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Questions to Ask When Buying a House

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by

11th Mar 2021 (Last updated on 30th Aug 2022) 8 minute read

Buying a property can be a stressful process, especially if you are a first-time buyer or not sure what you are looking for. However, knowing what questions to ask when buying a house will ensure that you are prepared and as informed as possible.

At Compare My Move, we work alongside a network of experienced partners to ensure that you are provided with sound advice throughout the buying process. In this guide, we have listed every question you should ask during the buying process.

This article will cover the following:
  1. 1. Why have they decided to sell?
  2. 2. How long has the house been on the market?
  3. 3. When do the sellers plan to move out? Are they part of a property chain?
  4. 4. What offers have they received so far?
  5. 5. What will be included in the sale?
  6. 6. How old is the property?
  7. 7. Is the property freehold or leasehold?
  8. 8. Have any major works been conducted since the last sale? Was this completed with the right planning permission?
  9. 9. Which way does the property face?
  10. 10. Have any of the rooms been redecorated recently?
  11. 11. Have there been any problems with the boiler recently?
  12. 12. How much is the Council Tax?
  13. 13. Request the home report if you’re buying a house in Scotland
  14. 14. What are the neighbours like?
  15. 15. What is the local neighbourhood like?
  16. Other questions worth asking
  17. Next Steps of Buying a House

1. Why have they decided to sell?

This is one of the first questions that you should ask at the start of the house buying process. While some estate agents may not have an answer, it is worth asking. If they reveal that the seller is desperate to sell or is looking for a quick transaction, you can then consider if this means they’re more likely to accept a lower offer.

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

If the property has been on the market for quite a while, then it might be worth inquiring why the house isn't selling. Is it difficult to get a mortgage on this property? Is it overpriced? Are there problems you haven’t noticed? If the home has been on the market for a long period of time, it may also be an indication that the seller will be willing to accept a lower offer.

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

Circumstances can and do often change, but it’s good to have a rough deadline to adhere to. If you’re in no rush to move out, then this may not concern you. However, if you want a quick sale, it’s important to know how far down the property chain the sellers are. They may be selling their home before buying a new one, or they may be completing two transactions at once, lengthening the size of your property chain and adding to the uncertainty.

4. What offers have they received so far?

Most estate agents will reveal if the seller has had other offers, but they typically won’t divulge how much. However, as it is their job to continue negotiations and achieve the best price possible, some agents may decide to give buyers hints concerning other offers made. The more information you can get on other buyers’ offers, the better position you’ll be in when presenting yours. It can also prevent you from being gazumped by someone else.

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5. What will be included in the sale?

This is important to know as it can affect the property’s overall value. This should be cleared up in the contracts before you reach completion, but it’s better to know early on.

Good agents may already have a list of what is being left by the seller, covering fixtures and fittings specifically. This is called the Sellers Property Information Form, so don’t be afraid to ask about it when making an offer. Once the contract is drafted, you should find the agreed items to be left behind in the TA10 fixtures and fittings form.

6. How old is the property?

Older properties can be expensive to maintain so it’s worth knowing their age. Newer properties that are less than 50 years old will require a Level 2 survey, known as a HomeBuyer Report. Properties over 50 years old often require a Level 3 Building Survey which is a more expensive type of survey. The reason for this is that older homes will often have more structural concerns or will have been greatly renovated and updated.

There are a number of ways to discover the age of a property, such as contacting the HM Land Registry, so it shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer.

7. Is the property freehold or leasehold?

When buying a property, you should make sure to look into whether it is freehold or leasehold. If the property is freehold, this means you will have ownership of the property and the land it stands on. If it is leasehold, this means you will be provided with a lease and not own the building outright.

Most houses are freehold while most flats are leasehold, making it one of the most important questions to ask when buying a flat because you will need to know if you will actually own the property. Some leaseholders sell the freehold to the tenant in a process known as collective enfranchisement.

8. Have any major works been conducted since the last sale? Was this completed with the right planning permission?

Some renovations can either add value or devalue a property. It’s worth knowing if the previous owners have conducted any major work on the home as it may affect the valuation or the results of the property survey.

If work has been conducted, you should then ask if you can see the relevant planning and building control consents. Planning applications can often be found online but it doesn’t hurt to ask the previous owners too. If the work was completed without planning permission or against building regulations, you may have to renovate or knock some of the property down in the future.

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9. Which way does the property face?

Knowing which way the property or garden faces is often a factor many potential homeowners forget about. But this can be an important detail if you enjoy making use of any outdoor spaces. South-facing gardens would mean longer summer evenings whilst a north-facing garden would result in more shade.

When asking this question, think about which rooms you spend the most time in and think about where they’ll be facing. It might mean avoiding a bit of very distracting glare from your windows.

10. Have any of the rooms been redecorated recently?

Some people will repaint or redecorate a room to cover any cracks, signs of damp, or other cosmetic defects. Although these factors will be highlighted during the property survey, this one simple question could save you time and money in the long run by warning you of hidden issues in advance.

11. Have there been any problems with the boiler recently?

Boilers can be expensive to replace or repair. See if the sellers can tell you the age of the boiler and whether it’s been replaced recently. If it’s had a number of problems occur, it would be wise to either use this as evidence during the renegotiations, or it might even convince you to walk away from the sale altogether.

12. How much is the Council Tax?

If you can, try to get an exact amount and find out which council tax band the property comes under. How much council tax you pay will largely depend on the location. If possible, try contacting the seller to help with the estimates. Although they might not be as concerning as the upfront costs of buying a house, these ongoing costs are important when deciding on a home.

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13. Request the home report if you’re buying a house in Scotland

If you’re moving to or around Scotland, you should be given a Home Report when inquiring about the property. Sellers in Scotland are legally required to present this report when putting their home on the market and it’s vital all potential buyers read it.

The home report will be made up of 3 main elements:

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • A single survey
  • A property questionnaire

For more information on the Single Survey element of the Home Report read: What is a Single Survey?

14. What are the neighbours like?

If the sellers are moving due to a dispute with their neighbours, it’s essential you uncover the reasons why. Personal circumstances will differ, obviously, but if the neighbours are particularly bothersome or argumentative, it’s better to find out at the start of the process.

15. What is the local neighbourhood like?

Ask how far away the local schools, doctors, dentists, shops, and petrol stations are. This information will give you an idea of the area the property is situated in and will help you decide where to live. Don’t forget to do some research yourself as your estate agent is still trying to positively advertise the property so some issues may not come up.

To help you make a decision, it is also advised that you take a quick drive or walk around the area to see the amenities and transport availability for yourself. If you have to make daily commutes, you can also take this opportunity to time the journey.

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Other questions worth asking

Here are some more questions to ask before buying a house:

  • How long have the current owners lived there?
  • How many previous owners has the property had?
  • Can you speak directly to the sellers?
  • What is the lowest price the sellers are willing to accept?
  • What is flying freehold?
  • Is the property listed? If so, what grade is it? And is it in a conservation area?
  • Which way does the property face?
  • How new are the drains and guttering?
  • Can they explain the Energy Performance Certificate?
  • Do they have a FENSA certificate?

Next Steps of Buying a House

This article has been a part of our home buying guide. We cover a range of topics that guide you through the buying process. In our next article we cover all the questions you should ask when viewing a property. To find out more, read the ultimate house viewing checklist.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.