Purchasing property is a huge decision and when you’re viewing houses, it’s important that you’re armed with the best information to help you make sound decisions.
With property prices reaching record highs, inflation and cost of living continuing to be a challenge for many this year, securing the right property – and getting answers to the right questions early on – is crucial. Here are the five best questions to ask the seller during a property viewing.
1. How long have you lived here?
Your ears should prick up if the seller answers something like “not long”. Ask yourself, 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 could be a red flag.
Consider their real motives: difficult neighbours, poor public transport infrastructure, expensive but necessary repairs? Alternatively, you may find they’ve been living happily there for years. If so, follow up with another question to find why – after all this time – they’ve elected to stay.
2. Why are you moving?
The seller’s answer to this question can hint at whether you’re likely to have a similar experience in 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 for work – and this can put your mind at rest. You might even find they have a deadline to move, so are open to offers.
If they’re cagey about their answers it may give food for thought but remember that homeowners aren’t obligated to divulge personal reasons as to why they’re moving so do respect their privacy.
This is also 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.
3. What are the neighbours like?
Their answer can tell you a lot straight away and should reveal if the neighbours have noisy lifestyles, children or pets that could pose problems. The vendor is legally obliged to inform you if they’re aware of any formal complaints, such as noise 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 noise nuisance.
4. 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.
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.
5. Have you had many viewings/offers?
The property market has become increasingly heated over the last two years, partly to do with people reassessing their work-life balance or relocating outside of major cities. With demand continuing to outstrip supply, potential buyers are eagerly jumping on attractive listings which can lead to viewings being booked out in a matter of hours.
While a lot of viewings may not always be a good sign, you should also consider factors like the current strength of the market, time of year and what broader financial factors could impact activity. If you’re keen to get moving, it’s worth considering those that offer virtual viewings too. While it may not paint the best picture, it’ll give you an idea if the property is worth pursuing and can help save you valuable time.