Questions to ask before you make an offer

As a first time buyer, owning your own home can be a fantastic long-term investment in your future, giving you a secure place to raise a family, put down roots, or even rent the property out to tenants if you so wish.

However, getting a mortgage is a serious long-term commitment for a first-time buyer, which is why it is absolutely vital that you know as much as possible about the house you are thinking of owning, before making an offer on the property.

The last thing you want to do is commit yourself to a home which, at first glance, seems to be everything you’ve ever been looking for, only to find out that nothing could be further from the truth.

As a first time buyer, it is important to ensure that, when you exchange contracts and commit to buying your first home, it is exactly as it seems. That’s why we at Enact have compiled this list of some important questions you should always ask about your first home.

Why are the current owners selling?

While the estate agent is not obligated to answer this question, they may give you some idea of the circumstances. Maybe the owner has a new job and is keen to sell up so they can live closer to work, or perhaps the owners’ children have left home and they are looking to downsize. If the current owner is keen to sell the property as soon as possible, they may even be willing to consider a lower offer, helping you to save money.

How old is the boiler and is it in full working order?

It may seem like a simple thing, but boilers cause more trouble than they’re worth in countless households across the UK. Before committing to a property, first time buyers should find out when the house’s boiler was last replaced and if there have been any issues with it.

Ask area-specific questions

A great example of this is if you are thinking of purchasing a house that is located in the centre of a valley. When there is a lot of heavy rain, the water will all pour into that valley – how does this house hold up in those circumstances? Does it have a history of flooding? If so, to what extent has the damage been in the past? When the conveyancers step in to do their searches, the Environmental Search will identify if the house is found to be at risk of flooding.

It is also a good idea to ask about what the rate of crime is like in this area, as well as how close the house is to local schools; what are the local schools like in this area? How is the area for street parking? (This last one may well avoid getting you into a perpetual parking war with your new neighbours.)

Who are my neighbours going to be?

Although the house itself might seem like a dream, the neighbours could be a nightmare. If you sign for a mortgage on a house, only to find out that the neighbours are anti-social, loud, or just generally difficult, it could ruin everything else.  As part of the conveyancing process, the sellers will be asked to disclose any issues they have had, so be sure to check if anything has been disclosed before committing yourself when exchanging contracts.

Which way does the property face?

If your house has a north-facing garden, then your visions of having drinks with some of your closest friends on those warm summer evenings may soon be quashed if you go ahead before finding out that there will be very little sunlight shining on your garden. You should also ensure that the rooms you are using the most get plenty of natural light; this will help to cut down on your electricity bill.

How long have the current owners lived there?

Whatever the answer is, it is worth a little extra digging. If the current owners have lived in the house for a long time, there’s a greater risk of problems going unnoticed, such as structural damage or damp. These issues can also be identified if you choose a HomeBuyer report or a full structural survey. On the other hand, if it sounds like the house has changed owners frequently in recent years, find out why; there could be a reason why everybody wanted to move.

Is the house a listed building?

If you had planned to make large structural changes to the house, you may well be disappointed to find out that it is, in fact, a listed building. If this is the case, you are prohibited from making any external changes to the home without consent, as well as certain structural alterations to the interior.

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