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

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Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Knowledge is power, if you are not sure, don’t buy it.

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

Has the property been recently refurbished?

Ask why everything looks so new.  You may find that it has been done up “on the cheap” by the seller – remember you can always ask to see receipts and check the reviews of a contractor.  If the property looks that good, why are they selling?

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 water marks or stains on internal and external walls, these could all point to unseen problems with the plumbing system.
  • Sagging floors or ceilings, damp and mildew could all point to major issues.
  • When viewing, check for water marks, 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 receipt and paperwork for the boiler – this will indicate how old it really 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.

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.

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

  • If the property has a lease just over or under 80 years, you may need to lease extend. The cost of this varies significantly.  You may not be able to lease extend it if the building is owned by the National Trust.  The building may be located within a cathedral precinct or the Landlord, Freeholder or their Managing Agent may be a charitable housing trust.

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?

  • Who will be arranging the buildings insurance?  How much will it cost, will it be included in the service charge?

Is the property a listed building?

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

Does the property have an EPC?

An EPC will tell you about the properties energy performance.

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 it 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.

Are the gutters in good condition?

Is the drainage system in good working order?

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?)

Research the properties history

  • Is subsidence is 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 neighbours had an issue with Japanese Knotweed?
  • 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.