When searching for a new home, most of us will create a shortlist of properties that interest us and arrange to view them. But what should you do at the viewing appointment?
Of course, you must look at the property and decide if you like it and want to buy it. Could you see yourself living there? But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are crucial pieces of information that, if you know the answers, can assist with your offering process. Ironing out those questions at the viewing appointment makes sense to ensure that you are armed with all of the information before making any decisions or offers.
These 13 questions are essential to ask; the answers will help you shape a sensible offer and negotiate effectively.
1) Why is the owner selling? - Often, this will be due to personal reasons, whether a relocation for work, more space needed for a growing family or perhaps a downsize. It is an excellent question to ask to understand the sellers' motivations.
2) How long has the property been on the market? - The longer a property stays on the market, the more questions will be raised about it. Is there a reason that no one has offered on it yet? Perhaps you could put in a slightly lower offer?
3) What price is the seller looking for? - You will often find that the marketing price and the selling price of a property are different. Whilst you will probably not be given a figure that the seller will definitely accept, you may be able to find out how negotiable the sellers are.
4) Have the sellers already found a new home? - This question will tell you about the timescale of the sellers. It will also tell you if there is time pressure for the sale to complete, which is essential for you to know and ensure that your timescales match up. Is there an urgency for them to achieve a sale before they miss out on the property of their dreams? Is there room for negotiation because they are in a rush?
5) Is there a chain? - If the sellers have already decided on a property to buy, there may be a chain. The more parties involved in a chain, the more complicated the property transaction and legal process might be, which could impact the timescale.
6) Have there been any offers? - The actual figure of any offers that have been made before is confidential, but it can be helpful to know that there has been other interest so that you can gauge where to pitch your first offer.
7) Have any significant renovations been made by the owners? - If an offer is accepted, you will need paperwork to prove that any significant works were signed off properly. This is useful to discuss at this stage so you know beforehand before making an offer, as it can cause delays with the solicitors later.
8) What is included in the sale? - Items can sometimes be included in the sale or negotiated separately. Knowing what is included with the price will allow you to fully negotiate a deal to include other items you may be interested in.
9) Have there been any surveys? - Whilst the copy of the survey report will most likely not be available for you to read as it belongs to the person who paid for it, the estate agents will be able to tell you if the survey results caused a previous sale to fall through.
10) Listed/conservation - There are finer details that could impact your life in the property, so it is critical to find out beforehand. If the property, or any part of it, is listed or in a conservation area, this will impact what you can do to the property after buying it.
11) School catchments - If you already have school-age children or are thinking about starting a family, the school catchment area will be vital information for you. Families have moved house altogether to get their children into the school of their choice.
12) Transport links - If you have to commute to work, the time it will take you and the convenience of the transport links will soon be significant to you. Adding an extra 30 minutes to your commute will cost you 5 hours of free time each week! And if you have to cross a busy junction or the traffic is renowned for congestion, you may lose even more time.
13) Tenure - If the property is freehold, you are offering to buy the property and the ground it sits on. But if there is a flying freehold or a lease of some kind, then you will be bound by the terms for the duration of your time at the property. You will need to know the details - the length of the remaining period, the cost of the ground rent, and any prohibitive regulations will all impact your ownership of the property.
The answers to these questions will help you understand the market, the seller's urgency, and your potential negotiation power, enabling you to make a good offer that is more likely to be accepted.
All of this will help you build a complete picture of the property, which goes much deeper than a simple viewing where you will only be decided based on the surface-level interest in the property's general appearance. It's a bit like having a blind date and deciding to marry that person without getting to know them first.
So next time you view a property, go prepared with this list of questions, and you will be fully armed with the information you need to confidently make offers.