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Posted 18 Oct 2023

16 Questions To Ask When Viewing A House

buy / checklist / house

Not sure what questions to ask when viewing a house? There are lots and some are more important than others, so here are some of my favourites.

Prospective buyers and tenants often ask me – what are the best questions to ask when viewing a house?

That in itself is a great question!

There are many useful questions you can ask during a house viewing, so in this blog I’ll share some of my favourites with you.

Since buying a house requires more research than renting, this guide focuses on the key questions to ask when you’re looking to make a purchase in particular. That said, many of the questions below are also good ones to ask when viewing a house you want to rent.

Without further ado, here is my handy house viewing checklist:

#1 Why is the owner selling?

There are lots of perfectly understandable reasons why owners want to sell a house. They may want something bigger, something smaller, or something in a different area.

In other words, just because the house is no longer right for them to hold onto, doesn’t mean it’s not right for you to buy.

That said, if their reason for selling is also a reason why you wouldn’t want to buy, that’s worth knowing upfront.

For example, if they’re selling because the neighbourhood is too quiet for their liking, but you want to be where the action is too, then perhaps it’s not the right place for you!

#2 How long has it been on the market?

If you think the property looks great and it hasn’t been on the market long, that’s important to know.

It suggests that if you want to make an offer, don’t dawdle – otherwise it may not be on the market much longer!

On the flip side, if a property has been on the market for a while, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with it.

But it may mean that there could be some wiggle room on the cost so if you’re not sure the asking price is right, consider submitting a lower bid to start the conversation.

#3 Has the asking price changed?

And if the owner has recently reduced the asking price, that’s useful information too.

In one sense, that may mean you could get a bargain – it’s as if the property has just entered the market (when actually it has been there a while at a higher price). Demand may quickly increase at this new lower valuation.

In terms of making an offer, it’s less likely the owner will entertain any underbids if they’ve already lowered the price recently.

Before going to the viewing, it’s also worth looking for the house’s previous sold prices on the government website.

#4 Has the owner received any offers?

This is another good indicator of demand.

If someone else has submitted an offer that hasn’t been accepted yet, but you’re interested too, register your interest quickly.

In contrast, if the owner hasn’t received an offer yet, there may be more flexibility around how quickly you need to act – and how high or low you can go with your offer.

#5 Is there a chain?

There are a few different possible outcomes here and of course, whether you are in a ‘chain’ or not yourself is a factor too. A chain is where the buyers and sellers’ purchases depend on another sale happening first.

In short, if the owner isn’t moving, then they may be in less of a rush to sell.

If they are moving and have already found somewhere new to move into, they’ll be in more of a hurry. Plus, it’s less likely that your buying process will slow down due to complications in the chain, as you’re not waiting for the owner to find another property first.

#6 What’s included in the sale?

For this question, first think about what you’re planning to bring with you. Buyers are often interested in getting the ‘white goods’ they see during a property viewing – i.e. the fridge, freezer and washing machine.

The owner may be planning to take these though and if so, know that you’ll need to buy your own.

Alternatively, if you want to bring your own white goods with you, check that the owner isn’t planning to leave these behind, otherwise you’ll have some bulky duplicates on your hands.

It’s less common for owners to leave furniture behind but if you’re interested in that, there’s no harm in asking!

#7 Can I see the boiler?

The boiler shouldn’t be going anywhere though, so ask to see this! A house with a modern boiler is a real bonus, as older ones can be costly to replace when the time comes.

If you think the boiler may need replacing in the near future, it’s worth keeping an eye on government policy.

While any gas boiler ban that comes in may only apply to new builds, policy will influence your energy source in the future. By then, boilers will be greener – but whether that means more or less expensive may vary!

#8 Have there been any renovations?

A recently renovated home could mean that it’s the up-to-date, modern home you’re looking for.

But if there have been any major works, for your peace of mind it may be worth doing a little research first. Search the local planning authority website for details on what’s happened.

