ARE you planning to move home in the next year?

If so, you will need to make sure to ask your estate agent the correct questions to ensure the house is right for you.

However, if you are a first-time buyer or simply don’t know the first thing about the property market, then knowing what to ask at the viewing can be a challenge.

Luckily for you, we have tracked down a local expert who has given some great advice to those hoping to buy a house in Lancashire.

Sally Jane Harrison is the owner of Sally Harrison Estate Agents on Church Street, Barnoldswick.

Lancashire Telegraph: Sally Harrison Estate AgentsSally Harrison Estate Agents

She has been working in the industry for almost 32 years and this year marks the 20th anniversary since she opened the Barnoldswick office as her own business.

According to Ms Harrison, there are five crucial questions that you should ask your estate agent before buying any property in Lancashire- and here they are:

1. Have there been any previous offers on the property?

According to Sally, one of the most important questions you can ask surrounds the history of the property.

You need to ask if any of the previous sales have fallen through and if so, why has it fallen through.

There are numerous reasons for a sale to fall through, including property survey issues, change in circumstance and mortgage issues just to name a few.

Sally said: “I’ve been in this job for 32 years and I’ve never known the fall through rate to be as high as it is.

“It’s not just because of Covid - the fall through rate has been increasing over the last three years but it is exceptionally high at the moment.”

Sally added that it is “surprising” how many people come into the office to book a property viewing without being approved for a mortgage first.

She added: “Quite often, when a buyer finds a property and puts an application into the lender to borrow money, they are refused or not able to borrow as much money as they initially thought they would be able to.”

2. What is the area like?

You might think this is a common question to ask your estate agent- but how in-depth are their responses?

According to Sally, areas in Lancashire are incredibly varies- and the desirability of houses on one street can be completely different to the ones on the next.

“There can be a huge difference in properties in as little as 100 yards,” she explained.

Sally also implores buyers to ask more about what parking in the area is like.

She added: “You need to ask about residents parking. In some places you need a permit, so ask about how much this will be.”

Once the property viewing is over, the hard work shouldn’t stop for the buyer.

Sally said: “Drive around the area to have a look at the surroundings.

“Look for any noisy factories, sewage works, abattoirs or anything else that could impact the salability of a property.”

The time of day is also crucial.

Sally said: “Look at the house in a morning, afternoon and an evening- possibly also at the weekends.

“Are there loads of kids on street corners? What’s parking like when everyone is at home?

“Is there anything that is causing a lot of noise of noxious smells?”


3.What are the schools like in the surrounding areas?

If you have just moved into a new home with your partner, schools in the area might be the last thing on your mind.

However, Sally insists that it is an important consideration if you want to have a family in the future.

Once you have settled down and think about having children, you might have to move again just to ensure you are in a more ‘desirable’ catchment area.

Ask your estate agents about the local schools and nurseries in the area- and make sure to check their Ofsted rating on the internet.

Beyond just education, your proximity to a school also matters.

If you live too close to one, Sally added that you might find yourself dealing with “horrendous parking problems” at 9am and 3pm.

4. Is the garden a suntrap?

If you attend a house viewing in the winter, you might neglect to ask about the garden.

However, if you like to spend your summer lounging in the garden and hosting barbeques, you need to ask how much sun the garden gets and where it is in relation to the sun’s position.

Sally added that you should also enquire about the trees in the garden- too many and it might block off your sunlight.

Sally added: “Also ask about if there are any with tree preservation orders.”

Any that are protected might be costly to remove or cut down- that’s if they can be removed in the first place.

5. What is the tenure of the property- is it freehold or leasehold?

Some people might not know the first thing about the tenure of the property.

However, Sally insists that you learn to understand the difference between freehold and leasehold properties as it could cost you dearly in the long run.

With a freehold property, you own it and the land outright.

However, leasehold is a different story as buyers have to pay ground rent every year.

On older properties this is highly unlikely to be a problem, so don’t worry at all, as the term of the lease will most probably be 999 or 990 years and the ground rents are so nominal, such as a couple of pounds a year, that they are rarely collected now.

However on new or recently built properties is can be a different story and you could be charged hundreds of pounds to get permission to put a shed in the garden and it could cost thousands to buy the freehold if you wanted to.

There’s been a huge amount of controversy over leasehold properties in the past.

Under the leasehold scheme someone signed on with a doubling ground rent costing £295 a year in 2008 would pay an eye watering £182,000 over 50 years.

In some cases, these ground rents have left people seriously out of pocket and unable to sell their homes and others facing bills of tens of thousands to buy back their property freehold.

What question would you ask an estate agent at a house viewing?