House-hunting in Birmingham? By the time viewings hit double figures, it can be tricky to separate one property from the next. Asking a list of uniform questions will help.
If you're anything like average, you can expect to view between 15 and 20 properties before choosing to make an offer on one. That's a lot of detail to retain and compare.
But getting organised from the start with a finite list of questions to ask the estate agent – or seller – hosting the viewing should make life easier.
Here are our top 10 for Birmingham.
1. How long has the property been on the market?
According to our latest data from Zoopla agents in Birmingham, homes in the city are taking around nine weeks to sell from the day they first hit the market – that's around two weeks quicker than the national average.
If the property has been on the market for considerably longer than this – and conditions are otherwise good – there's likely to be a reason.
It could be that the seller is simply being too ambitious with the asking price. Or it could be something obvious like a very busy road, a garden that's too small for the house, or a lack of natural light.
However, if everything appears in order, it's worth doing a bit of digging to rule out nasty surprises.
The home might have been extended without appropriate planning permissions, for example. Or, if it's leasehold, the lease could be short (if there's 70 years or less remaining, many mortgage lenders won't lend).
A good estate agent will discuss issues like these openly. After all, it's in nobody's interest for you pull out of the sale further down the line.
And anway, a seller is legally bound to disclose any issues in the Seller's Property Information Form (TA6) which is sent to your solicitor at the start of the transaction.
2. When was it last listed for sale?
If the answer comes back, 'six months' ago, it may ring alarm bells – whether it's the same owner or a different one selling. Make sure you find out the full story.
You can find the sales (and rental) history for many properties on Zoopla by typing in the address and clicking on the Property History icon.
You can find average property values for Birmingham too.
3. How many viewings has there been?
This will give you an flavour of how much interest the property has generated. Ask also whether there has been any second viewings so you can sniff out any really serious competition.
This one-bedroom flat with great views over the city is on the market for £198,950
4. Have you had any offers?
If the answer to this question is yes, you can assume they have all been rejected – which is why the property is still on the market. However, at least you'll get an idea of who else you may be contending with.
The agent is unlikely to disclose details in pounds and pence, but a bit of probing might put you in the right ballpark if you want to make your own offer.
It's worth knowing that properties in Birmingham are currently achieving 98% of their asking price according to our data, so being too cheeky might not pay off.
5. Why are they selling?
In many cases, sellers are simply looking to upsize or downsize depending on their stage of life. But other factors can influence a move too, such as a job relocation or the breakdown of a relationship.
Finding out the seller's motivation to move will give you an idea of urgency and timescales which, in turn, could inform any offer you put forward.
6. How old is the boiler?
If the boiler of the property is more than 15 years old, it will soon need replacing.
And with even mid-range combi boilers costing upwards of £1,000, that's a big outlay – especially if this is the first home you're buying.
It's also worth enquiring about the cost of council tax and heating bills. If the property is on Zoopla, you can cross reference the agent's answer with our property-specific running costs tool at the bottom of each listing.
7. What are the neighbours like?
According to our data, one-bedroom flats is the most popular property type among homebuyers in Birmingham, so you can expect to be familiar with the neighbours.
Sellers are legally obliged to disclose neighbour-related problems such as boundary disputes or disturbances in the Seller's Property Information Form. But it's preferable to thrash it out ahead of time.
Of course, historical issues might relate to the person rather than the property and there's nothing to prevent you from knocking on the door and coming to your own conclusions.
A three bedroom detached house in the village of Cofton Hackett, south of Birmingham, for £460,000
8. How long is the walk to...?
Distances from A to B on estate agent's property particulars are measured as the crow flies – when you are on foot they are often further.
Especially if you intend to walk somewhere on a daily basis, such as a train station or school, find out how long it takes.
You'll need to test it out for yourself before you put it an offer, but it's useful to get an initial benchmark.
9. What's the parking situation?
'Parking' is the second most searched-for term on Zoopla among home-hunters in Birmingham (after 'garage'). So what should you find out about it?
If there is only off-road parking available, ask if you'll require a permit from Birmingham City Council and how much it costs a year – and, if you are a two-car household, whether you can apply for more than one permit.
Even with a permit, if the road is very busy you could have to park a street or two away. Ask how often this happens.
If parking is allocated, find out how many spaces you'll get and whether other residents tend to stick to their allocated spots.
Even if the house has a drive, it's worth checking whether the road has any parking restrictions in the case of guests. This tends to be most common near train stations, schools or town centres.
10. Is there anything you think I should know?
This is always a good closing question as, being largely unexpected, it can uncover information you may not have otherwise discovered.
It also puts the onus on the agent and seller to be totally transparent from the very start.
Keep a clear record of answers
At the end of each day's viewings, type out the hand-scrawled notes you have gathered into a single spreadsheet or chart so it's legible and easy to compare.
You might even add a 'memory jogger' that calls a property to mind and a column to score each home out of 10.