We’ve recently written a guide on getting a party wall agreement too.

#9 Which way does the property face?

Before you start imagining where you’re going to spend your mornings and afternoons, check which side of the house will see the sun at different times of the day.

Facing east means you’ll get better sunrise views, while if you face west you can watch the sun set. Of course, this will also impact how warm or cool the rooms will be.

South-facing gardens are particularly popular because when the sun shines, they’re well placed to receive the benefits all day long. When people talk about a south-facing garden, this usually means the back garden, rather than the front.

#10 What are the neighbours like?

Revisiting a theme from earlier – are you looking for a peaceful, quiet neighbourhood?

Or are you bringing a young family with you, with children wanting to play as loudly as they like outside?

Finding out a little about the demographic of the neighbourhood will help you decide if the house is in the right location for your needs. 

#11 How old is the property?

Find out when the house was built. Then think about whether you want to buy a house that’s older or younger than you are!

Are you craving a traditional Victorian townhouse with plenty of charm and character? Or a newbuild with modern fittings?

Once you know how old the property is, weigh up the pros and cons in terms of the dream house you’re looking for.

#12 How much is the council tax?

Council tax varies significantly in the UK and it also differs considerably between London boroughs.

Plus, there are different valuation brands per property – based on factors such as previous value and size.

You may also be eligible for a discount or exemption but either way, ask how much the council tax is in advance.

#13 Is there good signal / broadband?

This is a good question to ask, but it’s also easy for you to investigate yourself.

During the viewing, check your phone. How much signal do you have – more or less, compared to what you’re used to?

London and most of the UK now have good broadband speeds but in more remote areas, it’s worth double-checking this.

#14 What are the EPC ratings?

Only introduced in 2007, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is a relatively new but very important concept.

It tells you the energy efficiency of the building. That will impact how much you pay for energy, but bear in mind that a bad EPC result is not necessarily permanent.

We’ve written a guide on how to improve an EPC rating with five handy tips.

#15 Are there any developments planned nearby?

Nearby developments could make or break a sale, even if they’re unrelated to the house itself.

If you love the current view from the back garden, check that no-one’s planning to build something big just behind it.

Alternatively, if there are plans in place to improve the nearby transport links, then the house could be a great investment if you buy it soon.

#16 Is the property leasehold or freehold?

Last, but definitely not least, ask if the property is leasehold or freehold. This is one of the most crucial questions to know the answer to.

I’ve left this one until last because depending on the answer, there’s a bunch of follow-up questions to ask.

In terms of freehold:

For leasehold properties:

  • How much is the service charge and ground rent?
  • Who is the freeholder?
  • How long is left on the lease?

This last one is very important as if you want to renew the lease in the future, the cost will vary depending on how many years are left.

Other questions to ask

There really is no end to the questions you could ask during a house viewing. It depends what you’re interested in and how inquisitive you are!

They also vary depending on the type of property you’re viewing. Sometimes you can research the answers to questions yourself in advance – for example, does the area have good transport links?

Other common questions include:

  • What is the water pressure like?
  • Can I look under the rugs?
  • What is the local area like?
  • What are the local schools like?
  • Is the property listed?
  • Is there anything else I should know about the house?

Remember that if you do make an offer on the house and it’s accepted, you’ll also carry out a range of property searches. These will accurately answer questions on things like water and drainage, plus factors relating to the local authority and environment.

Final thoughts: Questions to ask when viewing a house

Knowing what to ask when viewing a house helps speed up your property search and avoid disappointment later on.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a silly question, particularly when it’s about the place you could soon buy and/or live in. Don’t be shy – if there’s something you want to know, ask the agent.

If you found this article helpful, we have several others you might like.

Here is our guide into the different things that can hold up an exchange of contracts. Plus we’ve also written a first-time buyer checklist and a moving house checklist – useful if your house viewing turns out to be a roaring success!

For any queries, Fine Living is here for you – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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02/15/2023

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