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Essential questions to ask when buying a house or flat  

8 mins read
by Lisa-Marie Voneshen
Last updated Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Buying a home? Make sure you're not caught out by any expensive surprises with these insightful questions.

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make, so it’s vital that you have the full picture. 

While you may feel uncomfortable asking your estate agent a lot of questions, it’s important to do so in order to make a fully informed decision and avoid nasty surprises that could lead to a hefty bill.  

Before we jump in, if you’re buying a home, you can get advice and guidance from a qualified mortgage broker via Unbiased, who can help you find the right mortgage for your circumstances. 


  • Buying a home is a huge milestone requiring much time and research. 

  • Asking your estate agent the right questions can yield useful insights. 

  • A mortgage broker can make the homebuying journey easier by helping you with your mortgage application and finding the right deal.  

1. Why is the current owner selling the property? 

Understanding the reasons behind the current owner's decision to sell can provide invaluable insights. 

For instance, they might be moving due to a new job opportunity or need a larger property for their growing family. 

Other reasons to move may highlight potential issues, such as a dispute with a neighbour.  

Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to negotiate a lower price, especially if you’re a chain-free buyer. 

2. How long has this property been on the market? 

Selling a property can take up to six months, but the timeframe can vary hugely. 

If a property has been listed for a few months, ask your estate agent if there’s a reason it hasn’t sold yet – or if there have been any offers and why they haven’t progressed.  

While the seller may be overly optimistic about the price they’re hoping to get, a prolonged house sale could also suggest issues from a survey. 

You could also check the property listing or ask your agent whether the original asking price has recently been reduced.  

3. How old is the property, and are there any special conditions? 

If you know how old the property is, you’ll understand more about the potential issues based on when it was built.  

While older properties can provide character, there can also be underlying issues. New builds are also prone to problems.  

Other factors to consider include whether the property is in a conservation area and whether it’s listed, as this may restrict any planned renovation work. 

You should also ask about restrictive covenants; these are binding conditions written into the property’s deeds or contract by the seller that may limit what you can do with your home.  

4. What work has been done on the property? 

It’s important to ask what work has been done on the property and ensure planning or building consent was obtained at the time. If it hasn’t, you may need to consider indemnity insurance. 

Alternatively, you can look at historic research planning permissions on your local council’s site. 

5. Have previous owners stayed in this property long-term? 

Looking at a property's ownership history can be telling. If the previous owners have lived in the property for a decent amount of time, this is a positive sign. 

However, if the property you’re considering has been consistently bought and sold after a short time, this could suggest potential issues.  

Ideally, you should talk to the current owners and discuss their experience of the property. 

6. What is the lowest price the current owner will be happy with? 

Asking prices don’t necessarily reflect a property’s value – so it’s always worth negotiating. To avoid a prolonged negotiation, ask the estate agent the minimum the seller wants.  

While they may not give an exact figure, they may indicate an ideal price range, potentially saving you thousands in the long run.  

7. Are there any other offers? 

It’s a good idea to ask if any other offers have been made on the property, although the amount is unlikely to be disclosed. 

If there are many offers, you may have to consider increasing any you make – and if there are few, you may have an easier time negotiating a lower offer. 

Before you make an offer, make sure you can really afford the property, and you’re not stretching yourself financially.  

8. How has the property’s value changed? 

While you can find this out online, an estate agent can provide context about why local property prices have changed, which is particularly useful if you don’t live there already. 

If the property’s value has fallen, it’s important to ask why, especially if similar properties nearby have maintained or grown in value.    

9. Are there any issues with the neighbours? 

If there are any ongoing issues with neighbours, you should find out to avoid problems in the future. 

Sellers are legally bound to reveal disputes, so it’s a good idea to ask.  

10. What’s included in the property sale? 

Finding out what fixings and fittings are included in the property sale can help you plan ahead and potentially save you money if you don’t need to replace any expensive white goods.  

11. Does the seller already have a new property? 

If the seller has found a new home, they’ll likely be keen on a quick sale.  

However, if they haven’t yet found a new property to move into, you could face delays. 

12. Is the property freehold or leasehold? 

Whether a property is freehold or leasehold is an important consideration. 

With a freehold home, you own the property and the land, but a leasehold property means you only own the property, not the land. 

So, with a leasehold property, you’ll have to pay ground rent and likely service charges that could amount to thousands of pounds every year. 

While reform is underway to make leasehold charges fairer, it’ll likely remain more expensive than freehold.  

13. How energy efficient is the property? 

You can find out how energy efficient a property is by looking at the energy performance certificate (EPC), which offers a rating between A and G. 

An A rating means your property is very efficient, while a G rating means it’s inefficient. 

An EPC includes recommendations for improving your property’s energy efficiency, possibly lowering your costs in the long run. 

14. How old is the boiler? 

It’s worth finding out when the boiler was installed and if it’s been serviced regularly, as this could cost you a lot of money. 

You should also ask about any plumbing issues, including checking the pipes are insulated and the radiators work.  

15. How is the water pressure? 

While you can ask the estate agent about the water pressure, you could also test the taps and the toilets to check everything is in order. 

16. Are there any issues with damp? 

Damp can be a huge and dangerous problem if left unchecked. 

You should ask if there’s any damp and look for telltale signs such as a mouldy smell, flaky plaster, or watermarked walls or ceilings. 

A recently repainted room could indicate the seller is trying to cover up any damp.  

17. Is the property structurally sound? 

Structural issues can be difficult and expensive to fix, so it’s worth asking about them. It’s also vital you get a house survey to identify potential issues, recommend solutions, and advise on costs.  

18. How’s the guttering? 

If there are any issues with the property’s drain or gutters, this is worth knowing beforehand as this can be expensive to fix.  

19. What’s the broadband signal like? 

You should check the average broadband speeds and mobile coverage online, but it’s worth asking the estate agent as they may have more information to share. 

20. What’s the local area like, and what’s planned in the future? 

Ask your estate agent to explain what the local area is like, especially if you’re looking for anything in particular, such as local amenities and shops or excellent schools nearby. 

You should also research online and walk around the local area to get a feel for it. 

It’s also vital to consider future local projects – for example, are there any government projects ongoing or set to start soon that could cause disruption? 

While your conveyancer will conduct local searches, these will be conducted after you have an offer accepted.  

21. Which way does the house face? 

This is unusual to consider, but where your property faces can impact how much sunlight you’ll enjoy, especially if you like to lounge in your garden. 

For example, a south-facing garden will be a priority if you want the most sunlight.  

22. What’s the condition of the property’s wiring? 

Property wiring can often be overlooked, but poor wiring is not only dangerous but also expensive. 

So, asking the estate agent is important, as well as checking the fuse board and getting confirmation of the condition of the wiring from a house survey. 

Other property considerations  

Asking questions is always a good idea, but you should get reassurance from a thorough house survey to spot what you can’t.  

This isn’t an exhaustive list of what to ask, as there are other factors to consider, such as the property’s Council Tax band and the average cost of utilities. However, you may be able to find this information in the property listing. 

You’ll also need to consider whether stamp duty must be paid.  

If you ever feel like the estate agent isn’t giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision, it may be worth asking to talk to the sellers themselves. 

Need help with your property goals? 

Unbiased can quickly connect you with a qualified mortgage broker who can help you with your property journey, whether buying your first home, moving or remortgaging. 

A mortgage broker can help you achieve your property goals and find the right mortgage.   

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Lisa-Marie Voneshen
Lisa-Marie Voneshen is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She is an award-winning journalist with nearly a decade of experience writing and editing content across various areas, including personal finance and investing.