Purchasing a property is a key milestone in everyone’s life. For most of us, it is the biggest investment we will ever make. So there’s no room for mistakes when choosing the property. Once you have identified it, make sure that it really is everything you hoped for. To help with this, myLIFE has put together a list of questions to ask the seller before you buy.
This time, you think you’ve finally unearthed the advert for the perfect property which meets all your criteria. At first sight, it looks to be the house of your dreams. But don’t get carried away too quickly. Do a little detective work to find out more about the property you’re yearning for, before you take the plunge. Of course, your first port of call to help with this should be the seller.
A visit to the property is a key moment in the home-buying process. Use it wisely, and ask all your questions. The answers may help confirm or refute your first impressions and provide the information you need to make the right decision.
Questions about the property
Why are you selling?
This may seem a nosy question, but it is very useful nonetheless. There may be many reasons behind the decision to move home. These reasons may be linked to changes in the life of the seller, such as a new baby on the way, retirement, or the death of a partner or parent; they may also concern the home itself, such as the need for a bigger or smaller property, one requiring less upkeep and financial resources, or in a better condition. It could be very useful to know why the seller is selling, and you could use this information to your advantage when negotiating the price of the property. If the seller is pressed for time and willing to make concessions, they may be inclined to lower the selling price and hand over the keys quickly.
If a property has been on the market for a few weeks or months without finding a buyer, it is an indication that the price is too high for the state of the property or its location.
How long has the property been on the market?
This is extremely important information which will help you to assess your room for negotiation and to determine if the property has any drawbacks that were worrying enough to put off other potential buyers before you. If a property has been on the market for a few weeks or months without finding a buyer, it is an indication that the price is too high for the state of the property or its location. The longer the situation drags on, the harder it will be for the seller to sell the property. If you are not put off, then you can take advantage of the situation to negotiate the price down.
Are there other potential buyers?
In Luxembourg, there is often far greater demand for property than supply. Bear in mind that you are probably not the only person to like the property and be interested in buying it. If you ask this question, you will have a clear overview of the situation, and can avoid missing out on the house or apartment by quickly offering the asking price. However, do think carefully before acting – this is why it is important to set your criteria and your top price before entering into discussions with the seller.
Questions related to the seller’s costs
What price did you pay for the property?
Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Knowing what the seller paid for the property will tell you more about property price movements in the local market. You should also ask about any renovation works, when they were carried out and what they cost. If the overall amount spent by the seller is below the asking price, you could try to negotiate and offer a price above the total amount spent but lower than the seller’s initial asking price. If the seller doesn’t want to disclose this information, the Observatoire de l’habitat may help you gain a better understanding of market prices.
Ask the seller what the sale covers, and never assume that certain fittings or equipment are included.
What does the sale include?
If you fell in love with the fully fitted kitchen, lighting or outside play equipment when you visited the property, ask the seller what the sale covers, and never assume that certain fittings or equipment are included. In principle, everything that is permanently attached to the house (specifically, taps, cupboards and blinds) is generally included. Lighting may also be considered an integral part of the property. If in any doubt, ask for a written list of the fittings and equipment included. This will help avoid any disappointment upon purchase.
What are your outgoings?
It is particularly important to know how much the seller pays each month or year for the property insurance and outgoings (water, gas, electricity), irrespective of whether the property is stand-alone or in a condominium. This way, you will know exactly what to expect and the budget required.
Questions about any renovation work required
Are there any problems with the property?
Ask about any damp patches or cracks that you notice during the visit. The seller should be able to provide you with honest information on the state of the house and any defects or faults, such as any dangerous materials used, termite problems, flood risk or history of legal disputes. This will ensure that the seller avoids any future legal proceedings and will help you to take an informed decision. Be aware that the owner is not obliged to disclose certain information. So it’s better to be proactive and take the initiative of asking an expert to accompany you – they will be able to identify any potential issues: water infiltration, too few plug sockets, etc. Take photos and make notes of what you see. With the right information, you may be in a position to negotiate on repair costs.
Have you had any issues in the past?
If the seller has encountered complications in the past and these have since been resolved, they are not obliged to mention these during your visit. However, this information could help you prevent other problems in the future. Give it a go, and ask the seller if they have had any issues and how these were solved. The seller may even be totally transparent with you, and give you the contact details of the professionals who were involved.
Ask the seller for the building permits for any renovation work carried out.
Is any renovation work required?
Although the property may look in good shape on first viewing, it’s interesting to know if any work will be necessary in the future. Prepare for any major expenditure by finding out when the property’s roof and façade were redone, and the age of the ventilation, heating and electricity systems, and the plumbing, electrical equipment and windows. Also ask when the most recent renovations and repairs were carried out, and the name of the contractor responsible for these. This will give you an idea of what remains to be done to make the house or apartment perfect. And lastly, ask the seller for the building permits for carrying out this renovation work. If there isn’t a permit, the current owner (i.e. you) could be required to rectify this, which will cost money.
Questions about the neighbourhood
Are there any problems with the neighbourhood, or any difficult neighbours?
If the property seems to meet all your expectations when you visit, ask about the area too. It would be a shame if your daily life were disrupted by issues with the neighbourhood (fast or heavy traffic, shops, rubbish, poor upkeep) or disruptive neighbours – you might end up regretting your purchase. Ask the seller about such issues. In principle, the seller should be will to mention any problems encountered.
Ask if any real estate projects are planned in direct proximity to the property. The construction of an apartment block could spoil your view and stop you enjoying the landscape.
Purchasing a property requires proper preparation and careful consideration. Asking the right questions of the seller will help you know whether you have found the house or apartment of your dreams. Short-term disappointment is better than a purchase that you regret for the rest of your life.