The best questions to ask during a viewing.
When you come away from a house viewing, you’ll be armed with the best information to help you make a decision if you’ve ‘viewed’ with both your eyes and your ears.
In short - you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions!
Estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth about certain things (like noisy neighbours), but we suggest you try, if possible, to have your viewing when the vendor is at home. Vendors are often disarmingly honest when answering all sorts of questions. This can be maddening for the agent, who may want to gloss over or sugar-coat less appealing aspects of the property. But it can place you in a fantastic negotiating position.
While you could ask anything you like, these few questions are among our all-time favourites.
How long have you lived here?
Your ears should prick up if their answer is something like ‘not long’. Does the answer make sense for this vendor?
A growing family with young children may move after just a short few years if they’ve outgrown the house, but if the vendors are empty-nesters who have no obvious reason to move so soon, this is a red flag. Consider their real motives: difficult neighbours, poor public transport infrastructure, expensive but necessary repairs..?
Alternatively, you may find they’ve been there years. If so, follow up with another question to find why – after all this time – they’ve elected to up-sticks.
Why are you moving?
The vendor’s answer to this question can hint whether you’re likely to have a similar experience within the next few years.
For instance: If they’re moving to be closer to a good school, is this something that would affect you down the line?
You may discover it’s something entirely practical – maybe they’re being relocated with work – and this can put your mind at rest. You might even find they have a deadline to move, so are open to offers.
And, of course, if they’re cagey about their answer, you’re well within your rights to be suspicious.
What are the neighbours like?
The vendor’s answer can tell you a lot straight away, and should reveal if they have children or pets that could provide a noise nuisance.
The vendor (and, by extension, the agent) is legally obliged to inform you if they’re aware of any formal complaints made about a neighbour – even if it wasn’t them who made the complaint.
Better yet, try to schedule a viewing for a time when you’d normally be at home – perhaps an evening or weekend. It’s the best way to know how well-soundproofed the house is against potential nuisances.
What’s the area like to live in?
This is a great question to ask if you’re not completely familiar with the area. Look for feedback and appraisals of local facilities and amenities like public transport, schools, shops, pubs, and parks.
If their description is universally glowing, ask to see if they’re staying in the same area. After all – why leave if it’s such a great place to live?
How long has the house been on the market?
Local estate agents can give you pointers on how long properties on their patch typically take to sell. Remember, however, that they may exaggerate to make the market appear more buoyant than it truly is (and motivate you into making a larger offer, sooner).
So, when asking this question, pay attention if it’s taking longer than is normal for the area. If that’s the case, it may be that it’s overpriced – making the vendor increasingly willing to listen to offers. You should also be mindful of this when making an offer, as your mortgage provider’s valuation may fall short of the asking price – leaving you to find the difference.
Equally, if the ‘For Sale’ sign has only just gone up, be prepared for the seller to play hardball on the price. Especially if they’ve got a lot of interest.
Have you had many viewings/offers?
Again, this will tell you if the house is overpriced.
Potential buyers will shy away from properties they think aren’t worth the asking price, especially with the advent of online listings when it’s easy to view similar properties side-by-side. So few viewings may be a bad sign – but you should also take into account factors like a stagnant market, or time of year. The housing market tends to be quieter immediately before Christmas, but busier after the New Year.
Equally, lots of viewings (but no offers) hints that people have been lured in by good décor and clever staging in online photos, but find the reality less appealing.
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