When embarking on the journey of buying a property and not using a property buying agent such as Rowallan, engaging with estate agents is crucial, and how you interact with them could determine your chances of landing that dream home.
These professionals are vital in helping you find and secure your next home. However, to ensure a successful transaction and make an informed decision, it is essential to ask the right questions.
This blog post discusses a non-exhaustive list of questions to ask estate agents when buying a house. These questions cover various aspects, from property details and pricing to legal considerations and area information.
By property details, we don’t just mean the brochure. We mean everything relevant to your purchase of the property.
Understanding the specifics of a property is crucial before making any commitment. Here are some questions to ask estate agents when buying a house to gather essential property information and to consider before submitting an offer:
For properties with no floorplan – what is the size and layout of the property?
This allows you to determine if the property is not only big enough but whether it needs to have the potential to extend or re-configure to suit your needs.
How old is the property, and has it undergone any recent renovations?
The property’s age will help determine the building regulations under which the property was built and, therefore, will help you establish the total running costs. It will also help you understand the likelihood of remedial works during your ownership.
Is the property listed?
Properties in England are listed as Grade I, II, II* or not listed at all, whilst, in Scotland, they are listed as A, B or C or not at all.
Taking on a listed building is taking on a legal responsibility to preserve history, but it will also thoroughly restrict work that you can perform on your new property.
In turn, this can affect your property’s future value and your chances of selling it. On the other hand, many of the most beautiful and characterful buildings are listed.
Is it detached, mid-terraced, terraced, first floor etc?
From neighbour noise to annual maintenance, from heating bills to the property’s value, it is vital to understand what you are viewing before visiting.
Is the property leasehold of freehold, or does it have a share of the freehold?
If leasehold or share of freehold – what are the owner’s responsibilities, and what are the annual service charge costs?
It might be obvious, but in the excitement of finding, what appears to be the perfect property, many buyers will forget to appreciate that this will need to be budgeted annually.
Are there any restrictive covenants preventing you from using it how you want to, and are there any footpaths that affect your quiet enjoyment of the property?
These could include limitations on alterations, use, or restrictions related to shared spaces or common areas within a development.
Have there been any disputes or boundary issues in the past?
It is essential to know if there have been any conflicts with neighbouring properties, boundary disputes, or disagreements related to rights of way or easements.
Are there any known issues or repairs that need attention?
Many of these will be brought up in the survey, but at this stage, this is one of the main questions to ask estate agents when buying a house.
You are preparing to potentially negotiating on the price and therefore need to understand your future costs fully. The agent is obliged to answer this question if asked.
If known and if either the owners of the agent withhold information that might materially affect your purchase, they will be breaking the ‘Unfair Trading Regulations 2008’ – Consumer Protection.
What repairs or remedial actions are recommended in the EPC?
This will help you determine the annual running cost of the property. EPCs have become far more sophisticated, and the EPC report is a valuable basic oversight. They are not the bible on the property, however.
For example, an EPC, like a survey, makes a lot of assumptions and generic statements on insulation and other such matters that should be used as guidance only alongside the survey report.
What fixtures and fittings are included in the sale?
The general rule of thumb here is that if an item requires a professional to remove it, it should remain. It is not as clear-cut as that, but it is good guidance.
Are there additional costs, such as service charges or ground rent?
These are most likely on leasehold property but will apply if you have communal grounds, such as living on a private estate with lighting and security gates.
Has the property been under offer previously, and if so, why did it fall through?
Again, the agent is obliged to let you know, and they cannot withhold material information.
Has the property been recently surveyed, and are any inspection reports available?
This is an excellent follow-on from above and will help you decide whether you’d like to offer and how much. Most agents won’t hold a previous survey as it belongs to the last buyer, but some will. They will all, though, know why a sale fell through.
Are there any structural concerns, such as foundation issues or roof problems?
Again, a great question to ask. The sellers are obliged to inform you if they are aware of any such structural issues.
Are there any electrical and gas certificates available?
The answer to this question will tell you how often the boiler has been serviced, how old the boiler is and what, if any, cost you will need to budget for when making an offer.
Are there any planned or ongoing development projects in the area that might affect the property?
Planning can take years to go through and may or may not affect the value of the property, but understanding at this early stage, if there are any planning considerations to be aware of may save you a lot of money in the longer term.
This is one of the vital questions to ask estate agents when buying a house. The answer could seriously affect the properties value today and in the future.
Can the estate agent provide information on the property’s parking availability or any restrictions?
Again, this depends on the property type, but asking is vital.
Is the property in a known flood risk area?
This could make your insurance unaffordable and affect the later saleability of your property.
What is the council tax?
An annual cost that is likely to rise most years and will need budgeting.
By utilising these questions to ask estate agents when buying a house, you can ensure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the property’s condition, potential expenses, and any possible concerns that may impact your decision.
Additionally, having access to surveys and understanding the property’s energy efficiency can provide further insight into the property’s overall quality and long-term sustainability.
It is also essential to inquire about any planned developments in the area, as they could potentially impact your enjoyment of the property or its future resale value. These details will enable you to make an informed decision and avoid any surprises down the line.
Pricing and Negotiation
Determining a fair price for a property is a critical aspect of the buying process. To effectively negotiate and make an informed offer, consider the following questions to ask estate agents when buying a house.
What is the asking price, and how did the agent arrive at that figure?
The asking price should always be published, but sometimes an agent may say they expect offers over a price. In this instance, it is fair to ask for the comparables used to establish an asking price so that you can make up your own mind.
