HomeOwners Alliance logo

Become a member today to access our home helpline, discounted conveyancing, expert advice & legal service

Homebuying

Top Tips – clever questions to ask the estate agent when buying

Buying a home is a psychological game of poker, with very high stakes, and huge incentives to bluff and avoid inconvenient facts. However estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth, so you need to make sure you ask the right questions to find out what the real situation is. It could make the difference between buying a dream home and buying a dud – and save you a fortune

Why is the owner selling?

The estate agent doesn’t have to answer, but if you’re lucky they might hint at the circumstances. You might find out the owner is desperate to sell, perhaps because work is taking them overseas, and so would accept a lower price

Is there anything that you would want to know about the house if you were buying?

The big fear if you are buying is that you are missing out some big negative factor that others know about. Is the local train station is about to close, a nearby sewerage plant opening up, or the next door neighbours the family from hell? People have been known to move into the homes of convicted mass-murderers without knowing – but you can bet they wish they had known. If you have any doubts about a house, ask next door neighbours or local shop keepers what they think

Exactly what is included in the sale?

Is the garden shed or greenhouse included? Are the fixtures and fittings? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you see all of what you are getting. It is not unknown for most of the contents to be included in the sale

How long has the property been on the market?

If the house has been on the market a long time (more than three months), ask the agent why they think it isn’t selling. Are there problems that other people have realised that you haven’t? Is it just overpriced? A long time on the market might mean that the seller would accept a lower price

How long have the owners lived there?

If they are moving out after a short period, it is important to find out why. Do they have noisy neighbours?

Has the property repeatedly changed hands?

You should be alert to serious problems if the property has frequently changed hands. Find out why previous owners moved out. Perhaps even try to contact them to ask why they did

How did the agent decide on an asking price?

A good agent will provide you with their justifications for the asking price, which you can then judge. Or, if you get lucky the agent might tell you that they think the seller is overvaluing the house. You should in any case visit other homes for sale nearby so you get a good idea what properties in the area sell for. See “How do I know I’m not paying too much?

What is the minimum price the seller will accept?

It sounds silly, but asking if their bottom line is actually negotiable can save you thousands. Estate agents will often give you an indication – it is in their interest to make a sale, even at a lower price, because if they don’t sell, they don’t get paid

What offers have they had so far?

The agent will most likely tell you if there have been other offers, but not how much they were. But again, they have a big incentive to get a price agreed, so might drop some pretty heavy hints in whispered tones. If you can find out about the other offers, it obviously makes it easier to know what you should offer.  See “Making an offer and haggling over the price

When do the sellers have to move out?

Have the sellers already found another home? If they have, they may be keen to sell as fast as possible. Otherwise, if you have to wait until they find somewhere else, it adds to the uncertainty, with all the risks associated with being in a chain

Can you speak directly to the sellers?

Agents generally hate this – it is their job to negotiate – but they can’t stop you speaking to the sellers, which can be the best thing you do. Most sellers are like you – not industry professionals – and this means they often give answers that agents would find shockingly honest. Unlike the agent, they can’t pretend ignorance if you ask why they are moving. It can also give you a much better feel for the house – ask them the best and worst points

Which way does the property face?

Evening drinks on that beautiful terrace will not be so pleasant if the house faces north and the sun disappeared hours ago. Or maybe you love the sun waking you up in the morning – in which case ensure you face south-east. Which rooms will you be using most; and which way do they face?

Have any major works been conducted?

If so, are you able to have a look at the relevant planning and building control consents? In most cases you can search online for planning applications (granted and refused) on the local planning authority website. It would be awful if you bought your dream home only to find out you would have to knock half of it down

Is the property listed? If so, what grade is it? And is it in a conservation area?

If you buy a listed property you can be severely restricted in what you can do both to the outside and, in some cases, to the inside too. If the property is in a conservation area you should find out what restrictions apply

How much is the Council Tax? And how much are utility bills in the area?

Try and get exact amounts. Talk to the seller if you have to. While these may seem like small considerations in comparison to the amount you will spend on the house, they are reoccurring expenses that will add to the pressure of owning your home

Can they explain the Energy Performance Certificate?

The rating on the Energy Performance Certificate, which says how energy efficient the property is, will be influenced by a number of things. Is there loft insulation? Is there wall cavity insulation? When were they all put in? Is the boiler covered with lagging? How many outside walls are there?

How old is the property?

Not only is this nice to know anyway, but the upkeep of older houses is often more expensive

Can you try the taps?

How long does it take for the water to come through? Do the taps work even?

Have any of the rooms been redecorated recently? If so, why?

Often people will repaint a room in order to cover damp or cracks

Can you move the furniture and have a peek under the rugs?

It is not unknown to hide cracks in the wall with furniture or cover up floor problems with rugs. So ensure you look thoroughly

Have there been any problems with the boiler recently?

And if so, what? And when was it last replaced?

How new or how sturdy are the drains and guttering?

Replacing drainage is a very expensive pain. And it might be a shame to have to replace those beautiful lead gutters. If it is raining seize the opportunity to check nothing is leaking

Do you have noisy neighbours?

If the seller has lodged any complaints against their neighbours they legally have to tell you if you ask

What can they tell you about the local neighbourhood?

What are the schools like? What is the crime rate like? How good are transport links? Where is the nearest petrol station? While it is a good idea to see what the estate agent has to say, make sure you do some independent research as well. See How do I choose a new area to live in?

 

The HomeOwners Alliance helps members with queries on buying their home. To see how we can help, find out more about the benefits of joining the HomeOwners Alliance.

 


Leave a comment




Captcha *

9 Comments

  1. Estate Agents have to tell the truth?? I think someone had better let them know. I can always tell when an estate agent is lying, his lips move!!

