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Clever questions to ask your estate agent when buying

23rd October 2018

Insider advice from Mark Mugliston, Residential Sales Manager, in his monthly column in the Diss Express.

Buying a home is a psychological game of poker with high stakes and huge incentives to bluff and avoid inconvenient facts. However, estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth, so you need to make sure you ask the right questions to find out the real situation.  It could save you a fortune.  Here are my insider top tips.

Why is the owner selling?

The estate agent doesn’t have to answer, but they might hint at the circumstances.  You might find the owner is desperate to sell, perhaps because of work overseas, and would accept a lower price.

Is there anything you’d want to know about the house if you were buying?

Are you missing a big negative factor that others know about?  Is a nearby sewerage plant opening up or are the next door neighbours the family from hell?

What is included in the sale?

Is the garden shed included? What are the fixtures and fittings?  Exactly where does the boundary lie?  Make sure you see everything you are getting.

How long has the property been on the market?

If the house has been on the market a long time, ask the agent why they think it isn’t selling. Are there problems other people have realised that you haven’t?  Is it just overpriced?  A long time on the market might mean that the seller would accept a lower price.  Remember though there is no average time it takes a property to sell.

How long have the owners lived there?

If they are moving after a short period, find out why.  Are there noisy neighbours?  If the seller has lodged complaints against their neighbours they legally have to tell you if you ask.  You should be alert to serious problems if the property has frequently changed hands.

How did the agent decide on an asking price?

A good agent will provide you with their justifications, which you can then judge.  If you get lucky the agent might tell you they think the seller is overvaluing the house.  You should visit and research other homes for sale nearby so you get a good idea what properties in the area sell for.

What is the minimum price the seller will accept?

It sounds silly, but asking if their bottom line is negotiable can save you thousands. Estate agents will often give you an indication but not an exact figure.  It is in their interest to make a sale, even at a lower price.

What offers have they had so far?

The agent may tell you if there have been other offers, but cannot tell you for how much.  If you can find out about other offers, it obviously makes it easier to know what you should offer.

When do the sellers have to move out?

If the sellers have found another home, they may be keen to sell as fast as possible.  Otherwise, if you have to wait until they find somewhere else it adds to the uncertainty with the risks associated with being in a chain.

Can you speak directly to the sellers?

Agents generally won’t encourage this, it is their job to negotiate.  They can’t stop you speaking to the sellers but are not allowed to pass on contact details.  If the seller is willing to speak to you, it can give you a much better feel for the house.  Ask them the best and worst points.

Can you move the furniture and have a peek under the rugs?

It is not unknown to hide cracks in the wall with furniture or cover up floor problems with rugs. So ensure you look thoroughly.

These are all good questions to keep your agent on their toes!