Buying your first home is an incredibly exciting time, but as ESPC we understand that it can be daunting too. After all, it’s likely the biggest purchase you’ve ever made, and where we live is one of the most important decisions in our lives.

first time buyers with estate agent

Buying a property is a serious step, and so you should try and find out as much as you can about a home you're interested in, before committing to an offer. Luckily, in Scotland properties are legally required to have a Home Report when listed for sale, so you’ll be able to find out lots of details about the property before you even step through the door – but there’s still much more to be sure about before you take the leap and make an offer.

So, to help you on your way to first-time buyer bliss, we’ve highlighted the ten all-important questions that everyone should ask before signing on the dotted line and collecting those keys.

Why are the owners selling?

This is a very important question, and buyers shouldn’t be embarrassed about asking. Understanding the owners' reasons for selling can help you decide if this is the right property for you.

For instance, if the sellers have outgrown the property, you can use this information to decide how future-proof the property is for your personal circumstances.

It’s good to find out if the sellers need to move quickly, or if they still need to find their next home – if they need a quick sale, there could be an opportunity to negotiate on price, especially if you’re in a good position as a first-time buyer, with no chain and your agreement in principle in place.

It can also be helpful to know how long the owners have lived in the property, and what it was previously sold for, so that you can make an informed decision. You can use ESPC’s sold house price data to find this information.

How long has the property been on the market?

In today’s competitive market, the answer is probably – not long! But it’s worth finding out when you view, so that you know how popular the property is likely to be.

The time it takes for a property to sell varies, with factors including local market demand, the asking price and the type of property it is, so don’t be put off if it’s been up for sale for a while - this may even give you scope for negotiation.

Is the property part of a chain?

Understanding timescales and how simple or complex a purchase could be is a key part of the viewing process. As a first-time buyer, you’re likely in a good position to move quickly, or be flexible, which many sellers will appreciate. Remember to ask if the sellers have found their next property yet, and if so, if it’s part of a buying and selling chain with multiple parties involved, so that you know how much of a wait to expect and can plan accordingly. 

What is the parking like?

For those with a car, it can be a deal breaker if the property doesn’t come with an obvious parking space, like a driveway or garage. Remember to ask what parking is like, and if you have time, try and drive past the property at peak times, like evening rush hour, school drop-off times or weekend afternoons, to see how easy it would be to park.

What improvements have the owners made?

Much of the detail will be covered in the Home Report, so you may already know about any upgrades to the property before you view it, but it’s always good to chat to the owners about the work they’ve done, or not done, as the case may be.

Finding out about plumbing, the heating system, windows or any roof works can help you understand more about the property’s condition, and give you an insight into whether you’ll be likely to have to make these improvements yourself down the line.

What are the shared responsibilities and excess charges?

If you’re buying a flat, it’s very important to ask about maintenance fees, ground rent and shared responsibilities. Some blocks will have a factor in place who handles maintenance, so it’s important to ask about how much this costs and what’s included, while some blocks take charge of maintenance themselves, so you’ll need to know what the processes are for this, and if there are any regular payments required, such as gardening expenses or cleaning fees for the stairwell.

Some properties also have ground rent charges, which can affect how much you can afford on your mortgage payments, so it’s very important to clarify if there are any financial obligations that come with the property, outside of your mortgages and personal bills.

What is the council tax band?

Again, this may be covered in the Home Report, but it’s worth finding out from the owners and checking the exact monthly charge and what’s included in this, to help you with your calculations.

Are there any developments planned nearby?

This is more likely to apply if you’re viewing a new-build property, but if the home you’re interested in is next to a vacant space, it’s absolutely worth checking if there are any known plans in place for development or building works, as that can impact your enjoyment of the property. Ask the owner, but do your own research online to see if any planning permission applications have been submitted.

If it’s a new-build property, confirm with the developer if any other phases are planned that could affect your view, light or outdoor space.

What’s included in the sale?

Property brochures often cover if white goods or certain items of furniture are included in the sale, but it’s worth asking the owner to confirm. If white goods are included, this can save you hundreds of pounds when you move in, while if they're not, you can make a plan to save up what's needed or factor this cost into your offer.

There might also be room to negotiate on other items, so you can check if the owner would be willing to leave any other items, possibly for an additional fee.

What are the neighbours like?

It’s an all-important question so don’t be afraid to ask. Knowing a bit more about who you’ll be living next to can be very helpful in making a decision about whether a property is right for you.

Find out more

ESPC’s first-time buyer guide is packed with handy hints and tips to help you on your way to buying your first home.

Want to know more about buying your first home? Sign up for our free First-Time Buyer webinar on 10 May 2022 and put your property questions to a panel of experts.

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