Frequently Asked Questions from House Buyers
Be Prepared for Questions
In an ideal world you will only have to talk to a maximum of 6 buyers before one of them makes an offer on your house. However, if your flat receives a lot of viewing requests, be prepared for an avalanche of questions.
First of all, your listing can pre-empt some of these questions by listing as much information as possible but unfortunately some people don’t have the time (or are too lazy) to read the entire text in the description.
The most popular question is, without a doubt, about neighbours. Be as diplomatic as possible in your answer. If your neighbours are troublesome or noisy, you need to find a way to explain the situation in a manner that will not make your potential buyer worry.
A popular question is about running costs: in a leasehold flat (this article assumes the property is in the UK and is in a block), costs relating to managing the block can be quite significant. You will need to memorise these costs and explain what they cover (usually cleaning and maintaining the communal areas, fire alarm maintenance, insurance etc).
Buyers will ask you about any building work that has been carried out, in particular insulation and damp-proofing.
Investors will ask you about the rental potential for the flat so having that information is extremely important.
Regardless of whether you have included the information in the listing or not, buyers will ask about the remaining years on the lease and the year the block was built.
Whether or not you have said it on the listing, buyers will ask you if the flat is being sold fully furnished and with all the appliances (this is why you need the patience of a saint).
A typical question is why you are moving. This can be a tricky question to answer if you had an argument or dispute with a neighbour, or if you have grown to absolutely detest your home. People move house for different reasons: they want to move up the property ladder, they want to move closer to their office or members of their family, or they may have personal reasons like a divorce. It is advisable not to disclose very personal reasons. If in doubt, mentioning that you want to have a shorter commute to work is a good reason, which is neutral and will not prompt the buyer to ask additional questions.
Local Amenities and Commuting
Talking of commuting, another popular question is how long it takes to travel from your place to the city centre or a specific train station. Having this information ready is extremely useful and will make a great impression on your buyer. By demonstrating that you are being helpful you are also showing your buyer that you will be someone who will be dependable and trustworthy during the sales process. In a way, you are providing customer service and you are being judged without realising. People buy from people and your buyer will make a quick decision on whether to trust you or not.
You will encounter many people who don’t trust others (particularly estate agents and house sellers) and might make you uncomfortable with their line of questioning. Don’t take it personally, they are simply trying to be better safe than sorry because they don’t want to buy something that turns out to be a bad investment. Unfortunately the media often covers stories of people being conned out of their money for low quality housing. You will need to work hard to make the potential buyer have confidence in you as a vendor. Even when you reassure viewers that your flat does not have any structural issues, some potential buyers will not believe you and that’s their prerogative. This has no reflection on you nor on the state of your property. This type of obstructive behaviour is also a good indication of how difficult the potential buyer may be to deal with. As long as they make a good offer on your property, then just be prepared for a bumpy ride. If someone is being difficult because they are very precise, then there is not much to worry about. It’s better to deal with someone who cares than someone who is not consistent.
A question you will likely to be asked is whether the area where you live is safe. It all depends on how you define safe, but in general if your area is popular with families it is a good sign. Ask the viewer which area they currently live in and what areas they are looking at so you can compare where you live with other areas and try, as much as possible, to highlight the advantages of living in your area.
Are there any building works planned in your block? Service charge payments may become more expensive if the whole block is going to be redecorated. If you know of any plans and related costs let the viewers know, but ideally on the second viewing. The information about any building and renovation work will come out during the searches anyway as the buyer’s solicitor will have several enquiries for your solicitor that will need answering. Your solicitor will contact your managing agent and freeholder to get all the relevant information (and you will have to pay for it, as explained later on).
Some buyers want to know if you have wi-fi and which provider you use so that they know whether they can simply reconnect the service when they move in, or to find out if you have a different provider to the one they currently use.
Security-savvy buyers will ask if you have an alarm system, so if you have one installed just explain that you have it but without going into too much detail.
Some buyers will even ask you to see what’s behind a sofa or to open a window to check that there are no cracks in the wall, holes in the floor or the window is stuck: although it doesn’t happen often, showing you are helpful and cooperative really helps. This also means you need to check that you have done a thorough clean behind the sofa and you fixed everything that needed repairing!
Most importantly, take the opportunity during the viewing to ask questions to your potential buyer. The most important questions to ask are:
- What kind of property are you looking for?
- Have you organised your finance and appointed a solicitor?
- Can you see yourself living in this flat?
To recap, the most likely top questions you will be asked at viewings are:
- How are the neighbours?
- Why are you selling?
- How far are the shops and public transport?
- What is included in the sale price?
- Where are you moving to?
You can submit the answers to these questions to your estate agent as well – potential buyers may be asking them during an initial telephone enquiry. Nothing will stop potential buyers from asking the same questions to you in person, but it’s better to be prepared. Work with your estate agent as a team and keep them informed throughout the process, while also always asking for feedback after each viewing.