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9 key questions to ask an estate agent when buying a house

Questions to ask an estate agent

When it comes to buying a home, it’s necessary to do your homework. Ultimately, property is a psychological game and it’s all about being more prepared than the next man or woman. Although estate agents are known to exaggerate certain issues, they’re legally bound to be honest, so they have to tell the truth if you’re trying to find out crucial information. Remember that it’s very important to try and find out as much as you can about the property you’re looking to buy, as this could save you a fortune further down the line.

Here are nine crucial, but not always obvious questions you need to ask estate agents if you want to get key information about the property you’re looking to buy:

Length of time the property’s been on the market

If the house has been on the market for more than three months, ask the agent why it’s not selling. There will be a reason it’s not, and you need to find out what that reason is. Research location, transport links, size of rooms and think about the type of person that the property would likely attract and if the property caters for this type. The bonus is that the seller may accept a lower offer if they can’t shift the property.

How long have the owners lived there for?

If the owners have only been occupying the property for a few months and are now suddenly deciding to sell, there may be a reason for that. Are the neighbours loud? Are there major works in the pipeline (this is a problem that can affect leaseholders who sometimes end up with massive bills – however your lawyers should inform you about any works due to take place in the area once you’ve put an offer in). If the owner is desperate to sell because they’re going overseas for example, you may have a better chance when it comes to getting a bargain.

Things you like, TOTALLY want to know about the property

We’ve already mentioned major works, but there are a whole host of things you’d likely want to know about the property you’re looking to buy. Is there a big negative factor that other people are aware of? A demolition nearby, a tube link set to close? These are all things to consider. Usually your solicitors should find out about these kinds of things, but it’s still worth putting tentacles out to get down with the local gossip. Why not chat to a neighbour and ask a few general questions? Or just take a drive around the area after dark to see what kind of people inhabit the local ‘hood. You should also ask if the property has frequently changed hands or not – if so, red flags should start flashing and you should DEFINITELY find out more.

What is included in the sale?

It’s important to ask what’s included in the sale. Is the shed included, for example? Fixtures and fittings? And where does the boundary lie? Also, make sure you see all of what you are getting, as often most of the contents are included.

What offers have they had so far?

If you ask the agent, he/she will probably tell you if offers have been put in, but not how much they were. If you can find out about other offers, it will be easier for you to know what you should offer. This can also save you a lot of money in the long run and the agent may be willing to give you an indication as it’s in their interests to sell the property as soon as they can.

Have the sellers found a property?

Have the sellers found another home yet; and, if they have: when do they have to move out? If they’ve got a property, they may look to sell as soon as possible. Otherwise you may be in for a wait and you need to be prepared as to how long, as ending up in a complicated chain is never a great situation.

Are you allowed to chat directly to the sellers?

Estate agents may hate this, but they can’t stop you. Sellers are often more honest and unlike the agent, they can’t pretend they don’t know the answer to questions such as when they’re moving.

Dem bills, dem bills

We all know how much bills can mount up each month. It’s therefore a good move to try to get an estimation as to how much you’ll be liable to pay each month. It may not seem important now, but council tax especially can be high and you don’t want to have any nasty surprises.

Local area

Find out as much as you can about the local neighbourhood. Transport links, crime rates, schools, are all things to take into account; you should definitely quiz the sellers about these things as they’ll likely be pretty honest about their experiences.

Remember than many of your concerns will be answered by the surveyors/solicitors – just keep an eye on their findings and probe further if you feel you want to know more about any particular issue.


How to work out how much you should offer when buying a property

Property offers

Recently, the media has been awash with frightening stories about ‘gazumping’ – and even ‘ghost gazumping‘ – where buyers who had their offers initially accepted were left out of pocket and pretty annoyed after the seller accepted a higher offer from someone else. The desperate shortage of property in London and the south east means that this is a problem that shows no signs of completely going away. It’s not just this that rattles would-be buyers; the prospect of having to compete against a hoard of other determined competitors is also very off-putting. And some estate agents don’t help, by ramping up the rhetoric about ‘x property being very popular – you’ll probably need to bid above the asking price’ and arranging ‘open days’ where buyers are shuffled around properties like sheep.

Unfortunately this is just part of the new reality of buying a home, and as with anything, those who do their homework have a better chance of achieving their desired result. After all, no one wants to end up paying over the odds for an average two-bed in an ok-ish suburb and run the risk of being stuck in negative equity/generally regretting the purchase further down the line.

As with many things in life, a good strategy can be to look at what everyone’s doing and do the opposite. After all, there’s going to be a ton of competition for that Victorian three-bed conveniently close to transport links and located in a pretty good part of town. Even if it’s on for a reduced price as it needs ‘updating’, don’t kid yourself; the competition will be intense (again, we’re talking especially about popular parts of London and the south east here).

It would therefore be wise to not get your hopes up too much if the competition is fierce.Think very carefully as to whether you want to play this game; there’s a good chance that you won’t win. Obviously, it depends how many people are in the running, but remember that estate agents always exaggerate (of course it depends – there are honest estate agents out there, but they’re in this industry to make cash first and foremost).
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