What to do at a property viewing?
Nothing can be more exhilarating than when you have made the decision to start looking at a new property to buy. It is important to remember that the estate agent, who is showing you the property, is there to answer any questions you may have. These questions may have to do with the property, the current owner/s, the market overall, taxes and fees applicable to the property and its sale, in fact anything that will allow you to make an informed decision about buying or not buying the property. If the agent does not have the information at their fingertips, they will do the necessary research and fact-checking in order to provide you with the answers as soon as possible.
We look at some of the most pertinent questions to keep in mind and direct at the agent showing you the property.
How long has the property been on the market?
This will give you an indication of the demand and popularity of the property and may allow you some leeway in negotiating a better price or offer. The longer the property has been on the market, the better your chances will be in succeeding.
What is the asking price of the property?
This may seem like an obvious question as you surely have seen the price where the property is being advertised, BUT there may have been a reduction in the price on that very day which has not been implemented in any of the ads yet.
Are there any known issues or repairs needed in the property?
This is a very important question! Sellers need to declare legally if there are any issues with a property and make it known to the agent so they can convey it to possible buyers. If you are still unsure, even after you got the answers you were looking for, engage the services of an architect or structural engineer to have an in-depth look at the property.
What are the costs and taxes going to be if a sale takes place and are there any on-going maintenance fees?
On any sale there will be stamp duty to pay, property tax, notary fees and the agent’s commission for starters. Some properties like those in apartment blocks will have annual maintenance fees that go towards a managing company that looks after the block, the upkeep of the common parts and more. Additionally you will also have to fathom in costs such as home insurance in your annual expenses. If you are going to be a possible buyer, you will need to have a good idea of what these costs are in order to budget properly.
How old is the property and what is the construction material?
The age of the property will be a good indicator whether you can expect some outlay in the beginning to get it up to specifications. Newer properties tend to be more or less problem-free, but there are exceptions with both old and new builds! Always find out what the construction materials of the structure consists of as this will be important for future maintenance. Also ask if there are any guarantees that still apply in the case of a new property. With older properties, you may have illegal building and construction materials that have been used in the past such as asbestos. If so, this will have to be removed by experts and the property will be require certification as “safe for human occupation” afterwards.
Are there any offers on the property or other interested buyers?
This will give you an indication if you have to move fast in order to secure the property and also influence the amount you are willing to offer.
What are the comparable sales in the area?
Also known as a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis), this will give you a clear idea if the property is worth the asking price. Other properties in the area that have been sold recently or that are currently on the market will be used as the benchmark for the property you are currently seeing. This value or base price will take into consideration the total plot size, building size, the external areas, the amount of bedrooms, whether it has a garage and more. The logic is plain and simple: similar properties in the same area sell for similar prices, so the seller cannot expect it to be a whole lot more and neither can the buyer expect to offer far less.
What kind of schools or amenities are nearby?
These are major factors for most people when they look at buying a property. No-one wants to commute for hours to get to work and back and the same goes for shopping, schools, hospitals and more.
What’s the neighbourhood/neighbours like?
This is a tricky one as everything is subjective… and do not expect to always hear the truth or experience reality at the moment in time when you are at the property. If you have your heart set on the property, go and visit the area at different times of the day and night and speak to neighbours. If you see a lot of other properties on the market in the area or unoccupied, ask yourself why? This could be a red flag! Also ask about any neighbours with anti-social behaviour.
What is the seller’s timeline for selling the property?
If the seller is pressured for time and want to sell soonest, they may be susceptible to accepting a lower, though reasonable offer.
Why is the owner selling?
There could be many reasons such as the seller having bought another property, scaling down, divorce and more. Remember to always treat what you hear as confidential. Sometimes this may have an influence on what the seller will accept as an offer, depending on the urgency of their circumstances.
How long have the previous owners lived there?
This will give you a good idea of how happy the owners were living there and could indicate that you will be too. Short periods of ownership should be a cause for concern unless the reasons are legitimate or it does not bother you.
Will you be allowed to speak directly to the seller?
First-hand information can help you get more honest and detailed information about the property, but it is unlikely that you will be allowed to speak to the seller directly. Too often, after an agent has been appointed as the sole negotiator, buyers approach sellers directly and end up trying to buy the property without the agent’s knowledge… and this will land you in hot water!
What direction is the home facing?
The facing direction of the property can affect how much natural light and heat the property gets throughout the day and this will affect your annual electricity consumption. Ask about things such as whether the property has proper insulation, double-glazing, smart devices and more.
What is included in the sale?
Ask for a list of items that will be included in the sale and check their condition before making an offer. This can include fixtures, fittings, appliances, furniture, etc.
Are there any issues with the property that need fixing or updating?
This can include structural problems, damp and mould, pests, plumbing, wiring, etc. Ask for a survey report or hire your own inspector to compile a report of possible issues before making an offer. Not many people want to move into a property and start off with issues that need fixing. If the owner does not see that it is fixed before putting the property on the market, they can expect lower or no offers as a result.
As a prospective buyer you may have other questions that are more relevant to your situation and the property in question. Always do your own research and consult with your real estate agent before making any decisions. The best property to buy is the one that you feel is the right fit for you and your family, problem-free and priced correctly.