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 – based on our own trial and error:
Questions About The Seller’s 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?
One of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house, is 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.
When we bought our current home, the owners had only lived here for three years. That did make us wonder. They explained that they were serial movers, which means they have moved every few years. Each time they moved a little bit more rural.
But during the pandemic, they have felt that their rural location was very isolating. They had also recently lost an elderly relative that lived with them. So they wanted to move to the area where their children had settled down to be closer to them.
Funnily enough, they moved to the area we moved away from. It all sounded very plausible to us, which reassured us a lot about them only having lived in the house for a short period of time.
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.
In our experience, sellers tend to be quite keen to tell you why they are selling. So don’t be afraid to ask that question, after all it’s a valid question.
This can help when it comes to knowing how low to make your first offer.
Q: Have You Found Somewhere To Move To?
Another of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house, is asking 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.
We’ve always asked this question and often the seller will say they’ve seen somewhere else that they want another viewing on once they’ve accepted an offer.
Q: What’s The Lowest Price You’d Accept?
This is a very direct question – but when it comes to knowing which are the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house, it is an important one! 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 of the level at which your first offer should be.
When we bought our first home, we wouldn’t have dared to ask such a question. But over the years we have found that while some sellers might react a bit surprised or flustered, most kind of expect it.
And remember, you don’t have to ask every seller, only the ones in whose house you are really interested in. Asking these kinds of questions of sellers will get easier the more experience you have viewing houses.
Once you have bought and sold a few, like us, it will become more natural and you will find it easier.
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?
There’s no doubt that the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house will unearth potential – expensive – issues such as the boiler’s age and condition. 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.
We’ve found it’s surprising how few sellers actually have a proper servicing record for their boiler. While that alone has never stopped us buying a house, we have asked sellers with unserviced boilers if they’ll have one done before completion.
If they agree, it means you won’t have to worry about for another year.
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. The potential outlay makes this one of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house.
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. Again, for older properties this issue of knowing how old the electrics are is a MUST ask when it comes to knowing the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house.
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.
This is something we’ve found to be quite common. We were lucky that our most recent purchase used to be owned by an electrician so everything was up-to-date, however, we’ve viewed houses were the electrics look like they came out of the Victorian period!
Q: Does The Extension Have Planning Permission?
We mentioned earlier that the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house will unearth potential issues and this one is crucial. Do not underestimate the problems that will follow if an extension has been built without planning permission. Essentially, 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.
One of the houses we bought had an extension that didn’t have planning permission and wasn’t built to the appropriate buildings regulations. During the viewing we asked about it and the owner explained that when she bought the house, they took out an insurance, which she would pass on to us.
This was good to know, because it meant we didn’t have to worry about it too much. Also, as this particular extension had been built in the 1980’s, it made it highly unlikely we would ever have an issue with it.
Let’s face it, when it comes to knowing the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house, it really does pay to ask these questions, as it can help speed up the conveyancing process as well.
Q: Are There Any Issues I Should Be Aware Of?
Thankfully, such 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.
There will be potential homebuyers who will ignore this issue when it comes knowing the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house but these could be long term and very expensive problems for you to resolve. You need to know more about any issues before you buy.
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.
We had to do this when a survey on a property we wanted to buy highlighted a potential structural issue. Thankfully, one structural survey later and we were reassured that the problem wasn’t anything significant.
Q: What’s Included In The Sale?
For many people, the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house include knowing what they are going to leave. So, 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.
We really liked the big sofa in one of the houses we bought. Mainly because it was good quality, still in good condition and buying a new one would have been very expensive. So we just asked if she would be willing to include it or sell it to us.
She agreed readily enough, probably because she didn’t want to take it with her anyway, and said to make her an offer for it when we put in an offer for the house. We got the sofa and the house, which were very pleased about.
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.
Another of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house – will not always include them! The agent will be a font of knowledge but it is always worthwhile checking out the area at various times of the day – and asking people who live there for their thoughts. Indeed, we found that speaking to the neighbours is a good idea in any case. Not just to find out about the area but also about the neighbours themselves. The people who live next door can have quite a big impact on your life, so knowing a bit more about them is always helpfu.
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). We have to say that when it comes to knowing the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house, you should not be shy. This is a hefty investment you are making – and it’s going to be your home so you will want to feel safe.
We installed CCTV in most of our homes, for piece of mind more than anything else. But we did get quite a few questions about it when we sold them. And most of the time the question was phrased like “I see you have CCTV installed, is that because you got burgled?”.
We found that this is quite an elegant way to get to the question and have subsequently used it ourselves. Of course, it only works if there is CCTV or alternatively a burglar alarm installed.
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.
They won’t necessarily tell you the whole truth but, we found if they give a fairly vague and generic answer, they might be hiding something. Likewise, if they are quite enthusiastic and mention something specific (a seller once told us how their neighbour often brings them home cooked asian food round), they’re probably telling the truth!
Of course, if in doubt, just knock on the neighbours’ doors, introduce yourself and get to know them! We have done it many times, and it always gave us useful information.
Q: Where’s The Nearest Shop?
It might appear to be an unimportant issue, but another of the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house is ‘Where is 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.
If you are new to the area completely, don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations for vets, doctors, dentists, restaurants, pubs, etc. We lived in the same area for quite a while.
But when we decided to move to a different county, this was something that was really helpful. It gave us a better understanding of the different areas and which one would suit us the best.
In fact, we ended up registering with the same vet the previous owners of our current home used and they’ve been one of the best vets we’ve ever used!
As you can see, when it comes to knowing which are the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house is to work out which ones are the 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.
We tend to ask questions about the seller and the property during the first viewing. At the second viewing we tend to focus more on the area. Of course, it will depend on what your priorities are, but we found that works very well.
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.
Hopefully, this guide to understanding the best questions to ask the seller when buying a house will help you find your dream home. Good luck!