Most sellers will ask three or more agents to value their home, and they rarely choose the agent that suggests the lowest price. Please see my blog, “The Minefield of Property Prices: Unlock the Secrets and Achieve the Best Deal when Offering on a House”
How long has the property been on the market, and have there been any price reductions?
This is a pertinent question, but longevity on the market without a price drop doesn’t necessarily mean the seller will take a reduced bid. In fact, it is more likely to mean that they are holding on to a higher offer.
However, a recent price drop is likely to indicate that the sellers are open to negotiation.
What are the additional costs or fees associated with the purchase?
Amongst many, there may be unexpected charges such as a service charge, a chancel tax or a future mineral rights payment. It is also worth finding out if any stamp duty savings can be had from loopholes such as multiple dwellings relief.
Is the property subject to any special planning permissions or building regulations?
If any alterations or additions have been made to the property, inquire about the necessary permissions and ensure all relevant paperwork is in order.
Always submit your complete offer in writing.
If you have utilised this blog on the questions to ask estate agents when buying a house, getting your offer right should be substantially easier.
Do not waffle, and do not expect a seller or agent to sympathise with your property needs.
For example, they are selling a three-bedroom house, but you want a four-bedroom house. Do not say that you are saving money to build the extension. This will never win support. After all, why should the sellers subsidise your needs at their expense?
In submitting your offer in writing, the agent is obliged to forward the offer to the seller in full. The only exception is if the seller has expressly asked the agent not to. This will allow your request to be put forward as intended and not with agent bias.
Do not blame your agent for bias. They have to work with you and the seller for around three months. Clearly, they will want to work with the persons that the agent believes will be most reliable and most pleasant to deal with.
Remember, the offer difference between the lowest and the highest price will make an almost insignificant amount to the individual negotiator’s income. Buying a house without estate agents – Does blame really lie with estate agents?
Assuming the price difference in offers isn’t too significant, the seller generally accepts the agent’s recommendation on who they believe will most likely proceed through the sale without dropping out or asking for a renegotiation.
Understanding the pricing strategy and having a clear picture of associated costs will enable you to approach negotiations confidently and make an informed decision regarding your budget.
Local area and Amenities
Understanding the area and amenities surrounding a property is crucial for determining its suitability for your needs and lifestyle from friends, family, commuting and schooling. Here are some questions to ask estate agents when buying a house to gather relevant information:
What are the area’s local schools, parks, and recreational facilities?
Are there any upcoming developments or major construction projects planned in the wider area, notwithstanding the question already raised about local projects that might affect the property’s value?
What are the transportation options and commuting times from the property?
Are there any shops, supermarkets, or healthcare facilities nearby?
Can the estate agent provide information on the crime rates and overall safety of the neighbourhood?
This information is readily available on many websites; however, the selling agent should have a sound knowledge of the local area and be able to tell you if the property they are selling has had any problems.
By following these questions to ask estate agents when buying a house, you can gain insight into the area’s liveability and suitability for your specific requirements. For more information, please refer to my blog ‘8 Common Mistakes When Buying a House: Expert Tips’
Offer and Sales Process
Understanding the offer and sales process is crucial to ensure a smooth transaction. Here are some questions to ask estate agents regarding this aspect:
How should I submit an offer on the property?
As discussed, always submit your offer in writing and highlight your strong points, not the seller’s weak ones. The estate agent is already familiar with those!
Are there any specific conditions or contingencies attached to the sale?
Establish if the sellers are in a chain.
A chain will create a whole load of unknowns and massively increase the chance of your sale being delayed, substantially more pressure, and the possibility of the sale falling through. (a chain is where more than one property is required to be sold)
Sometimes, with the proper agreement at the start, it can be negotiated that one of the parties might break the chain and move out while waiting for their own purchase to be complete.
What is the typical timeline for completing the purchase?
No agent can dictate an exchange date, but a move date can be agreed on at this early stage.
By utilising the questions to ask estate agents when buying a house, you can gain clarity on the steps involved in securing the property and ensure that you are well-prepared for the process.
When buying a property, utilising my ‘questions to ask estate agents when buying a house’ is vital for making an informed decision and ensuring a successful transaction. The questions discussed in this blog cover various aspects, from property details and pricing to legal considerations and neighbourhood information.
By actively engaging with estate agents and seeking relevant information, you can confidently navigate the buying process and ensure that you find the perfect home. Remember to tailor these questions to your specific needs and circumstances to gather the information necessary to make an informed decision.
The process is incredibly time-consuming and fraught with pitfalls and legal issues. Knowing whether you have offered the right amount for a house, no matter how much house hunting you have done, is only possible if you know the agents, their methods and the market in detail over many years.
Employing a skilled and professional buying agent will save you time, anxiety and allow you to spend your time more usefully.
A buying agent will search the whole market, including off and on-market properties; they will do all your viewings for you, they will take time and ask all the questions to ask estate agents when buying a house for you and will accompany you on viewings for the final chosen few.
They will ensure that you offer with knowledge and that you are offering the right amount to suit you. They will manage the whole process, significantly increasing the chances of a smooth sale.
A good buying agent will be highly respected, and the agent may choose to recommend your bid over others simply because they believe they will have a straightforward sale.
Time is money, and by saving yourself time, the buying agent is not only saving you money on your own time but also highly likely on the cost of the purchase. A buying agent will save you from having to remember the questions to ask estate agents when buying a house.