If you’re looking for a new home you’ve probably wondered what the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house are.
While the vendors’ estate agent would probably rather field your questions themselves, there’s a lot that can be gained by talking directly to the seller.
They tend to be more honest when they give the answers, plus they know more detail than the estate agent will.
So, here are some of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house:
Questions About The Sellers Position:
First up, it’s always good to find out as much as you can about why the vendors are selling up.
Having such information can put you in a much stronger position when trying to negotiate a lower price on a property. Here are some questions to ask.
Q: How Long Have You Lived Here?
This will give you a good idea how much the seller knows about the property and area.
If they have lived there for decades, they should know lots about the property.
If they’ve only lived there a year or so, it means there could be issues they have yet to discover.
Worse still, they may be moving because of an unexpected issue, so it’s worth delving deeper.
Q: Why Are You Selling?
One of the most popular questions that’s asked of sellers – what’s made them want to sell up?
There’s usually a perfectly good reason behind the move such as upsizing or downsizing, change of work, family issues, etc.
Knowing why someone wants to move will also tell you how serious they are about moving and how quickly they may need to move.
This can help when it comes to knowing how low to make your first offer.
Q: Have You Found Somewhere To Move To?
If the sellers have already found a property they want to move to, they may be more open to offers below their asking price.
After all, they may not want to risk losing their dream home for the sake of a few thousand.
If they haven’t, you may want to follow up by asking whether they would consider moving into rented accommodation.
This would take them out of a chain and give you a far greater chance of successfully completing the purchase if your offer is accepted.
Q: What’s The Lowest Price You’d Accept?
This is a very direct question. Estate agents are very experienced in fielding such questions and know exactly how to respond to avoid lowering the price too much.
However, the owners of the property are more likely to be taken by surprise and accidentally reveal the true minimum price they’d accept.
It’s wise to build up some rapport with the sellers first so don’t rush in with this one. But, when the moment is right, asking this question can give you a really good indication the level at which your first offer should be.
Questions About The Property:
Once you know a bit about the seller and their reasons for moving, you can go on to asking about the property itself.
Finding out as much as you can now, could help you uncover any potential issues early, rather than waiting for your homebuyers report to be conducted.
Q: How Old Is The Boiler?
Boilers can get expensive. Repairs can easily run into hundreds of pounds, full boiler replacements are likely to cost anything from £2k to £3k or above.
Therefore, knowing the age of the current boiler will help you work out when repairs or replacement are likely to be needed.
If the boiler is more than a year old, check that it’s been serviced annually and find out if the seller has had any issues with it recently.
If it looks like you’ll need to replace the boiler, factor that into the price you offer to pay for the property.
Q: When Were The Electrics Last Checked?
Similar to boiler repairs, updating the electrical wiring to the latest, modern standards can get very expensive.
In fact, a whole new rewire of a property can cost anything from £2,000 for a one bedroom home up to £6,500 or more for a 5+ bedroom home.
Not only that but it can take 1-2 weeks to complete and may cause some cosmetic damage.
Only the oldest properties are likely to need such extensive work but even newer properties can need things like consumer units upgrading which can cost up to £500.
If the electrics haven’t been checked for some time, you may need to consider paying for an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) so you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Q: Does The Extension Have Planning Permission?
If the property has had any level of major work completed on it, such as an extension, check that proper planning permission was received (if necessary).
If not, you’ll need to ask your conveyancing solicitor about the cost of insurance. Structures without proper planning permission can be ordered to be taken down by the council.
If planning permission was obtained, make sure the works also have a buildings regulation certificate so you know the works are up to the necessary standards for being safe and secure.
Q: Are There Any Issues I Should Be Aware Of?
Thankfully, such as issues are usually fairly easy to spot. However, that doesn’t mean you should rely solely on your inspection capabilities.
Ask the seller if there are any issues you need to be aware of. This will help cover your back as the seller is legally obliged to tell you the truth.
If an issue is raised, make sure you consult with a qualified expert before you decide what impact it has on your willingness to proceed with a purchase.
Q: What’s Included In The Sale?
At the very start of the conveyancing process, you will receive a fixtures and fittings form from the seller. This outlines all of the items that are included in the sale of the property.
However, it’s a good idea to clarify this before your offer goes in as it’s much easier to negotiate before an offer is accepted.
Some things that you might naturally expect to be included are not guaranteed to be on the form. This can include things like carpets, curtains, light fittings, garden sheds, and so on.
Therefore, make sure you know exactly what’s included and what isn’t. If you’d like extra things thrown in such as white goods or the sofa, tell the seller and come to an agreement before you put your offer in.
Questions About The Area:
Once you have a pretty good idea about the position of your sellers and the condition of the property, you can move on to asking about the area.
The best person to tell you about an area is someone who’s lived there. That’s why these questions are much better put to the seller than the estate agent.
If you’re in doubt about anything, remember there’s no harm in asking the neighbours too. They usually have no reason to tell you anything but the truth.
Q: Have You Ever Been Burgled?
Remember, the seller has a legal obligation to tell you the truth. If they are found to have lied about anything, they would be open to potential legal action from the buyer.
Asking whether the property has ever been burgled will help to tell you a little bit about the nature of the area.
It will also tell you whether you may need to look at installing extra security measures at the home if you buy it. This all costs money.
If the property has been burgled find out how often it’s happened and when it last occurred. Also find out what’s been done about it since (such as changing locks, installing CCTV or a burglar alarm, etc).
Q: What Are The Neighbours Like?
When you move into a new property one of the big unknowns is often how well you’ll get on with the neighbours. Bad neighbours are thought to knock as much as £130k off the value of a home.
Unless the property is fairly remote, you’ll probably see your neighbours fairly often. As you will likely share boundaries with them, you may need to work together to resolve future problems. Therefore, it’s important they are friendly and someone you can get on with.
Asking the current owners if they have had any problems with the neighbours will help to give you a sense as to what the neighbours are like.
Of course, if in doubt, just knock on the neighbours’ doors, introduce yourself and get to know them!
Q: Where’s The Nearest Shop?
If you’ve had a walk or drive around the area then you may know the answer to this already. But, if not, it’s always worth checking where the nearest shop is.
Is it within walking distance or will you need transport to get there?
While you’re talking about this, it may also be worth finding out what the local transport links are like, where the nearest post box is, and how close the nearest bars and restaurants are.
After all, if you’re going to be living at the property for any amount of time, you’re likely to need such things at some point.
As you can see, there are a number of questions to ask the seller when buying a house. The important thing is to work out which ones are most relevant.
However, don’t forget that you can have multiple viewings of a property before you put in an offer. That means you should have several opportunities to ask the seller a wide range of questions.
Ultimately, you should never buy a property until you are 100% it’s the right one for you and you are paying a price you can afford.
Be sure to make use of a qualified chartered surveyor in order to identify any issues you may not have spotted yourself.