(and what you can look up yourself).
When you’re looking around somebody else’s house, it can be hard to know what to say. If you’ve got a good estate agent they’ll tell you the answers to some of these without you even needing to ask, but if not, here are some good questions to bring up.
What to ask
When the boiler was replaced last, when the house was last re-roofed, when the house last got re-wired. These are all big costs you don’t want to be hit with.
When was it built? Are there any structural problems the owner is aware of.
If you’re buying a leasehold property (usually a flat, but not always), ask how long the lease is, and if possible, ask over email and get it in writing.
Unfortunately friends of mine were lied to about the length of their leasehold, and it proved to be a sticking point in their purchase. Lenders aren’t usually keen to grant a mortgage when the lease has less than 85 years remaining.
Ask about service charges and ground rent – as well as the rate they’re contracted to go up by over time. This is something your solicitor should pick up during their searches, but it’s worth knowing before you get to that stage.
Find out whether any appliances or furniture are being left behind. They might not be what you’d buy yourself, but if they are being included with the house it saves you having to fork out hundreds of pounds just after you handed over your life savings.
Ask if the homeowner(s) have found a house yet, or if they’re not buying another place at all. Getting an idea of the length of the chain can help you estimate how long the sale might take to go through.
What to pay close attention to when you’re at a viewing
Does it smell like damp? Are there brown damp marks on the walls or blistering paint?
Look at the boiler to get an idea of how modern it is.
Check if there are radiators in all the rooms – it sounds weird but some older homes won’t have them!
What do the sockets look like? If they seem old fashioned it might be a clue that the wiring hasn’t been done recently.
Turn on the taps (hot and cold) – see if the water pressure is okay.
If it hasn’t had a loft conversion/extension and you think it’s something you’d like to do one day – have a look for signs of other people doing them on similar houses on the street (i.e Velux windows). It could give you a clue as to how easy of a job it might be.
Are there cracks on the outside of the house? You won’t be able to tell just by looking but they could be a clue to structural issues that should come out in a full survey.
Look at the parking on the street, is it easy to get a space if you don’t have a driveway?
If there is a driveway, would the car (or cars) you own fit on it? My brother had to have his drive made bigger in the first weeks he moved into his house because he has a large car.
What is the vibe of the street, is it quiet? Full of students who might be noisy? Do you think it would suit your lifestyle?
Do the windows look new with double glazing? Can you hear traffic when you’re inside? If the windows aren’t modern, replacing them could be a bill you might end up with early on.
What to look up yourself
You can check the council tax band for any property online, so you can get an idea of how much your monthly bills might be. Take a look here.
Look how much other houses on the street have sold for recently. You can check this by entering the road on Zoopla. It’ll hopefully give you an idea of whether the house you’re looking for is being advertised at a fair price.
How long it’s been on the market for. If a property has been up for sale for a while, it could be for a good reason. It could also mean the house is overpriced, and there might be some room for negotiation.
Check your commute. Don’t trust the estate agents who say it’s only a 10 minute walk to the train station, because it might be for Mo Farah, but not for the average person. A man in a shiny suit said something similar to me on a house viewing and the station was easily 2.5 miles away.
Got any more? Drop me a comment with the questions you wish you’d asked below!