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Questions to Ask When Viewing a House or Flat to Buy

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

19th Feb 2020 (Last updated on 27th Nov 2020) 12 minute read

House hunting can be difficult, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. However, by creating a list of questions to ask at a house or flat viewing, you can be better prepared and ensure you leave as informed as possible.

In this guide, Compare My Move has listed every question you should ask at a property viewing, breaking everything down by topic and individual rooms. From enquiring about the asking price to discovering what the local area is like, your viewing will be much more informative if you follow our helpful list.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Questions to Ask When Viewing a House
  2. Questions to Ask When Viewing a Flat
  3. The Local Area
  4. When Viewing Each Room
  5. Checking The Windows and Doors
  6. Checking The Bathrooms and Plumbing
  7. Checking the Roof’s Condition
  8. Looking At The Garden and Exterior of The Property
  9. Requesting Paperwork
  10. Next Steps of Buying a House

Questions to Ask When Viewing a House

1. Why is the House Being Sold?

An important question to find out at the beginning of the house buying process. The estate agent doesn’t have to answer this question, but it can be worth asking. Some may simply hint at the seller’s circumstances and provide enough information to satisfy you. 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 Property 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. Are there problems you haven’t noticed? Is it difficult to get a mortgage on this property? Is it overpriced? How quickly a home sells depends on its price, the state of the market, and the competitiveness of its price. As of early 2020, the average time between a home being listed for sale and a buyer’s offer being accepted ranged from 107 to 141 days in different parts of Britain, according to Home. 

3. How Was the Asking Price Decided?

Experienced estate agents will provide good evidence for how and why they valued the property at the price they did. Calculating an asking price is not an exact science but an estate agent will usually factor in the home’s age, location, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, size of garden and general condition plus proximity to school catchment areas and public transport. But, for your own research, you should still compare the asking price to similar properties in the local area. You can also ask them to show similar properties they’ve recently sold in the same area and if they’re priced lower and why.

4. What is Included in the Sale?

This is important to know as it can affect its overall value. This should be cleared up in the contracts if you were to buy the property, but it’s better to know early on. Are some of the fittings or fixtures included? Will the garden shed be yours? Make sure you’re aware of what would be included in the contract if you were to make an offer. Good agents may already have a list of what is being left by the seller, covering ‘fixtures and fittings’. This is called the Sellers Property Information Form. 

5. When Does the Seller Move Out?

It’s important to have a timeline of the sale. 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 they are. The seller 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.

6. How Many Times Has the House Exchanged Hands?

If a property has exchanged hands multiple times, it could be a red flag alerting you to serious problems. If possible, find out why the last few previous owners moved out. 

7. How Old is the Property?

Older properties can be expensive to maintain so it’s worth knowing its age. Properties over 50 years old often require building surveys which are a more expensive type of survey. There are a number of ways to discover the age of a property, such as contacting HM Land Registry

8. Is the Property Insulated?

Proper insulation can help save you money in the long-run as you’ll be spending less on heating and other maintenance costs. The sales details should include an Energy Performance Certificate, giving a rating for the property from A (the best) to G (worst). It may also include recommendations on how energy efficiency in the property could be improved.

9. Are there Working Security/Smoke Alarms?

Security is a key factor in any property you buy. It’s important to know if there are working security alarms and smoke alarms present or if this will be another expense to pay. 

10. Is the Property Listed?

Listed buildings require specialist care and you could be prevented or severely restricted in what you are able to do with the property, both inside and out. 

Questions to Ask When Viewing a Flat

1. Is it Leasehold or Freehold? 

Discover the difference between freehold and leasehold in our helpful guide. It’s an important distinction to make when buying a property and so it’s important to ask.  

2. If the Answer is Leasehold, How Many Years Are Left on the Lease?

The majority of leases are for an initial period of 99-125 years. Typically, the longer the better and anything under 75 years can be a problem. For further information, you can visit the gov.uk website. 

3. Check If There’s A Flying Freehold

This describes a freehold property which is above or below another freehold property and is commonly found in older buildings that have been converted into flats. A typical example is a room in one flat located above a shared passageway, or a balcony which extends over a neighbouring property. Some mortgage lenders, fearful of disputes, will not lend to buyers of such properties.

4. What Managing Agent Owns the Block?

Find out who owns the block and research the reputation of the management agent. It’s important to have a good relationship with your managing agent so ask as many questions as possible.

5. Is There an Outdoor Space and is it Shared?

Don’t forget to look at every area! Some flats don’t have a large outdoor space so it’s important to know what’s included. If it’s a shared space, then you’ll need to review its condition to understand who you’re sharing with and how they maintain the area. 

6. Are There Any Communal Areas?

No one wants to live with messy, neglectful or unreliable people. If the communal areas are left in a terrible state, you may end up having to pay to help fix the issues. 

7. Are There Any Issues With the Neighbours?

No matter where you intend to live, it’s important to assess who your neighbours will be. Are they noisy? Is the crime rate high? Have there been many previous disputes? The Seller’s Property Information Form should contain details of any significant disputes between neighbours.

8. Is There a Lift?

If you’re viewing a block of flats, it’s important to know where the exits are and the different ways into your property. 

9. Are Pets Allowed?

Not all flats are pet-friendly. Sometimes you will require special permission to keep any animals within the property so it’s important to know beforehand. If you’re not an animal lover, you may want to know just to be warned if any pets are already living there. 

