Knowing which pitfalls to avoid is the first step towards making a sound property investment. Here's what to ask at your next property viewing
Once you have the full picture, you can make an informed decision on whether it’s right for you or whether you need to continue your search.
1. How long has it been on the market?
If similar local properties listed at around the same time have sold much more quickly, something might be putting buyers off.
2. Why is it being sold?
The vendors’ motives for selling could indicate that they’d take a reasonable offer seriously—for example, if they’re relocating for work so have a deadline for moving, or perhaps it’s a probate sale they’re anxious to wrap up.
Or, if they want to be closer to good schools, consider whether you could find yourself moving for the same reasons in years to come.
3. Are the sellers in a chain?
A long chain almost inevitably leads to delays, though if you’re in no hurry this could work in your favour, as the vendors might accept an offer if they’re keen to speed things up. But if they haven’t found anywhere yet, be prepared to play the waiting game.
4. What’s included in the sale?
Check whether extras like light fittings and curtain poles are included in the asking price
Although your solicitor will ascertain exactly which fixtures and fittings you’re paying for, knowing what they are early on avoids nasty surprises further down the line.
5. Which way does the property face?
This can be a deal-breaker. South and west-facing gardens are the sunniest, though you’ll be thankful for a more shaded north-facing patio on sweltering days. Think about which rooms you’ll use the most, and what time of day the sun hits them.
6. Is it listed or in a conservation area?
There are restrictions in the changes you can make to a listed property. Any upgrades need listed building consent, and you may be required to use particular materials. Rules in conservation areas aren’t as stringent, normally only affecting the exterior.
7. Has major work been done on the house?
Check whether relevant planning and building regulation consents have been obtained for any extensions or other large-scale improvements. If not, in the worst-case scenario they’ll have to be taken down.
8. Has it ever been flooded?
If the area has suffered flooding in the past, that could affect your building insurance
However, applications are regarded more favourably if the owner has taken remedial and preventative measures against future occurrences.
9. What’s the broadband like?
Ideally, you’re aiming for superfast broadband (at least 30mb per second), though don’t be surprised if speeds are slower in rural locations. Investigate what the mobile phone signal’s like, as you don’t want to be living in a dead zone.
10. Are any developments in the pipeline close to your house?
Any new developments planned on your doorstep could affect views and access if roads are closed during building work.
11. How old is the boiler and is it fully serviced?
Self-explanatory, but a new, energy-efficient boiler will be a bonus.
12. What’s the water pressure like?
Turn the taps on to see if water’s coming through steadily. A slow trickle indicates low pressure and potential plumbing issues, which could be pricey to put right.
13. How much are council tax and utility bills?
Knowing the outgoings at the outset will help you to budget. Request the property’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to discover its energy efficiency, which affects gas and electricity bills, and what can be done to improve it.
14. What are the neighbours like?
A history of noise complaints or parking disputes could indicate problematic neighbours
Bad neighbours make life difficult, so look into whether the vendors have had any disputes with theirs—for example, formal noise complaints or parking problems on a shared driveway.
15. Is the property freehold or leasehold?
Virtually all houses are freehold, whereas flats are either freehold (shared between the owners) or leasehold. In the latter case, find out how many years are left on the lease.
With less than 85 years remaining, it could be hard to sell later on and you’ll need to extend the lease, so the cost of this should be reflected in the price. And check whether ground rent—an annual charge to the freeholder—is payable.
16. How much is the service charge?
Only applicable in a flat, this fee is paid by all owners for the upkeep and repairs of the building’s communal parts—including the grounds, stairways, lift and roof—and may include buildings insurance too.
It’s higher in developments with amenities, such as a gym, pool or concierge.
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