If you’re in a position where you’ve found a house you’re willing to purchase, make sure you ask your Estate Agent some prerequisite questions before you commit; this is often a critical step to determine how smoothly your sale will go.
Remember, it’s not just you who has to make the purchase run smoothly, the vendor also has to make things tick along, and it’s in your best interest to recognise how committed the vendor is. The list of questions I’ve suggested mainly focus on how organised the vendor is.
As a disclaimer, I’d just like to highlight the fact that it’s important to understand that not all Estate Agents are the most noble of creatures, so don’t take their words as gospel. I always recommend communicating directly to the vendor.
1) Why are the vendors selling the property?
Find out their exact reasons for selling. Any “suspicious” response may indicate that they are trying to get rid of an inadequate property. If you’re still determined to buy at this stage (even after some dodgy responses), I recommend doing a full structural survey.
2) Are the vendors motivated to sell?
If the vendors are motivated to sell, you can assume that they will want the process to move as quickly as possible. 99 times out of 100 an estate agent will tell you that the seller is motivated purely because the Estate Agent is working for the vendor, so it’s his/her job to make the property seem as appealing as possible. But you know, it’s still best to ask.
3) Are the vendors currently in a chain?
If the vendors are in the middle of a chain find out the details. Being in the middle of a chain can be very stressful- you’re not only relying on your vendor and yourself, but you’re also relying on various other people to be on top of things. Be prepared for delays, and the possibility of the chain breaking. If you need a quick purchase, then perhaps you should avoid complicated chains.
4) What price are the vendors hoping for?
The accepting price is rarely the same as the asking price. Ask your Estate Agent what the lowest price the vendor would accept. It’s a no-brainer that the Estate Agent will try and get as much money out of you as possible because he/she is working for commission, consequently he/she is trying to maximize the sale price, so whatever the Estate Agent says, try offering a little lower. Go on, be cheeky.
5) How long has it been on the market?
If a property has been on the market for a lengthy period then feel free be suspicious. There is a reason why the property isn’t selling, unless there are obvious structural faults that have been declared. If the property looks too good to be hanging around on the market, then it usually is. However, don’t let it completely put you off, just be extra careful because the property may be a good purchase. Again, a full structural survey will flag any major issues with the property.
6) What regions does the agent usually operate?
If you find out where the Estate Agent usually operates, you can find out how knowledgeable the agent is in regards to the location you’re interested in. If the agent operates in a different county, he/she will probably know little about the local market, so make sure you do your own research. To test the water put the agent under pressure by asking what the local schools are called.
7) Enquire about past Surveys
Many properties on the market don’t sell immediately, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t ‘almost sold’. A large percentage of sales fall-through (for whatever reason) and many of those failures happen AFTER a property survey has been complete.
Property Survey reports can be extremely useful, as they can flag structural damage/problems with the property. It’s always worth asking the agent for any information on past surveys.
You’ll have to do your own survey (from what I’m aware, a lender will not lend without one), but it’s worth gathering information from previous reports and then liaising/cross-referencing the information with your surveyor.