Before you buy your next home, make sure you ask yourself these vital questions and get the answers you need.
- Do you have to move?
- Can you afford it?
- How much space do you need?
- Is the property in a good location?
- Will it be safe to live in?
- Is the property leasehold or freehold?
- How old is the property and does it have any problems?
- Is the property connected?
- How much are the bills?
- What’s the parking like?
- Is it in a chain?
- What’s included with the property?
- Why are the current owners moving?
- Will you still love it in five years?
- Is it right for your family?
- Is the property worth the asking price?
Do you have to move?
The first question you should ask yourself is if you really need to move to a new house.
This will depend on your circumstances, but if you’re moving for a new job, it may be more cost effective to rent.
Can you afford it?
Getting advice from a mortgage broker can give you an idea of how much you’ll need to buy your new home and how much you’ll be able to borrow.
On top of the deposit, you’ll need quite a bit extra to cover everything from Stamp Duty to removal costs and house repairs.
In any kind of property transaction, you also need to find a good solicitor to act on your behalf.
How much space do you need?
Moving is expensive and stressful.
So, to minimise the number of times you do it, think of how much space you need – both now and in the future.
If you’re planning a family, then more rooms will be needed. Also, check out the garden space to see if there’s any potential to build an extension.
Is the property in a good location?
When you find a house, don’t just consider the building, but look around at the local area as well.
If you can’t do it person, you can use Google Maps to take a virtual walk down the streets near properties you’re interested in to check out local public transport links, shops, restaurants, libraries and schools.
If you’re unfamiliar with an area, it may be worth renting first before you buy.
Will it be safe to live in?
It’s hard to get a thorough impression of a property without living there.
You should conduct as much research as you can by checking local crime levels, speaking to neighbours and asking about potential risks of flooding.
To check safety levels of an area, look at police figures using www.crime-statistics.co.uk to find out what incidents there have been and compare areas.
A crime map is also available at Police.uk.
Is the property leasehold or freehold?
You should check whether the property is freehold or leasehold. Most flats in the UK are leasehold, but more new build houses are being sold as leasehold.
If the property is leasehold, find out how long the lease runs for and the price of renewing it.
You should also check what the service charge and ground rent is for a leasehold property. These are annual charges which can increase each year.
It's a good idea to find out which management company will look after the property and Google it to see what their service is like.
Our article comparing leasehold to freehold properties has a full run down of what’s involved with each.
How old is the property and does it have any problems?
Remember to ask how old the property is – the older it is, the more likely you’ll need to spend money on repairs.
Things to inquire about include: how old the boiler is; how old the wiring is; when the roof was last replaced; and if the property has any subsidence.
When you're visiting, keep an eye out for problems such as damp, rot, poor plumbing, DIY disasters and the state of the paintwork and walls.
Also check the taps for water pressure and that the lights work.
It’s worth taking out a survey to check for any problems that aren’t obvious to the naked eye.
Is the property connected?
It’s a good idea to ask about the energy supply to a property.
Some properties are electricity-only, and some may not be on the gas grid so may use alternative fuels like oil, which can be pricey.
You should also ask about the broadband connection. If you’re agent isn’t clued up, use CheckMyStreet to check what sort of speeds the area can get.
How much are the bills?
Check what Council Tax band the property is in to get an idea of how much you will need to pay each month.
You should also look at the Energy Performance Certificate for the property.
This will show you the cost of running the home and whether it could be lowered with energy efficiency improvements.
Other costs to consider include the water bill and home insurance.
What’s the parking like?
You should also enquire about parking. If there isn’t a drive or garage, check what the rules are for on the road parking.
Most councils will let you keep one vehicle on the street for free with a permit.
But, a second vehicle may require you to pay a fee while visitor permits can be expensive.
Renting out your parking space when you are not using it can be a handy tool to claw back costs after moving in.
Is it in a chain?
You should find out what sort of property chain you will be in.
Unless you’re a first-time buyer, you will probably need to sell your current home to move and the seller is likely to be buying another property.
Buying a home depends on the success of all these other transactions and you will want to make sure the length of the chain isn’t going to be a hindrance.
What’s included with the property?
Look beyond the bricks and mortar of what comes with your new home, and check what will be included in the sale.
Appliances like fridges, freezers, as well as fixture and fittings like curtains and blinds don’t have to be left behind and could ramp up costs if you have to buy yourself.
Why are the current owners moving?
If you get a chance to speak to the people moving out, find out how long they’ve lived in the property, why they’re moving and where to.
This will give you an indication of any potential problems with the house and the area.
As a rule of thumb if they’ve been there a while there should be fewer problems but check if there have been any neighbour disputes.
Googling the address is also worthwhile and should alert you to anything dodgy which has taken place there.
Will you still love it in five years?
Buying a house on a whim is never advisable as it’s likely you won’t live there for life.
So, make sure you’re not buying a house which will end up being impossible to resell.
Visiting at different times of the day will also help give you a more well-rounded view of the place, along with taking as many photos as you can.
Is it right for your family?
A beautiful country cottage may sound like the perfect getaway, but once your teenagers grow up, they might not thank you for it.
Make sure you’re close enough to local schools and amenities and before you buy do a trial run of your commute to work.
Is the property worth the asking price?
Before making an offer, do your research on prices.
The asking price is usually up for negotiation so check what other properties went for in the area.
Also check what offers have been made on the property so far and what the agent thinks the seller is likely to accept.
If the property isn’t going to be your forever home, consider if there is any chance the property will go up in value perhaps because of investment in the area.
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