A recent YouGov poll revealed that 42% of homeowners wished that they had paid more attention to certain details during the house purchase process. However, buyers’ regret is an emotion that can be largely avoided if the right set of questions are asked. Here are my top ten tips for what homebuyers should be asking during a viewing:
1. Why do the current owners want to sell?
The answer could distinguish between a serious vendor who wants to move quickly and someone who is just testing the market. The former may be open to some price negotiations, so it’s useful to get an idea of their motivation before making an offer.
2. How long has the property been on the market?
Again, the answer could provide you with some bargaining power, but the fact that a property has been advertised for six months, doesn’t mean the owner will take any offer going. Factors like location, market trends and property type all have an effect on how fast it will sell.
3. What major works have been recently undertaken?
It goes without saying that a major structural survey will reveal evidence of any major projects, but it doesn’t hurt to make enquiries during the viewing. Answers about how old an extension is or if there is room for one may tell you about other construction projects and major repairs that have taken place.
4. Does the building have EWS 1 certification?
This applies to apartments and was introduced after the Grenfell Tower fire. EWS stands for External Fire Review Form and is mandatory for any building over 18 metres tall. There are no grey areas in this matter: a property is either safe and will possess a certificate or unsafe and will not. Banks tend not to lend money for the latter, so it is a vital document to have.
5. What charges come with the leasehold?
This is particularly important to investors who need to factor extra costs into their projected profits. Ground rent is paid on the land the property is built on and must be written into the lease agreement. Service charges are used to pay for the cost of maintaining and repairing the building and communal areas. In an apartment building, the costs are divided between all the individual leaseholders. It is also vital to find out when these payments are due, how much and whether there are any things not covered by them.
The lease will outline how the service charge is calculated and what the charges are. A leaseholder is entitled to receive summaries of any costs of services provided such as insurance and see actual copies of invoices if they wish.
6. What facilities are available to residents?
Owners of apartments in new developments often have access to a selection of onsite luxury facilities. These may include swimming pools, gyms, spa treatment rooms and private cinemas. A concierge service is usually employed to oversee operations and it’s helpful to know whether they offer just daytime coverage or are on call round-the-clock.
7. If the property is tenanted, how long will it take to vacate?
Notice may have already have been given for any tenants to quit the property before its sale. You will want to know about dates and length of notice period before you make any decisions. You may be happy to give notice yourself after buying, but you need to avoid inheriting any outstanding disputes.
8. What is included in the sale?
This is an area where a thorough viewing process can really add value. Items like white goods (dishwashers, fridges etc), furniture and window coverings may or may not be included in the price. If so, you may be able to avoid some moving and installation hassles. Even if you already have your own items, you may be able to generate some cash by selling what’s been left behind.
9. Is the property part of a chain?
If a seller has already found their next property, they will be keen to make a deal as soon as possible and this may give you some leverage concerning the price. Some vendors will consider a lower offer if it guarantees a speedy transaction. Of course, this assumes that you are chain-free yourself and able to exchange immediately.
10. What rents are achievable?
If you are purchasing a property in order to rent it out, you will want to get your arithmetic right in order to estimate your yield and profit margin. Even if the property is empty, you’ll need to get an estimate based on its location and condition. You could also investigate the possibility of making any improvements in order to boost the rental value.
From first enquiry to exchange of contracts, seasoned investors and first-time buyers alike can benefit from our vast experience of the London property market. If you have any enquiries concerning the purchase of your property, please get in touch.
View all posts by Philip Lingard