The questions you must ask before you buy a house

Sold signBuying a house is one of the biggest purchases most people will make, so it's vital to be well organised before handing over your money.

Once you've found your dream pad there are a lot of other things to consider and doing some research first could save you a lot of money in the long term.

So before you sign on the dotted line make sure you ask these essential questions.

1. Do you have to move?
The first question you should ask yourself is if you really need to move house. This depends on your circumstances, but if you're moving for a new job it may be more cost effective to rent.

Before upping sticks read our article on the cheapest and most expensive places to buy property and the UK property hotspots of 2012.

2. Can you afford it?
Tracy Kellett, managing director for BDI Home Finders, says: "A surprising amount of people have not spoken with mortgage brokers before they start looking and are then seriously disappointed when they can't afford the house they have fallen in love with."

Getting advice from a mortgage broker can give you an idea of how much you'll need to buy your new home and how much you'll be able to borrow.

On top of the deposit you'll need quite a bit extra to cover everything from the mortgage arrangement fee and Stamp Duty to removal costs and house repairs.

In any kind of property transaction you also need to find a good solicitor to act on your behalf. "A good lawyer is proactive, gets things moving quickly and will detect any problems," explains Jonathan Hudson, Managing Director of Hudsons Property.

3. How much space do you need?
Moving is expensive and stressful. Therefore to minimise the number of times you do it, think of how much space you need – both now and in the future.

If you're planning a family then more rooms will be needed. Similarly, check out the garden space to see if there's any potential for building an extension.

4. Is it the best location?
When you find a house, don't just consider the building but look around at the local area as well. It's also worth checking out local public transport links, shops and schools. Hudson says if you're unfamiliar with an area it may be worth renting there first before you buy.

Another option is using websites such as Zoopla and finding out how much similar houses have gone for in the area.

5. Will it be safe to live in?
It's hard to get a thorough impression of a property without living there, so research as much as you can by checking local crime levels, speaking to the neighbours and asking about potential risks of flooding.

"Think very carefully before buying property on flood plains. These properties have become the nemesis of mortgage companies and insurers," warns Kellett.

When you're visiting, keep an eye out for problems such as damp, poor plumbing, poor phone or broadband signal or cracks in the ceiling.

6. Will you still love it in five years?
Buying a house on a whim is never advisable as it's likely you won't live there for life. So make sure you're not buying a house which will end up being impossible to resell.

Visiting at different times of the day will also help give you a more well-rounded view of the place, along with taking as many photos as you can.

7. Is it right for your family?
A beautiful country cottage may sound like the perfect getaway, but once your teenagers grow up they won't thank you for it.

Make sure you're close enough to local schools and amenities and before you buy do a trial run of your commute to work.

8. Buying leasehold?
If you're buying a leasehold property find out how long the lease runs for and the price of renewing it.

James Ganpot, spokesperson for H&G Property, also recommends checking what the service charge and ground rent is for a leasehold property. It's a good idea to find out which management company will look after the house and Google it.

Our article comparing leasehold to freehold properties has a full run down of what's involved with each.

9. What's included with the house and how old is it?
Look beyond the bricks and mortar at what comes with your new home and what state appliances are in. Things to look out for include whether the energy is gas or electric, how old the boiler is, any extra appliances, such as fridges or cookers which are included, the price of Council Tax and the state of the paintwork and walls.

Parking spaces can also be an added cost, so check there's enough room if you have a car. And if it's an area with permit parking, check how much permits cost. John Hughes, managing director of Benham & Reeves, points out that the size of the outdoor space can add to the price significantly and also to the value when re-selling.

And remember to ask how old the property is – the older it is, the more likely you'll need to spend money on appliances and repairing the structure.

10. Why are the current owners moving?
If you get a chance to speak to the people moving out, find out how long they've lived in the property, why they're moving and where to. This will give you an indication of any potential problems with the house and the area.

As a rule of thumb if they've been there a while there should be fewer problems, but check if there have been any neighbour disputes and also how long the property chain is. Googling the address is also worthwhile and should alert you to anything dodgy which has taken place there.

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