    Almost all Estate Agents are liars and greedy little gits whipping everyone into a frenzy to rush through the next commission. I thought everyone knew that? Brighton is one of the worst places for lying agents and the solicitors that pay clients money to the agents are just as bad. We now have agents who will refuse to show you a house unless you use the solicitors they are in cahoots with. Hey, Guess what, the solicitors (if they are qualified) they use are usually really poor at what they do. Always use your preferred solicitor and never be bullied by an agent or a new build developer either. The only reason for a new build developer to fear you using your preferred solicitor is if they have something they don’t want you to find out. If selling, do you really want to put your property on the market with an agent that will refuse to sell it to someone just because they won’t use their lawyer, look how much they are charging you anyway. Like I siad, greedy little scum bags. Soon, hopefully high street agents will be a thing of the past, can’t come soon enough!

    Comment by Itmakessense — April 19, 2016 @ 1:52 pm

  2. I was just about to exchange on a flat but it’s come to light that the eaves storage area which is part of the property description on the estate agent’s website for the flat does not belong to the flat I am buying. It is a share of freehold flat (the property is one house divided into 3 flats) and therefore the eaves storage belongs to the landlord (which is the owners of the 3 flats in the property, who are share holders in the management company of the whole property). The eaves space can only be accessed by entering the flat I am buying and there’s only an informal agreement amongst the 3 flats that ‘my’ flat can use the storage space.

    How would I know if the mortgage valuation of the flat by my bank included this eaves space in their assessment of the flat or not? Do I need to clarify this with the valuers? If the valuers did include this eaves space in their valuation but it turns out the eaves doesn’t belong solely to my flat, does it therefore mean I need to get the flat re-valued to exclude the storage space and consequently go back to my vendors and give a lower offer?

    Comment by H — August 20, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

  3. having skimmed over this article, I felt compelled to add a comment. I would suggest that the vast majority of agents would either lie, evade the question or would be clueless to most of the questions proposed. second, most info can be found online (where at least you are likely to get a fairer reflection and truthful answer to specific questions). most of the questions are irrelevant – which way does it face? explain the EPC?! come on…what a way to make yourself look almost as stupid as the person showing you the house! by far the most important aspect of buying a house is getting a good solicitor. many are as bad as the agents but a good one gets it done quickly and without hassle – that is the key to buying property. I am not a solicitor by the way, but i was an agent for over 10years.

    Comment by Sl13 — August 5, 2015 @ 12:29 pm

  4. Hi looking for advice we bought our first house 6 months ago when we came for the viewing we noticed damp on the hallway wall which we were told was caused by a flood from the neighbour but was under gaurantee and the work would be done at no cost to us. We asked on many occasions throughout the buying process to confirm that the work was gauranteed and we were assured by the estate agents every time. However now 6 month after buying they are now telling us the wall is not covered and is something we ourselves will have to pay for. Lied to and missold by the estate agents. Can anybody give me advice

    Comment by louise — July 1, 2015 @ 9:19 am

  5. We are engaged in the buying process for a fully developed urban cottage in Cornwall. It has had two recent offers accepted on it that have fallen through. The first we are advised because when a full survey was done the would be buyer admittedly not familiar with this type of dwelling cried off.
    The second we are advised because the potential buyers chain broke. he could not sell his existing property. In both cases detailed surveys were done costing +/- £700.00 each.
    In terms of the legislation this site is discussing is it reasonable for the agent to refuse to tell us the content of the survey. Particularly in the light of his dutes under current legislation commented on on this website.
    It appears to me that where it falls apart with an older property is other than extreme issues like rot , structure issues or planning t oput a rock drummers school next door. Only the prospective buyer can judge what is or is not acceptable in the survey reports detail.
    Refusal by an agent to disclose what he knows seems to be the issue where and however the agent came to know? Not so?
    Comment please?? Lastly could I offer to buy the original surveys I mention from the no longer interested parties?

    Comment by Kevin Sheridan — June 7, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

  6. hi I put an offer done on a place in Wales, that come with 3.5 acres, had surveys done etc then asked them to verify the land size, the estate agent said they can not and its what the vendor has told them. but have found out that the estate sold them the house a few years ago. I question is the land worth less and they wont say if it will or confirm or denied the size now and even had the cheek to send me a revised brochure to say acreage not the size any more, this is after I have paid out money. I know I can pull out the sale but at my loss?

    Comment by lee — May 6, 2015 @ 7:08 am

  7. I would like to seek advice. My letting agents incorrectly placed my flat that they manage on the market. They sent me a letter and also a form requesting signature so that they were able to market the property. The letter was sent to an old address and so i only recieved this at the weekend. I was surporsied to see that although i never signed anything, gave no agreement on the sale or had any verbal communications that my was advertised on their website for sale. There response is this was a human error and they accept that no checking has taken place. They have offered 50 gbp compensation – does this sound fair?

    Comment by Laura — March 9, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

  8. Jennifer, that’s quite an unnecessarily cold answer.

    Saida, or anyone else in that position. Its quite common to agree to a price, only to find out upon a surveyors report that the building needs work.

    If you’re not happy with the vendors unreasonable response to re negotiate a price based on expensive building work, then you have the option of pulling out of the deal as you haven’t signed anything.

    The estate agent will attempt to bully and BS you into making the purchase. Ignore them, unfortunately you can’t trust an estate agent.

    Comment by Mr Philips — February 16, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

  9. You should have had your survey within 2 weeks it takes 6 to get to exchange so it you failing to act when survey tells u u tell the vendor and neg not sit on info for a month and then say don’t want at said price

    Comment by Jennifer boodram — December 11, 2014 @ 10:33 pm

Sign up to our FREE newsletter for latest advice, services and money saving offers

Sign up now