Key questions to ask when buying a house
Buying a house and moving in is a stressful ordeal for all involved. Homes are, for pretty much everyone, the most significant investment they’ll ever make in their life. Getting it wrong can be costly, but getting it right is just so satisfying. To help you out, we’ve compiled eight key questions to ask when you’re buying a new house. Keep in mind that you’re welcome to ask the seller (or, more likely, estate agents or solicitors) any questions you like. Before going to view a house, it’s worth writing down as many as possible. Bear in mind that it’s the estate agent’s job to sell you the property and, while they shouldn’t lie, you might like to get second opinions for a more objective view.
An excellent way to do this is by getting a home survey done. With that being said, here are eight key questions to ask when buying a house.
What am I looking for in a house?
To make things go as simply as possible, we recommend having a clear picture in mind before you even start looking. Knowing what you need and want from a new house helps filter out most of the available properties, leaving you with a select range. For example, you might be looking for more indoor space or a bigger garden. On the other hand, you may be looking to downsize or move further into the city. Keeping all these in mind – and perhaps drawing up a list in priority order – will help you decide on the best options.
What type of sale is it? Leasehold or freehold?
This one can catch buyers out if they aren’t familiar with it. When a property is put on the market, it’s sold under either a leasehold or freehold agreement.
A freehold agreement means you buy the property, and it remains yours indefinitely or until you sell it. Freeholds are usually more expensive, but, of course, it should last for however long you need it. Leasehold agreements are when you buy the property, but it only remains yours for a select number of years. These have a lower sale price but catch you out later on. Many people have been caught out with new builds recently, thinking they’re being a freehold property but finding out, years later, that it’s a leasehold.
With leasehold properties you should ask about the amount of the ground rent and whether it has an increase clause which could mean it rises significantly in coming years, to the extent that the property could be difficult to resell in the future. The length of the remaining leasehold interest is also important. If it is less than 85 years then this could affect obtaining mortgage funding. If significantly less than this the future value of the property is likely to decrease as it will revert to the freeholder unless a lease extension can be negotiated, but this can be expensive. Most people go for freehold properties wherever possible when buying a house. We’d recommend speaking to legal advisers about what’s best for you here.
Does it fit my budget (including maintenance)?
Have your budget set out long before you commit to buying anything. In fact, it’s best to have the budget sorted before you even submit the initial offer.
You have to realistically be able to afford the new house. It can be helpful to get a mortgage agreement-in-principle. This is where a bank or mortgage loan company can give you a ballpark figure as to the maximum amount you could potentially borrow. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll get that loan, though.
Before buying a house, you’ll need a deposit. For most people, increasingly so nowadays, this takes a few years to save up. It’s worth bearing that in mind if you’re still early in the process. Even once you’ve bought a house and moved in, you’ll still have to pay maintenance costs such as bills and repairs. It’s best to check you can afford this, too, as maintenance costs can vary dramatically from property to property. For example, heating bills on older houses tend to be much higher than those for newer ones.
How much will any repairs cost?
As an optional extra, a home survey could include repair cost estimates. However, you decide on the cost of repairs, having a repairs budget in mind before buying a house could eliminate some options. You could decide to submit a lower offer depending on the extent of any damage. When you buy a house, most people want to move in immediately. If major repairs need doing, it may impact your plans by preventing you from moving in until any work has been finished. For example, this could include roof or structural wall repairs.
Why is the seller leaving?
Most people move house for entirely innocent reasons, such as those mentioned in the introduction of this article. Sometimes, though, you’ll find people moving out to get away from problems with the property. This is a really crucial question to ask, even if it can be uncomfortable. It might just mean you dodge a bullet.
Does it need new appliances?
You should ask for installation and warranty certificates from the seller for the appliances they leave in the property. You might find that many of them need replacing. Although it might not sound like much, a fridge, freezer, washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher could all be in excess of £400 a pop. A new boiler plus installation could be a couple of thousand pounds, at least. It’s all worth considering.
What are the neighbours and local area like?
In Britain, many of us keep ourselves to ourselves, without much more neighbourly interaction than a polite nod every other morning. However, bad neighbours can be a real gut shot if you end up with them. Going home should be a relaxing, enjoyable experience at the end of your day. Bad neighbours – loud, messy or criminal – could affect that. In extreme cases, they could even devalue the property you’re buying.
Having the local shops, schools, roads, businesses and services in mind is also a good idea. To find out about the local area, a simple Google evening should do the trick. Speaking to friends or relatives who know the area might help, too. You can survey the local area by driving around a few times (not too often, or you’ll make people suspicious of you) and perhaps even staying nearby. With websites like Airbnb, this might be more viable than you think.
How can a home survey help?
A home survey can’t answer all your questions, unfortunately. However, it can help you discover any significant (or insignificant) issues a property might have. These could include damp, rot, subsidence, woodworm, or many other things. They’ll also give you an idea of the home’s value (valuation), maintenance costs and, as an optional extra, repair cost estimates. As such, home surveys can help answer many of your questions – if not quite all of them. You’re also always welcome to ask your surveyor questions about the finished report. They’ll be very happy to assist you. Here at GB Home Solutions, we offer tailored home surveys at three different levels:
- Home Survey Level 2
- Home Survey Level 3
For more information or to schedule a free consultation, please get in touch with us.