What should I ask an Estate Agent when buying a property?

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2023
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What should I ask an Estate Agent when buying a property?

When looking at a property, don’t be afraid to ask questions about it.

Everything is negotiable from asking the seller to repair the guttering to extending the lease of a leasehold property before you purchase.  It all depends on what the buyer and seller are willing to compromise on.

Here we list the most important questions to ask an Estate Agent about a property you are looking to purchase.  If you get these questions in writing to the Estate Agent, it commits the Estate Agent and the seller to giving you honest answers.

Follow our guide:

1. Has the property been recently refurbished?

Ask why everything looks so new.  You may find that it may have been quickly refurbished for a quick sale.  This is not always the case, but remember, you can always ask to see receipts of any new works and check the reviews of the contractor the seller used to carry out the works.  If the property looks that good, why are they selling?

2. Does the neighbour either side of your property have a structure that would require access to your land or property to repair/maintain or renovate it?

This is a very important question to ask your Estate Agent because it could be the difference between you receiving long term, intermittent or regular access requests from your neighbour to carry out any works to their structure from your garden depending on what the structure is made from.

For example: if the neighbour has built a timber-built structure at the end of his or her garden and access has been given previously (by the seller of the property you want to buy) to build it, under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992, the neighbour has the right to request access to repair, maintain or renovate the structure from your garden.  This may not seem too bad, however, if the structure is timber-built, yearly access may be required to maintain it.  Water repellents, some paints and stains for exterior surfaces can require yearly maintenance.  Clear finishes have a much shorter life span than others.

You also need to take into consideration that if relations between the neighbour and you become difficult at any point, you can refuse access, however, the neighbour could take you to court to get access and would more than likely gain access.

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3. Is the plumbing in good working order, how old is the boiler, when was it fitted?

  • A property must have a good plumbing system.  You will not be able to see the pipes etc, but if you see watermarks, damp or stains on internal and external walls, these could all point to unseen problems.
  • Sagging floors or ceilings, damp and mildew could all point to major issues.
  • When viewing, check for watermarks, freshly painted rooms/ceilings, sagging ceilings. Flush the toilet, run the taps in the bathrooms.  Ask the seller to see the paperwork and receipts for any recent works carried out.  Ask for the receipts and paperwork for the boiler – this will indicate how old it is.
  • If in doubt, arrange for a plumber to check the sewer to see if any cracks in the pipes.
  • If there is a problem, you can always negotiate on the price with the seller.

4. Are the electrics in good working order – are they old, are they earthed?

  • Older properties may have issues with their electrics.  Ask to see electrical certificates (particularly if work has been carried out).
  • Are the lights situated on the ceilings or walls – are they near windows?  If they are, that may indicate that the electrical wiring is old.
  • Check the sockets, are they earthed?  If unsure, ask the seller.
  • Check the fuse box, is it in good working order, is it old?
  • If you think the property needs a re-wire, ask the seller to factor that in on the sale price.

5. If the property is leasehold, how long is left on the lease?

6. If the property is a flat or apartment, how much is the service charge, ground rent and are there any proposed buildings works planned – how much will it all cost?

  • A leasehold property will usually be owned by a freeholder.  You could be subject to a monthly service, yearly ground rent fee and if any proposed building works need to be carried out, the cost will usually be shared amongst you and your neighbours.
  • Who will be arranging the buildings insurance?  How much will it cost, will it be included in the service charge?  The buildings insurance will usually be arranged by the freeholder, but the cost will be borne by you and your neighbours in your monthly service charge.
  • You will need to arrange your own contents insurance.

7. Is the property a listed building?

Check here to see if your potential new home is listed in England.

8. Does the property have an EPC?

An EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) will tell you about the properties energy performance.

9. What condition is the roof, how old is it?

A well-maintained roof can last in excess of 30 years.  A poorly installed roof or a poor quality tile can indicate that the roof will need replacing.  Ask to inspect the loft, look for dry rot mainly caused by poor ventilation.  Does the roof have a solar panel?  Ask to see a receipt.  Solar panels should have a guarantee of 25 years.

10. Are the gutters in good condition?

11. Is the drainage system in good working order?

12. Is the property in a flood area?

If the property is in a known flood area, think very carefully before you make that purchase.  The pros are that you can negotiate the price but do you really want high insurance costs (if you are able to get insured?)

13. Will your furniture fit in through the front door?

You must take into consideration whether your existing furniture will fit through the front door of the new property.  Make sure you take measurements of your largest furniture and ask the seller for measurements of the entry points of the property (or go and measure yourself).

Research the properties history

  • Is subsidence a common problem in the area.  What soil is the property built on?
  • Has the property suffered subsidence in the past and what caused it?
  • Has the property or any of the neighbours had an issue with Japanese Knotweed, are there trees close to the property, they could cause subsidence so this must be checked.
  • Was the property the site of a crime?  Always ask the question or research it yourself.
  • Was the property extended previously?  Always ask to see receipts where possible to confirm that they were carried out by a professional contractor.
  • If you have a dog or a cat, check that the garden doesn’t contain poisonous plants.

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