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What house hunters forget to ask at property viewings

By Sophia Wood-Burgess

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We’ve been taking buyers on home viewings for over 40 years now, and while we try to reveal every quirk to every viewer, our agents have a bit of advice if you want to plan your questions ahead.

Are you getting all the information you need out of a house viewing? There are many important factors for first time buyers in London to consider. Foxtons were quoted in a recent BBC article, because we found there is an increased focus on internet speed, especially since COVID-19, in addition to, "the price and perceived value for money, the size and type of property, provision of outside space, as well as proximity to local amenities and schools." With the help of our Sales Managers all over London, we've put together a guide so you can attend your next viewing with confidence.

It starts before the viewing

It can be overwhelming to walk into what could be your new home. There is quite a bit to remember, so have a list of questions ready. Also, do some research on the neighbourhood - check the crime report, community events, schools, nearby transport links and amenities. Look at the going rates for similar properties in the area, so you have a good idea of what to expect for the price.

Explore the space

Running tap

When you’re viewing a house in person, ask questions like:

  • “Are these double glazed?” It's important that windows and doors close completely. Locks are also highly important, not just for security but also for your insurance premium.
  • “Who’s the current broadband provider?” Keep your phone out and check it frequently for dead spots.
  • “How is the water pressure?” Watch out for leaky taps, and check that there's a working extractor fan so running the shower doesn't cause mould.
  • “Does it have central heating?” Note how many radiators there are and where they are positioned. You can ask to turn the heating on, so you can see how the house heats up.
  • “Where’s the boiler?” Note the make, model, and the last time it was serviced. You’ll also want to know how old the boiler is so you can budget properly for repairs (older models tend to need repairs more often).
  • “Is all this included?” Ask about all of the white goods (e.g. refrigerator, washing machine). Think what you might want to keep or replace, and what the cost of removing anything you don’t want would be. You'll also want to ask if fixtures, fittings and even the garden shed are included.
  • "How old is the roof?" You can try looking for obvious signs of roof damage, but ask about it too, because it's not always easy to see. Typical asphalt roofs are generally expected to last between 15-25 years, and a new roof is a big expense.
  • "Any electrical issues?" You should, obviously, check for exposed wires, but also, keep an eye out for where the electrical sockets are and, if needed, check for a shaver socket in the bathroom.

Can you break the chain?

There are a couple reasons it's good idea to ask around the circumstances of the owner moving. First, you’ll want to know how long this property has been on the market, as an indication of its desirability and how amenable the seller is. If they're just testing the waters, it's unlikely they'll accept a low offer. Most importantly, understanding the owner's motivations can help you see how long the transaction will take, which is vital when house shopping.

Chain in sunlight

Nobody wants to get stuck in a property chain – it’s not just heartbreaking, it can also lead to time and money wasted on a deal that falls through. So, if the owner is selling to fund the purchase of another property, ask if they’ve found that property yet or, at least, started looking. The reason you want to ask about this at the first viewing is because, if you find yourself choosing between pursuing this or another home, the proposed timeline can make a big difference.

According to TwentyCi, over 300,000 transactions fell through last year. There are many reasons a sale can fall through, but one of the most common is that there’s a long chain of buyers and sellers, all relying on each other to transact so they can complete their own sale and purchase, and if one deal falls through, they all do. If you're interested in pursuing a property but you're concerned about the property chain, you may even want to ask: "would the seller consider breaking the chain and moving in with family/renting if I made an attractive enough offer?" Our estate agents also suggest gauging what everyone else's expectations are by asking: How long is this likely to take to exchange? How long does the seller think it will take to exchange? What factors could slow down this transaction?

Boost your advantage

If this isn't your first home, you may also want to consider talking to a mortgage broker and putting your property on the market before shopping. If you're seriously house hunting, getting a mortgage agreed in principle (a pre-approval stage that calculates what mortgage you can afford) and initiating the process of selling your current property can be big assets in negotiating an offer. The property chain is such an important factor that it's not unusual for a seller to go with a slightly lower offer from a more organised and prepared buyer.

If you want to look into your mortgage options, we suggest Alexander Hall. Over the phone (0800 38 37 36), in person or online, you'll get expert advice and access to exclusive rates from some of the UK's biggest lenders. If you're considering putting your property on the market to breeze through the property chain, see what it is worth with a free valuation, or contact our talented sales team.

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