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Questions to ask the estate agent when buying

Make sure you ask the estate agent the right questions before deciding to buy a home. Estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth and it could make the difference between buying a dream home or buying a dud.

questions to ask the estate agent when buying

Here’s our list of clever questions to ask the estate agent when buying a house.  These are questions to ask the estate agent when you are viewing a house and before making an offer and negotiating the price:

Why is the owner selling?

One of the first questions to ask the estate agent when you are looking at a property to buy, is why the owner is 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 should 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 about to close? A sewerage plant opening up nearby? Or are 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.

How has the property’s value changed in the last few years?

This information is also readily available online on the Land Registry website, so take a look and go armed with previous sold prices, and ready to ask about changes to the property’s value, particularly if there has been a drop in value.

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?

Any local plans that could affect us as homeowners?

If you’re viewing a property because you love the undisturbed view of the fields it backs onto, then chances are you want the fields to stay. So if there is a planning application for a new housing development on said fields, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later. Ask this question now, otherwise you’re unlikely to hear about planned developments until the local searches are returned.

Exactly what is included in the sale?

It is worth asking the estate agent 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.

A good conveyancing solicitor can ensure your purchase includes everything agreed verbally on a viewing. Compare quotes from quality assured local conveyancing solicitors now

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 the current homeowners 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.

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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 the agent doesn’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? Are they part of a chain?

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. So asking this question tells you where you stand, and how keen the seller is to move.

Can you speak directly to the sellers?

Agents generally don’t like 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 for their 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

Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

How old is the property?

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

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?

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. See other useful checks in our DIY Survey for House Hunters

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. But don’t forget, nothing beats getting an independent, expert buildings survey once you have had an offer accepted. They’ll spot the things you won’t.

Instantly find and compare quotes from local qualified surveyors using our find a surveyor tool

Have there been any problems with the boiler recently?

And if so, what? And when was the boiler 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.

Leave a comment (28)* Required

  1. FalayaFalaya

    Only this post proved that any body is not equal you and your level

  2. FalayaFalaya

    Such a great information. This is really very helpful for bloggers

  3. Keith A ForbesKeith A Forbes

    I was hoping I could rely on you for good advice on what people need to know about the hidden costs in buying a property. But you make no mention at all of annual estate Rentcharges and their components. Surely they apply to estate agents and must be included in what they have to reveal to consumers when they are buying a house? But not a single estate mentions the fact that annual estate Rentcharges apply in many properties, and affect not only new buyers but others who buy after them. Also, they may affect mortgage eligibility and Equity Release eligibility too. I recommend you include this in your list, to avoid being mentioned by name as an entity that will not mention this.

  4. FalayaFalaya

    Useful post! I really need this type of article.. this is very useful for me.

  5. FalayaFalaya

    Fabulous..such good service.” Thank you… I have never had such good service.

  6. Ray BowtellRay Bowtell

    You mention lifting rugs and moving furniture to look for possible hidden faults then mention getting a surveyor who will spot things I may not but surveyors are not permitted to lift carpets or move furniture.

  7. paramount baldivisparamount baldivis

    Great information shared on property investment, Thanks for sharing your deep thoughts on this subject. Keep up the great writing.

  8. baldivis landbaldivis land

    Thanks your shared! I hope you will continue to have similar posts to share with everyone! I believe a lot of people will be surprised to read this article!

  9. john parishjohn parish

    Hello, I’ve made an offer for a house which the owner has accepted. I’m a cash buyer and do not require a survey etc in an attempt to speed up the process. I text the owner weekly just to keep him in the loop and maintain good relationship etc. Do I need to keep on chasing the Estate agent? and how often should I contact my solicitor? its almost 4 weeks now and heard nothing apart from personal details and address for contacting me. I don’t want my solicitor charging me just to tell me no news yet? All i keep hearing is due to Covid This, and That….. Thanks guys

  10. ChristosChristos

    Dear Sir/Madame
    I am interested in buying a flat in UK.
    I was wondering for the following.

    Suppose I am interested in buying a flat for 200.000 pounds ,with a 120 year leasehold and ground rent 300 pounds doubled every 10 years.

    After 30 years the ground rent will reach 1200 pounds per year (am I right?) and if I would like to extend the lease back to 120 year…what about the ground rent?
    If I pay for the lease extension ,does it mean that the ground rent will be calculated again from the beginning?That is 300 pounds doubled every 10 years?or i have to continue paying after 30 years 2400 pounds per year…and so on..
    I would appreciate if you could answer me
    Thank you in advance for your answer

  11. LizLiz

    Buying a new build just found out there was a mine shaft in my back’s all been cemented and tapped…Insured by coalboard. Would this it buyers off when we go to resell

  12. Kevin DunneKevin Dunne

    I am buying in Ireland and in England and wholesaling is there any way of finding renovation estimates without putting money down?


  13. ShirshirShirshir

    Why should a tenant pay for the Tenant Agreement since the house belongs to the owner. And the owner itself wants the agreement. They are making the agreement for their purpose NOT FOR THE TENANT purpose. Doesn’t make sense at all. The tenant didn’t ask for it. Then WHY SHOULD THE TENANT PAY FOR IT???

  14. MollyMolly

    Hi, me and my partner are looking at house soon and what to buy our first house but he will be putting deposit down but I am nervous as I am jobless at the moment and wondering if they will do a credit check on me as my partner said he would put mine name down on the ownership as well as his mum.

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Dear Molly – They may well wish to do a credit check on you if you are going purchasing the property jointly. However this shouldn’t be done by the Estate Agent. It would only usually be done when applying for a mortgage.

  15. ThomasThomas

    Should I be informed if the house I am buying is the only private house in a social housing block

  16. Tracey HeyesTracey Heyes

    Where do we stand?? We have secured a purchase but we have only just found out that the vendor co owns the property & her ex husband has not given permission to sell! We have sold our house & there are four other families who will lose out if we don’t move.
    Should the estate agent have found out this information from the vendor & informed us before we had our offer accepted or not! Surely the vendor can’t sell a house or which half does not belong to her???

    • Sara HindSara Hind

      Hi Tracey, so sorry to hear of the situation you find yourself in. According to the industry standard, an estate agent “should take reasonable steps to satisfy yourself that the seller is entitled to instruct you and to sign on behalf of all co-sellers”. So in most cases this comes to light at an early stage. If you have appointed one, do speak with your conveyancer.

  17. HaremHarem

    That is very useful .

  18. ItmakessenseItmakessense

    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!

  19. HH

    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?

  20. Sl13Sl13

    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.

  21. louiselouise

    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

  22. Kevin SheridanKevin Sheridan

    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?

  23. leelee

    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?

  24. LauraLaura

    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?

  25. Mr PhilipsMr Philips

    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.

  26. Jennifer boodramJennifer boodram

    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

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