When it comes to house viewings, you really need to make it count. That means you need to be on the ball and avoid getting too swept up in the excitement of looking round a home. In our “How to Buy Your First Home in 10 Steps” article, we talked about avoiding a display of too much excitement, since sellers and estate agents can use that against you. However, we didn’t cover what you should be asking the estate agent directly as you are being shown around the house.
Here are several questions you should ask the estate agent at a house viewing.
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Why is the house up for sale?
This is a good question to ask at a house viewing, because it tells you the seller’s reason for wanting move out, and therefore how quickly they want to be rid of the house. If you know why the house is being sold, you can use that as leverage. For example, someone who is looking to move away for a new job opportunity is going to want to get rid of their house as soon as possible, so it just makes sense to try and work with them to make the transition as quick and smooth as you can.
Has this house been surveyed before?
You can save money on survey costs by just asking to look at a previous survey at the house viewing. Provided the house has no visible issues that might warrant a new survey, it might mean you can avoid having to get a surveyor lined up, leaving you with the lion’s share.
When did this place come on the market?
This might seem an odd question to ask at a house viewing, but you’d be surprised how many houses sit on house selling websites for a long time. Sometimes they are reposted several times. If the house has been on the market for a long time, you might well be able to haggle the seller down to a lower price just so they can be rid of the place and move on to pastures greener!
Have you had an offer?
The answer to this will let you know where you stand with the property. Who are you competing with for the property? If there have been no offers, why not? And, more importantly, if there have been other offers, why were those offers not accepted? Of course, estate agents can be sneaky and lie about what offers they’ve received. Thinking laterally, however, can help you gain insight into what’s really going on.
Can I ask to have this property taken off the market if I make an offer?
Asking this question at a house viewing can tell you how soon the seller wants to be rid of the house. Do they want multiple people to look at the home? Or will they just accept the first best offer they can so they can be rid of it? This question gives you a surprising look into what the seller’s motives for selling are, and can therefore give you the edge in negotiating.
Has the seller got a new home lined up?
This question exploits the “chain” of house buying. If the seller has already lined up a house, that means they’re going to need funds from the sale of their current house very soon. Any break in that chain can be catastrophic for everyone involved. The seller may well be desperate to get hold of some money!
What can I offer the seller so they take the property off the market?
If the seller is not eager to take the property off the market, they may need some convincing. This question gives you a feel for what the seller is thinking. Do they perhaps want to haggle a bit more, or are they trying to wear you down? Think of how you can make this work for both of you.
Who set the asking price, you or the seller?
Estate agents are businesses, and they’re out to make money not just from you, but the seller as well. Asking this question at a house viewing lets you find out if the price was motivated by the estate agent or by the seller, which is to say, who stands to gain from the price. If the estate agent admits they set the price, then you may be able to haggle the seller down. Conversely, it may prove more difficult to haggle if the seller set the price based on professional advice.
What is most important to the seller, other than price?
It’s not just money that makes house sales. Sellers are also looking for buyers who are reliable and flexible. Are you willing to shift move-in dates if it means getting the house? Sellers want a buyer who isn’t just thinking in terms of money – they want someone who they can really trust to see it through and work with them.
Other questions to ask
While the questions above are the main ones to ask, it’s also worth asking:
- What are the Internet speeds like around here?
- Is the tap water soft or hard?
- Is this area susceptible to flooding?
- How cold does it get in winter?
- Has the seller flagged anything up to you, before I get the place surveyed?
- Have you ever had any issue with neighbours?
All of these can give you helpful additional context to help you make up your mind as to whether you want to go through with buying.