The 10 questions you need to ask before buying a new home

Buying a house is said to be one of the most stressful moments in anyone’s life, however by asking important questions before the sales process begins, you can avoid any nasty surprises or shocks later in the process. 

In this article, Michael Reading from Housetastic lists 10 of the most important, and usually forgotten, questions to ask before placing an offer and explains why these questions are so important. 

1) How long has this property been on the market?

If a property has been listed for a long time, then there is normally a specific reason for this. Generally speaking, buying or selling a house usually takes around three months to complete, so much longer than this can be a cause for concern.

The reasons for a stale listing can vary greatly, so don’t automatically assume the worst. Instead, ask for an overview of why the property has taken so long to sell. Perhaps it was priced too high originally, or it needs modernising and no one in the area has wanted to take on that challenge. Or it could be a more worrying and costly reason. For example, Japanese knotweed has been found on the property or there have been structural issues found.

By asking for as much information as possible, you can avoid buying a property which may end up costing more than you can afford.

2) What are the average monthly costs?

While one of the biggest challenges for buying a property, especially with first-time buyers, is saving up for the deposit and getting a mortgage. Therefore, it can be easy to forget that there will be other bills and monthly expenses to factor in.

Finding out the average costs for utility bills, broadband and council tax is essential in ensuring you can afford to live in the property. While utilities such as gas and electricity can vary depending on which supplier you decide to go with, council tax bands can be harder to amend and, if you do manage to get your tax band to drop, it can take a while to set up. Knowing this information in advance avoids the stress of overspending.

3) Why is the owner selling?

Some people tend to avoid asking this question, as they worry it seems like prying, however, Reading advises it is your prerogative to understand the need for the sale.

For first-time home buyers, it’s especially important to gather as much information as possible about the property and the reasons behind the sale. 

Knowing why the current owners are selling will strengthen your position as a buyer. From a negotiation perspective, if the sellers want to sell the property quickly, they may be more likely to accept a lower offer. On the other hand, if the owners are selling because they have found fault with the property.

For example, there isn’t enough storage space, or they would have preferred a south-facing garden, then this can help you reevaluate your own needs and whether this property is right for you.

4) Have there been any extensions or renovations?

Finding out about any extensions or renovations which have been completed gives you a stronger insight into the property. Ask exactly what work has been completed and ideally why it was done in the first place.

Work which is cosmetic, or completed to add value may not necessarily be something to worry about. However, work which needed to take place due to structural faults or other issues may lead to bigger problems in the future, which will definitely cost more money.

While sellers have to disclose any major works they’ve had done on the property, it is advisable to get a survey conducted before purchasing, as this will guarantee you know everything about the condition your property is in.

5) Have there been any damp issues?

Most homes in the UK tend to be more susceptible to damp and mould issues. Homebuyers need to check thoroughly for signs of damp, as if it is left for too long then this can cause severe damage to your building’s infrastructure and reduce your home’s value. 

While viewing the property, check thoroughly for signs of damp, especially behind furniture against walls and cupboards. If you are interested in the property after the viewing, then you must get a survey conducted. A survey means potential issues, especially damp issues, get flagged and make the buyer aware.

6) What is specifically included in the sale?

Never assume that certain features of a property are included in the price. If you like the specific light fixture or need a new fridge and washing machine, make sure you ask if the sellers would be willing to include those products in the sale. Some sellers, especially ones who are looking for a quick sale, would be pleased to get rid of products which they won’t need to bring to their next property.

7) How are the neighbours?

This question can be significant in avoiding any potential disputes further down the line. If you ask a seller or an estate agent outright if there have been any genuine issues with the neighbours, say with boundary disputes, then they must give an honest answer.

This means if there have been any boundary disputes, or if noise complaints have been formally lodged with council, then you have all the information available.

8) Is this property in a conservation area?

A conservation area is an area designed to protect properties and places of interest that are of historical or architectural interest. While this is seen as a desirable attribute for many buyers, as homes in conservation areas typically cost, living in a conservation area does come with its challenges.

To do any work on your property in a conservation area, from changing windows and doors to building extensions or even just painting the exterior, you will need to get permission from the local council. Although this may seem a frustrating extra step to take, homes within conservation areas sell at a premium and rarely lose their value, unless significant damage occurs.

9) How energy efficient is this property? / What is the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

An EPC is your home’s energy rating which is based on the property’s energy efficiency. The certificate gives your property a rating from A-G, with A being the best and G being the worst. This is a legal requirement for all domestic properties in the UK. By knowing the EPC, you will not only learn how energy efficient the property is, but it allows you to know how expensive the property will be to run.

10) Is there parking available?

If your property has a clear driveway and plenty of space to park cars,  there shouldn’t be an issue with parking, however, on-street parking can be much trickier to deal with.

Many streets offer on-street parking, which is first come first serve, which can cause problems, so knowing this in advance means you can work out how to park. Some streets, however, require a permit to park, which you may need to apply for. Ensuring you have all this information before moving in means you won’t risk any fines.

Photo by Tiago Aguiar