Five questions you MUST ask when viewing a property

Purchasing a home is almost certainly the single biggest investment that most people will make, yet research shows that, on average, viewers will take less than 25 minutes to decide whether or not to buy a property. With only limited opportunities to learn about a property and all its intricacies, as well as the local neighbourhood, making a mistake is quite easy – and it’s not one that you could easily extricate yourself from if you subsequently decide that you made the wrong decision.

When viewing properties for the first time, the following questions could help to sift the wheat from the chaff, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll make the right decision when it comes to placing an offer:

1. For how long has the property been on the market?

A property that has been lingering on the market unsuccessfully for many months while other houses sell easily could indicate an underlying problem. It’s important to gauge whether the initial asking price was simply too high, but lack of interest could well suggest that potential buyers are rejecting it for other reasons. Even if you cannot find anything specifically wrong with a property or its neighbourhood, bear in mind that, if it has proven difficult to sell in the past, you could experience the same problem when the time comes to move on.

2. Why are the current owners moving?

An understanding of the history of the property could indicate if there are any problems that affect the quality of life you can expect to enjoy if you make an offer. A succession of owners who have moved out quickly could suggest a problem. Enquire politely as to the reasons for the current owners’ decision to move; work relocation, downsizing and relationship breakdown should offer you some reassurance that they’re moving on for lifestyle reasons, not because the property fails to meet their needs.

3. What are the local schools like?

If you have children and you’re planning for them to transfer to new schools, the quality of the local schools is likely to be of significant importance to you. While a certain amount of information can be gleaned from Ofsted reports and league tables, the estate agent or the property owner should be able to give you a heads-up on how local families regard the schools. Bear in mind that being located within a school catchment area does not offer an absolute guarantee of successful admission for your children, particularly if your chosen property is on the outskirts of the catchment, so make further enquiries with the school or local authority’s admissions team.

4. Which way does the property face?

It may seem inconsequential, but a property with a north-facing garden could spell disaster for your dreams of evening barbecues in the summer sunshine. While the position of a property may not be the most important criterion in your house-hunting, it may seal the fate of a home that doesn’t quite fit the bill in other ways.

5. Would you be happy to live here?

If you’re being shown around by an estate agent, this question could help to give an idea of the feeling on the ground about the property and the local area. While an agent is unlikely to reply negatively and risk losing a sale, watch for hesitation or non-committal answers that could suggest you need to read between the lines and carry out some further research.

Posing these questions is the best way to find out about the hidden details that aren’t immediately obvious when you scan the sales particulars for any property and may help you to make a more informed decision when you come to decide whether to place an offer on your chosen house.