10. Do You Have to Contribute to a Sinking Fund? 

A sinking or reserve fund is when residents of a property set aside money for any future repairs or maintenance. You may also have to contribute if you buy the property.

The Local Area

1. What’s the Local Neighbourhood Like?

Ask how far away the local schools, doctors, dentists, shops and petrol stations are. What’s the local crime rate like? Is it a noisy neighbourhood? This information will give you an idea of the area and help you to decide where to live. Don’t forget to do some research yourself as your estate agent is still trying to positively advertise the property and some issues may not come up. 

2. How Much is Council Tax and the Utility Bills in This Area?

If you can, try to get an exact amount and find out which council tax band the property comes under. If possible, try contacting the seller to help with the estimates. Although they might not be as concerning as the upfront cost of the deposit, these on-going costs are important when deciding on a property. 

3. What’s the Local Transport Like Here?

If you’re thinking about commuting to work, it’s important to ask about the local transport links within the area. You could even ask the estate agent if they’re aware of the average cost for tickets.

4. Before You Go In

Check the external condition of the home you’re interested in, and the conditions of neighbouring properties too. Register whether there are bus stops or other reasons why people may stand outside and create privacy issues; do people park on pavements or create other access issues? 

When Viewing Each Room

1. Is the Flooring in Good Condition?

You may be considering replacing the flooring regardless, but if not, it’s important to view its condition and determine how long it could last you. 

2. How Many Electrical Sockets Does Each Room Have?

As society is becoming more dependent on technology, the number of sockets in a single property is becoming an increasingly important selling point. Inquire about the condition of the sockets also, as faulty wiring is extremely dangerous. 

3. Are there Exposed Wires?

Exposed wires are a major safety risk and should be dealt with immediately. 

4. Do the Light Switches Work?

This is a good way to indicate if there’s any faulty wiring. 

5. Are there Signs of Damp/Mould/Condensation Anywhere?

If there are recorded signs of damp in the property, consider having a damp survey conducted to assess the situation and the urgency of the repair work needed.

Checking The Windows and Doors

1. Do they Open and Close Easily?

The state of the windows can be a good indicator of the state of the property and whether the previous owners have kept it well-maintained. 

2. Are the Frames in Good Condition?

Research conducted by The Homeowners Alliance discovered that 71% of homeowners believe that the windows being in good condition was one of the most important aspects of buying a house. Look out for rotted wood and condensation specifically. 

3. Will the Glazing Need to be Replaced in Any of the Windows?

If you see condensation between double-glazed panes, then they’re most likely faulty. This may mean that you’ll need to pay for new windows to be installed. 

Checking The Bathrooms and Plumbing

1. Do All the Taps Work?

Also ask if you can try the taps whilst you’re there, just as an extra precaution. This is when you should also check the water pressure and ask if the pipes are insulated. 

2. Is There a Bath or Shower?

This may be a personal preference, but for some people, it’s vital to have one or the either. Again, see if you can try them out to assess how long the water takes to run. 

3. How Long Does it Take for the Hot Water to Work?

The quicker the water heats up, the better. This will also help you check the condition of the boiler.

Checking the Roof’s Condition

1. Are There Any Cracked Tiles?

The Eco Experts put the average roof repair costs between £120-£3,125, depending on how severe the problems are. Simple repair work can cost as little as £120-£205, whilst major work will be in the thousands. 

2. How New Are the Drains and Guttering?

Replacing drainage can be another expensive job. If it’s raining during your viewing, take this opportunity to check for any leaks. 

3. Is the Chimney in Good Condition?

A misaligned or deteriorating chimney could be a sign of more serious problems and so it’s not something to forget.

Looking At The Garden and Exterior of The Property

1. Are There Any Cracks in the Exterior?

It’s important to look for cracks in both the interior and exterior walls as not only will it indicate how much maintenance and repair work the property may need, but it could also be a sign of subsidence. Subsidence can be very expensive to repair and so it may be a sign that the property isn’t for you. If you suspect the house you’re purchasing has subsidence, you should hire a reliable property surveyor to assess the damage. 

2. How Much Maintenance is Required?

Don’t forget to assess the condition of the garden and exterior of the property, as these can be rather expensive areas to repair and maintain. 

3. Is There a Garage? If Not, is There Off-Road or On-Road Parking?

It can be easy to forget some of the essentials when you’re viewing a property. If you drive, you need to ask about the parking situation and whether there’s a private garage to store your car. If not, then you will need to know where to park and how difficult it can be to find a space.

Requesting Paperwork

1. Can they Explain the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)?

The Energy Performance Certificate will provide you with an energy efficiency rating for the property. This can provide you with information concerning the insulation, the heating system and other factors about the property’s condition. If you’re also selling a property before buying, you will legally need an EPC report. For a quick and easy quote for your own EPC, simply complete the attached online form.  

2. Check the Home Report if You’re Buying a Property in Scotland

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

3. Ask to See Planning Permission and Sign-Off Documents for Any Work That’s Been Done

If there has been any major work or renovations carried out on the property, then you should ask to see any relevant planning and building control consents.  

When you’re ready to book your viewings, don’t forget to download our House Viewing Checklist to ensure you don’t forget the important factors to consider when searching the property.

Next Steps of Buying a House

This article has been part of our home buying guide. For the next step in the buying process, our next article will explain the differences between a freehold property and a leasehold property. To find out more read freehold vs leasehold.

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.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.