We all understand that buying a house can be a really stressful process, but knowing the right questions to ask before you put in an offer and commit to buying a property can really help to reduce some of that stress, enabling you to buy with confidence and prevent any unexpected problems down the line.

Talking to Metro, property and construction expert Michael Reading from Housetastic shared some of the most important questions to ask along with some of the things that often get forgotten during the house viewing or sales negotiation process:

1. Ask how long the property has been on the market for

In today’s market conditions, properties are getting snapped up very quickly indeed, so if the property you’re viewing has been on the market for a long time, there could be a reason behind it, but always make sure you have all the facts – as Michael confirms:

“Generally speaking, buying or selling a house usually takes around three months to complete, so much longer than this can be a cause for concern.

“Reasons for a stale listing can vary greatly, so don’t automatically assume the worst. Instead, ask for an overview of why the property has taken so long to sell. Perhaps it was priced too high originally, or it needs modernising and no one in the area has wanted to take on that challenge.

“Or it could be a more worrying and costly reason.

“For example, Japanese knotweed has been found on the property or there have been structural issues found.”

Make sure you get as much information as possible otherwise a house that seems like a bargain may end up costing you more money to put right. If you’ve not encountered Japanese knotweed before, you can find resources online that tell you if a property is in a knotweed hotspot – and it’s something that we’ve written about here on the blog before.

Despite the urban legends, Japanese knotweed can’t actually grow directly through bricks and mortar – but it will work its way through small cracks and gaps, causing structural damage to a house and damaging foundations and walls. It is also extremely difficult to get rid of. This is why mortgage lenders take it very seriously as it can also do some serious damage to the value of your house if it is left untreated.

Also be sure to check your buildings insurance policy if you’re buying a home in a knotweed hotspot as most policies exclude any damage caused by knotweed growing on your property.

2. Ask how much the house costs to run on average

Once you’ve covered the first hurdle of securing the deposit and mortgage, you need to know whether you’re going to be able to afford to live in the house and average running costs can vary wildly from property to property. Find out what the EPC rating is, the type of energy they use and the council tax band. Also do some sums for yourself – factor in how far it is from your work or children’s school. Are you going to be losing time and money, travelling further and spending more on travel costs and how will this affect your budget?

Michael says:

“Finding out the average costs for utility bills, broadband and council tax is essential in ensuring you can afford to live in the property.

“While utilities such as gas and electricity can vary depending on which supplier you decide to go with, council tax bands can be harder to amend and, if you do manage to get your tax band to drop, it can take a while to set up.

“Knowing this information in advance avoids the stress of overspending.”

3. Ask them why they are selling up

Some people might feel awkward or nosey asking this question, but let’s face it you’re about to hand over a LOT of money for this place so it is a very reasonable question. Is there anything you need to know about that might make the property less appealing? Michael suggests that getting this difficult question out of the way will also strengthen your position as a buyer:

“From a negotiation perspective, if the sellers want to sell the property quickly, they may be more likely to accept a lower offer. On the other hand, the owners might be selling because they have found fault with the property.

“For example, there isn’t enough storage space, or they would have preferred a south-facing garden, then this can help you re-evaluate your own needs and whether this property is right for you.”

4. Ask if and when the property has been renovated

If extensive structural work has been taken place, it could indicate that it might need more in the future, depending on what was done and how well it was completed. This can also give you a good indication of where to look and which things might need a closer inspection during a survey. Michael suggests that you ask exactly what work has been undertaken and – ideally – why it was done in the first place:

“Work which is cosmetic, or completed to add value may not necessarily be something to worry about. However, work which needed to take place due to structural faults or other issues may lead to bigger problems in the future, which will definitely cost more money.

“While sellers have to disclose any major works they’ve had done on the property, by law it is advisable to get a survey conducted before purchasing, as this will guarantee you know everything about the condition your property is in.”

Next time on the blog, we have more questions to ask – and why they are important –  including whether the property is freehold or leasehold and what’s specifically included in the sale.

Asked all the questions and got all your answers? Sold up and ready to make your move? Why not give us a call to see how we can help with a free, no-obligation quote? If you need to store some stuff during the sale or the move, we have secure, stone-built storage facilities right here in the centre of Bridport. We can help you to pack your things and put them straight into storage for you until you’re ready to deal with them, taking all the stress out of moving for you. Give us a call to find out more.

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