When you're seriously considering a property, you’ll probably have a whole heap of questions. How much does it cost to heat in the winter? Are there any problems with the house? How quickly can I move in?
Luckily, there are different people whose knowledge you can tap into, including the seller, your mortgage broker (or mortgage advisor), the estate agent, and your solicitor.
In this article, we’ll look at a few frequently asked questions to help you uncover all of the information you need to know before you buy.
Questions to ask the seller when buying a house
Sellers aren’t technically obliged to tell you anything at all, but many will be happy to have a chat if they’re around when you’re viewing the property. It can be a good way to learn more about the property, the surrounding area, and perhaps even their reasons for selling.
1. How long have you lived here for?
If someone has lived in a property for say, ten years, that’s generally a positive sign. If they’ve only owned the property for a couple of years, it’s worth asking to find out why. They might just want to move out for a new job, a change of scene, or another reason. But moving fast might also indicate potential issues, like disruptive neighbours.
2. Have you had any work done on the property?
Your conveyancing process will reveal if any work has been done on the property recently. But it’s also worth asking the seller about it so you can cross-reference the information.
For example, if they tell you they had an extension put on the back of the house in the last few years, but your conveyancer can’t prove that the council approved planning permission for the work, there’s a risk that it could cause you problems in the future.
3. How much are your bills each month?
When you move home, your monthly bills – like heating, water, electricity, and council tax – will change. To get an idea of how much you’ll be paying in the new property, you can ask the seller what their bills are like. Hopefully they’ll be happy to provide you with a rough figure, which you can factor into your budget when deciding on your final offer.
Other questions to consider asking the sellers:
4. What is included in the sale? (furniture, faucets, kitchen appliances...)
5. What are your neighbours like?
6. What have you enjoyed most about living here?
7. What are the local schools like? (if you need to know this, that is)
8. When did you last have the electric wiring checked?
9. Has this house ever been burgled while you were living here?
10. Is there anything I should know about right now? (a general, open-ended question)
Questions to ask the estate agent when buying a house
An estate agent’s main priority is to help the process run smoothly for the seller. However, any decent estate agent will know the basic background information on the property, and will be able and willing to help with some of the questions you have as a buyer.
1. Has the seller had any other offers?
Estate agents can tell you whether the seller has had other offers, and at what sort of price range. Although, naturally, you can’t always trust this information — because it’s in their interest to raise the buying price. But it might give you some context for your bidding strategy.
It’s not technically illegal for an estate agent to lie about offers, but it does go against the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice. This makes it unlikely, although not impossible, that an estate agent will tell fibs about solid interest in a house. But be aware.
2. Is the seller part of an onward chain?
Onward chains are a common obstacle for property buyers. They happen when your seller is waiting to move out of their home to a new one, but the other owner hasn’t sold theirs. Onward chains are common, so there’s nothing to worry about – but they sometimes slow down the moving process. Asking your estate agent about this will give you an idea of what to expect.
3. Is the property a listed building?
Listed buildings have restrictions over what you can do in terms of development, renovation, and building work. For example, if you’re purchasing a property in a historic village, there may be stricter rules for planning permission around things like:
- the type of windows you can install
- whether you can build a loft extension
- Any other similar types of cosmetic building works
These might be important things to know if you’re planning to make changes to the structure, or the look and feel of the property.
Other questions to consider asking the seller’s estate agents:
4. How long has the property been on the market?
5. How much have nearby properties sold for recently?
6. Is this property on a flood plain?
7. How did you decide on the recommended asking price?
8. How soon should I make an offer?
9. What is the minimum price the sellers are likely to accept?
10. Can I come back for a second viewing? If so, when?
Questions to ask your own solicitor or conveyancer
Your solicitor or conveyancer will guide you through the home buying process. Solicitors and conveyancers are legal professionals specialising in property law.
In practical terms, there isn’t a big difference between a solicitor or conveyancer – and they’ll both be able to answer any questions you have around the legal aspects of buying your home. Here are some useful questions to ask them:
1. How much do you charge for conveyancing?
Different solicitors and conveyancers have different conveyancing fees. And the best way to find out exactly what they charge is to ask them. On average, you can expect to pay between £1,000850 and £1,500 for this service. Any reputable solicitor or conveyancer will break down the costs for you, so you know exactly what’s included in their fee.
For more information on these costs, check out our guide: What are typical conveyancing fees?
2. When do I need to give my landlord notice?
If you’re currently renting somewhere, you’ll probably need to give your landlord notice.
Most rental agreements have a 1 month notice period. It’s a good idea to keep in touch with your solicitor throughout the conveyancing process, and they’ll tell you when it’s time to let your landlord know you’re leaving at the end of your notice period.
Knowing this will mean you can hand in your notice at the right time, and you’ll be ready to move out as soon as the keys to your new home are ready.
3. What will you charge if the sale falls through?
An offer doesn’t always result in a sale. For example, your conveyancer might come back with a few legal problems they’ve spotted, which might mean you decide to pass on this property. Or your homebuyers survey could identify issues that cause the sale to fall through.
By asking your solicitor what happens if the sale doesn’t go ahead, you can plan accordingly. Some will be happy to move their fee straight over to a new property, while others will still charge you the full amount or a percentage of the fees.
Other questions to consider asking your solicitor or conveyancer:
4. Who will be my point of contact throughout the house buying process?
5. Is there anything I can do to make sure the process runs smoothly?
6. Are you planning a break or a holiday soon? (you don’t want this to overlap key moments)
7. How often will you keep me updated about your progress?
8. Are you familiar with cases like mine? (say, if it’s a special type of property or personal situation)
9. When do I need to pay the conveyancing fees?
10. How long do you expect the conveyancing process to take?
Do you need to ask all of these questions when buying a house?
There is no single “best” question to ask, and this is far from an exhaustive list. Depending on your personal priorities and the property you’re looking at, the questions you ask will vary.
If you have questions or concerns during the home buying process, make sure to ask someone. Your solicitor and the estate agents will both want to help you complete on the new property without any unnecessary issues, so they’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.
With Habito, home-buying is made easier. We handle your mortgage, legal work, and property survey – all in one peaceful place. If you’re looking to buy a new home soon, speak to one of our friendly advisors, and get the search started.