Viewing properties can be somewhat of a minefield, whether you are a First Time Buyer or have been through the process before. And with the country slowly returning to some sort of normality, we are finally moving back into in-person viewings of properties. To get the very best of the limited time you have whilst viewing a property, it pays to be prepared. Here are the most important questions to ask whilst viewing properties:
How long has the property been for sale?
If you are looking at a property in Edinburgh or the Lothians, the likelihood is that it hasn’t been on the market for too long. This is because the local property market is very fast-paced, particularly after a year of lockdowns, followed by incentives to get the property market back on track.
With that in mind, a property that has been on the market for a considerable length of time may be deemed as unusual. And if that is the case, it’s worth doing a bit of digging into why that is.
Why are the current owners selling?
It’s always a good idea to establish why the current owners are wanting to sell their property. More often than not it will be a decision based on personal circumstances (eg. downsizing, moving to a new area, financial reasons…) but it’s wise to explore any other possibilities too. A new build estate popping up on the other side of your garden fence may not be a big issue for everyone but if it’s something you wouldn’t want, check this isn’t the reason for the current owners wanting to sell and move on too.
Also have your solicitor look over the Home Report. It’s not unheard of for people to want to escape necessary repairs or maintenance on a property by simply selling-up. This doesn’t mean you need to reconsider a property you love, but it could be a useful tool in agreeing on a selling price.
Have they already got a new property?
You probably aren’t really that interested in where the current owners are planning to move to but asking if they are ready to move will give you an idea of where they are in their buying/selling journey.
If you have already sold your own property and are keen for a quick move, a long-chain on the other side might delay progress from happening at any real speed. And vice-versa; if the seller is looking for a quick sale and you are a First Time Buyer, you may need to accept that they aren’t prepared to wait for you, particularly if you are also up against any cash buyer offers.
Who are the neighbours? What is the neighbourhood like?
It’s unlikely that if the sellers don’t get on with the neighbours, that they will actually out-right disclose this information to potential buyers. However, use your own judgement on how this question is received and answered – hopefully you will only encounter positive reports of the neighbours and have no reason to worry.
If you are so inclined, there’s also nothing to stop you knocking on your potential new neighbours door and introducing yourself; this can also be a good way to ask questions about the local area too. Approach with caution though as not everyone will appreciate this.
Whilst viewing properties, take the opportunity to explore the postcode too. Take a walk and a drive around the area and establish if it has everything you would need and if it feels like somewhere you could see yourself living. And if the property doesn’t include dedicated parking and this is something you require, take time to explore what on-street parking is available, at different times of the day.
What council tax band is the property? How much are the bills and service charges (if applicable)?
If you are at the stage of viewing properties, it’s likely you have already done some research into your finances and will have an idea of what your budget is. This should also include what monthly mortgage repayments you can afford and it is wise to factor in monthly council tax charges, monthly utility bills, and any monthly/annual service charges that are required to be paid on the property too.
Service charges can be things such as cleaning and maintenance of shared stairs/hallways (in flats/apartments), insurance on communal buildings, maintenance of car parking facilities, landscaping and gardening… And generally speaking these are non-negotiable.
How old are the gutters and drains? Have there ever been problems with damp?
There is a misconception that damp only occurs in older properties – this isn’t the case. It is particularly important to check over any property you view for signs of dampness. This can include: staining or patches on walls/ceilings, damp/musty smell, decay of timber, mortar on exterior starting to crumble…
Ask about the history of the property. If there has been any previous damp, how was it dealt with and what kind of guarantee does it come with?
It’s understandable why sellers may want to light scented candles or give a spritz of air freshener before viewings, but ask yourself if it seems like an attempt to cover anything up. Likewise with a freshly painted property.
Has there been any work done on the property? Does it have the appropriate completion certificates?
Generally speaking, if the property is for sale, there would need to be completion certificates for any work or renovations that have been done before it went on the market. That being said, it is always worth double checking.
Firstly, so you can be sure the work carried out has been completed to a safe standard. Secondly, because you don’t want to be landed with the requirement of obtaining any certificates on work you didn’t undertake, should you decide to sell the property in the future.
What kind of boiler is there? How old is it and what guarantee does it have?
There’s nothing worse than the excitement of your new property being quashed by the realisation that the boiler is not functioning and you’ve no cover to help fix or replace it. Not the kind of expense you want when you move into a new home!
Find out what kind of boiler/heating system the property uses, how old it is and if it has been regularly serviced. Although this isn’t fool-proof and the unexpected can still happen, a well-maintained boiler is likely to be more predictable and reliable.
Does the property have outdoor space?
Just because there is a lovely view of a garden, it doesn’t mean it belongs to the property. Be sure to establish with the seller and estate agent what is actually included in the sale, taking into account spaces such as garages and parking/driveways. And always get your solicitor to check over the deeds to the property too; just because there is a fence around the garden, it doesn’t automatically mean it has been put on the correct boundary.
If you are in need of advice during the purchase of a property, get in touch today on 0131 554 6244 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.