8 questions to ask your estate agent
When it comes to viewing properties and later making offers and negotiating, it’s important to remember that the estate agent is working for the owners not you. It’s in their interest to get you to pay as much as possible as they’ll charge the owners a percentage fee of between 0.75% and 3.0% plus VAT.
By asking them questions during viewings and afterwards, you’ll be able to glean useful information that you can use to your advantage later on if you decide the property is for you.
1. How long has the house been on the market?
If you are buying an older property that has been listed on property websites for over six months, this might suggest that it’s overpriced. Has there been offers in the past that have been withdrawn? If so, why? If this is the case, you might want to ask whether the price has already been dropped or if there is scope for any lower offers at the current time.
It’s worth asking because even if the asking price is much lower than what it was initially and what the property is worth, the owner might be willing to accept a lower offer just to rush through a sale.
2. What’s the minimum price the owners will accept?
This question could give you some indication of whether you’d need to offer close to the asking price.
They might tell you of offers that have been turned down in the past or if there are other interested parties currently.
3. Can you tell me a bit about the history of the house?
If a property has had several owners over a short period of time, you’ll want to try and find out the reason for this. Has the property been damaged by flooding in the past? Is the property Grade I or II listed? Make sure you find out about any restrictions which might affect how many changes you can make to the property.
For example, the property might be in a conservation area where extra planning controls are in place. This usually affects work done to the outside of a property, including changes to the surrounding landscape or trees.
4. Have the owners done any major renovations recently?
If it looks like work has been done as you walk around the property it can be good to know exactly what has been undertaken.
If you spot any issues, don’t feel that you can’t mention them. You can ask how old the boiler is, are there any structural issues with the house or garage, are there any issues with pests?
5. Why do the owners want to sell?
Try to find out what’s motivating a sale. Are they getting divorced, moving somewhere bigger, relocating? Have they found a new property they want to buy or are they still looking? If they’ve had an offer accepted on their new home they might be in a rush to sell, so there could be a deal to be done.
Likewise, if you’re shown around a home that’s got no furniture or belongings inside, the owners may be open to accepting a lower offer straight away just to close this chapter of their lives.
6. What council tax band is the property in?
The estate agent should know the answer to this question offhand. You can also ask how much the owners pay for their water, gas and electricity. This will help you understand how much it could cost to live in the property on a monthly basis.
Additionally, the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will provide details on how energy efficient it is. EPCs are required every time a property is put up for sale or rent and are valid for 10 years.
7. Are there any planned developments nearby?
If you’re interested in the property because it’s surrounded by fields, you’ll want to find out if planning permission has been granted nearby.
If a large development of commercial or residential buildings is scheduled to be built next door, for instance, this could drastically change the property’s outlook.
8. Where do the boundaries lie?
Is the garden as big as you think it is? Does the property share its drive with a neighbouring property? Are the neighbours friendly?
Why not pop over and see them after your viewing? If the current owners have any issues with their neighbours the estate agent is legally obliged to tell you.
This guide to saving for a mortgage was produced in collaboration with L&C, the UK’s leading fee-free mortgage experts.