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Questions to ask an estate agent when buying

Jack Meadowcroft
(Last Updated: 13/06/2024)
9 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Leasehold homes might come with ground rent and service charges, while freehold properties generally mean you own the land. Your estate agent can tell you if a property is leasehold or freehold and can advise on the remaining years of the lease.
  • Ask your estate agent about the property's tenure, council tax band, EPC rating and onward chain.
  • Find out what the seller's goals are to see if they align with yours; for example, are they hoping for a specific completion date or a certain type of buyer?
  • Top Tip: If you’re eco-conscious, ask the estate agent if the property uses renewable energy sources such as solar panels, which reduce energy costs and develop sustainability.
  • Ask your estate agent when the listing was made, as homes listed in mid-summer or November/December tend to be the slowest months for the housing market, which can indicate the reason why a listing might have been up for longer than usual.

Home purchasing is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your lifetime. Ensuring you have all the necessary information before deciding is crucial; by asking the right questions with your managing agent, you can avoid potential issues and get your dream home.

You can only find out so much yourself by looking around a property. An estate agent can provide information about various matters if you ask them; at the very least, they might save you some time. Most sellers will also be receptive to questions, depending on how keen they are to sell.

What to ask estate agents when buying

Estate agents can provide a wealth of information about the property and the home-buying process. Here are crucial questions to ask them:

  • What is the asking price and is it negotiable? Understanding if there’s room for negotiation can help you secure a better deal.
  • What does the conveyancing process involve? Estate agents can explain the legal steps and help you navigate through the conveyancing process.
  • Is there a property listed nearby that might affect the value of this home? Knowing about listed buildings or conservation areas can impact your property’s value and any future development plans.
  • What are the average costs of properties in the local area? Comparing the price with local averages helps you determine if the property is reasonably priced.
  • Is the property part of a chain? Understanding the chain can help you gauge potential delays and the complexity of the transaction process.
Someone signing a document with estate agents for their new property. SAM Conveyancing can help with buying a house and questions to ask estate agents

Questions to ask when buying a house

Viewing a potential new property is an exciting step in house-buying. Here are some essential questions to ask when viewing a house:

What council tax band does the property fall into?

Council tax can vary significantly between properties, so understanding which tax band the property falls into can help you budget and plan your finances.

Is the property leasehold or freehold?

Leasehold homes might come with ground rent and service charges, while freehold properties generally mean no service charge because you own the land.

Leasehold: Check the length of the lease and any service charges. Understanding these can prevent unexpected costs, serious problems, and complications in the future.

Freehold: You own the property and the land it sits on, typically resulting in fewer restrictions.

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Take advantage of our fixed fees and no sale no fee guarantee – if your transaction falls through, we can help you with another property.

How energy efficient is the property?

Request to see the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to gauge the property’s energy efficiency rating. Higher ratings usually mean lower energy bills and a more environmentally friendly home.

Ask about the type and age of the heating system and the boiler. Modern systems are often quite a lot more energy-efficient and cost-effective in the long run.

Inquire about wall insulation, roof insulation, and the type of windows in the home. Double or triple glazing significantly improves the energy efficiency of a property.

If you’re eco-conscious, check if the property uses any renewable energy sources such as solar panels, which both reduce energy costs and develop sustainability.

Is the property subject to any planning permissions or potential for future development?

This is important if you plan to extend or renovate the property. Check if any previous work on the home has taken place and if it required planning permission or building regulations approval. To avoid future potential legal and safety issues, ensure that any planned developments or previous work undertaken complies with the relevant planning applications and regulations.

What are the neighbouring properties like?

Knowledge about the nature of the neighbourhood and next-door neighbours can point to the area’s overall ambience and can indicate the type of noise levels you and new neighbours may experience.

Assess the condition of the homes next door and on the same street; well-maintained homes and good schools indicate a neighbourhood that is cared for. If you visit at different times of the day, you can look for potential disturbances like nearby schools, pubs, or busy roads for noise pollution.

A row of houses in a UK neighbourhood. Buying a house can be stressful, so let SAM Conveyancing help you with your estate agent questions and the sales process with the current owners

Questions to ask seller when buying a house

Direct communication with the seller can uncover valuable insights about the property. Here are some more things to ask when buying a house:

Why is the owner selling the property?

Knowing the reason behind the sale can offer leverage in negotiations and highlight any potential issues with the property or area.

However, don’t look too much into this as reasons for moving can vary from job relocation, upsizing, building work, and downsizing for family, or personal circumstances.

Some sellers try to capitalise on a strong housing market, though, which can provide clues about the timing and potential future value of the property.

How long has the property been on the market?

A property on the market for a long time might indicate issues or underlying problems, or it could present buyers with an opportunity for negotiation. Sellers might be open to negotiation, especially if the property has been listed for an extended period and they want a quick sale.

If a property was listed during less popular months, it could affect the length of time that the listing is up for.

How much interest has there been in the property?

Understanding the level of interest can give you an idea of the competition and urgency needed when making an offer.

A property with low interest could indicate a problem with the property or listed building's condition, or perhaps overpricing. However, higher interest suggests the home is desirable so might require quicker decision making.

A key indicator here is how many viewings have taken place and if there have been any repeat viewings.

What is the minimum price the seller will accept?

Discovering the seller’s bottom line can help you craft a more effective offer. It will also help you understand how much financial flexibility you have in negotiations and will avoid time wasting on unrealistic offers.

Have there been any issues with the property in the past, such as damp or structural problems?

Full disclosure of past problems can prevent unexpected costs and repair needs in the future. Sellers are legally obligated to disclose this information to the buyer(s), and if repairs were carried out, make sure to check if they were professionally done and if there are any warranties or guarantees from the work.

Consider hiring a professional surveyor to verify the seller’s claims and identify hidden problems.

Who were the previous owners and how long did they stay?

This information can reveal the property’s stability and the desirability of the area and the neighbourhood. A quick turnover of owners can suggest problems with the area, but longer-term ownership can indicate a stable and desirable neighbourhood.

A couple of new homebuyers signing their conveyancing fees document with their estate agent. SAM Conveyancing helps you ask estate agents the correct questions

The house-buying process

Navigating the way you buy a house can be complex. Here are the key steps:

  • Making an offer: Once you find your ideal home, make an offer through your estate agent.
  • Mortgage approval: Secure a mortgage in principle to show sellers you’re serious and financially capable.
  • Conveyancing process: Involves legal work, including searches, contracts, and finalising the sale. A conveyancer or solicitor handles this, but they do not have to be recommended by your estate agents.
  • Surveys and inspections: Conduct a property survey to identify any structural issues.
  • Exchange and completion: Contracts are exchanged, and you pay the deposit. Completion is when you get the keys and take ownership.

Buying a house is a significant investment, and asking the right questions to your estate agents can help you make an informed decision. Whether it’s understanding council tax, leasehold vs. freehold, or the intricacies of the conveyancing process, being thorough in your inquiries to ask estate agents ensures a smoother and more successful transaction. By engaging with estate agents, and sellers, and conducting your own research, you can confidently navigate the house-buying process and find your dream home.

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Jack is our resident Content Writer with a wealth of experience in Marketing, Content, and Film. If you need anything written or proof-read at a rapid speed and high quality, he's your guy