about the property’s history could reveal potential red flags, especially if it’s selling for a low price.

1. How old is the house?

Older buildings are usually more expensive to maintain so it’s useful to know when the house was built.

2. How long has the property been on the market?

Maybe there’s a reason for a property remaining on the market for a long time, but you’ll never know unless you ask. There could be a problem with the property that isn’t visible at first glance. Regardless, a property that’s been on the market for a long time might help your bargaining position, as sellers may be more willing to accept a lower price.

3. Has the property repeatedly changed hands?

If the house has changed ownership frequently in recent years, there may be a problem with the property or the area. Depending on what information the estate agent is willing or able to divulge, you could also ask about contacting previous owners.

4. How has the property’s value changed in recent years?

You can look this information up on the Land Registry website, which will list the prices from previous transactions. With this information, you can ask for insight into reasons for any significant changes in value.

5. Have any additions or major renovations been conducted?

You need to ensure that the house doesn’t have any structural issues as a result of previous work. If any major work has been done, ask if you can see the relevant planning and building control consents. The local planning authority should make all planning applications, both accepted and rejected, available on its website.

You can check out our guide to loft conversions here.

Questions about the area around the property

If you’re moving to a new area, it’s good to know the basics. It’s your new home after all, and you don’t want to move anywhere where there might be problems down the line.

1. What’s the local neighbourhood like?

When you purchase a house, you’re also buying into the local community. The estate agent should serve as a handy supplement to your own research into the neighbourhood. What are the local transport links? How are the schools? Does the agent have recent statistics on crime?

2. What are the neighbors like?

The seller is required by law to inform you if they’ve ever made any complaints about the neighbours, so you should ask the estate agent directly about this. Read our article ‘Can’t sell because of your neighbours?’ to find out what you should do in a situation with bad neighbours.

3. How much have other homes sold for in the neighbourhood?

The property’s asking price should be roughly similar to the selling price of other homes in the immediate vicinity. If there are significant discrepancies, you’d be wise to ask for details. You can use our free House Prices Tool to check out real-time data on the area.

4. Is the property listed or located in a conservation area?

There are legal restrictions on what work you can carry out on a listed property, both inside and out. Check if the house is listed in Historic England’s National Heritage List for England or Cadw’s National Historic Assets of Wales. Special planning controls also apply in conservation areas, particularly related to exteriors and any trees located on the property.

You can find protected areas of the countryside over on the GOV.UK website.

5. Are there any local plans that could affect me as a homeowner?

It would be frustrating to purchase your perfect home, only to discover that local developers were about to pave over the bucolic fields behind the property in favour of a block of flats. Be sure to ask probing questions regarding any upcoming local plans to prevent any unpleasant surprises in the event you do buy the property.

Questions about the property before you buy

Working out the key details of the property will help you decide whether to continue with the purchase. Asking about its energy performance will help you decide whether it’s worth moving somewhere that needs a lot of internal work, while finding out which fixtures and fittings you get to keep can be a big selling point.

1. What’s included in the sale?

This is such a basic question to ask that some people overlook it. But what would you actually get if you were to buy the property? Appliances? Garden shed? Light fixtures?

2. Which direction does the house face?

Maybe you like to read the morning paper in the garden, or spend summer evenings on the porch. Either way, it’s useful to know what time of day different parts of the property get direct sunshine before buying a house. [According to our research (https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/mortgageshome/article-9444441/South-facing-gardens-hot-property-one-really-worth.html "ThisIsMoney: South-facing gardens have become even hotter property during the pandemic"), 71 percent of UK home buyers are more likely to purchase a home with a south-facing garden.

3. How much is Council Tax? How much are average local utility bills?

The more precise the better. These expenses add up over the lifetime of home ownership, so ask the seller for a possible breakdown of costs. You can check Council Tax Bands here.

4. What’s the rating on the Energy Performance Certificate?

Ask the estate agent to explain the EPC rating, which gives an indication of the home’s energy efficiency. EPCs provide insight into the state of the home’s insulation and outer walls.

You can check if your house has an EPC with our free EPC checker below.

Does my house already have an EPC?

EPCs are valid for 10 years, and you can use the one purchased by the previous owner.
So, you may have an EPC and not know it!

5. Can I try the taps? How’s the water pressure?

Check how long it takes the water to come through, especially on the second floor (if it’s a two-storey house). This could hint at any issues with the pipes and whether you’d need to do a major plumbing overhaul if you were to buy the house.

6. What shape is the boiler in? When was it last inspected?

Enquire as to when it was last replaced. A broken boiler can really put a damper on your daily life. They’re also very expensive to replace, unless you buy a second hand one.

7. How is the property’s drainage system?

This is critical for, among other things, keeping the damp at bay, maintaining the garden and preserving the integrity of the roof. Drainage systems are costly to replace, so ask the estate agent if you can take a look at them during your visit. How they function during a rainstorm is particularly telling of their quality.

8. What condition is the roof in?

When viewing a property, check the state of the roof. Does it leak, sag, or have missing tiles? If it’s a thatched roof, when’s the next scheduled re-thatching? Roofs can sometimes be taken for granted, but problems with them can require significant building work. Ask specific questions about the roof’s age, materials and repair history.

9. How old are the appliances and major systems?

If you end up buying the property, you’ll want to know whether such things as the washer, cooker or heating system need to be replaced or can be used straight away.

10. What type of gas and electricity meters are installed?

In order to keep your energy costs in check, it’s imperative to know what type of gas and electricity meters the house has. Do they require regular readings or are they smart meters? To learn whether you qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme, check here.

11. Are all the lights in working order? When was the property last rewired?

Light bulbs are easily replaceable but a major rewiring could be a significant expense. When viewing a house, ask about the state of the wiring before manually checking as many lights and outlets as you can.

Free checklist: Questions to ask estate agents when buying a house

  1. How long have the sellers lived in the house?
  2. Why are the sellers leaving?
  3. What is the minimum price the sellers will accept?
  4. What offers have the sellers received so far?
  5. When do the sellers need to move out? Are they part of a property chain?
  6. Can I speak directly to the sellers?
  7. How old is the house?
  8. How long has the property been on the market?
  9. Has the property repeatedly changed hands?
  10. How has the property’s value changed in recent years?
  11. Have any additions or major renovations been conducted?
  12. What’s the local neighbourhood like?
  13. How much have other homes sold for in the neighbourhood?
  14. Is the property listed or located in a conservation area?
  15. Are there any local plans that could affect me as a homeowner?
  16. What’s included in the sale?
  17. What direction does the house face?
  18. How much is Council Tax? How much are average local utility bills?
  19. What’s the rating on the Energy Performance Certificate?
  20. Can I try the taps?
  21. What shape is the boiler in?
  22. How is the property’s drainage system?
  23. What condition is the roof in?
  24. How old are the appliances and major systems?
  25. What type of gas and electricity meters are installed?
  26. Are all the lights in working order?
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