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Nine questions to ask an estate agent before you offer on a home

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Buying a property is often the biggest financial commitment in a person’s life and yet many homebuyers will spend longer test driving a new car or buying a TV.

According to new research, Britons are snapping up homes often after just one viewing and sometimes after spending 30 minutes or less in a property.

Roughly two in five home hunters who purchased a property in the last six months, did so after just one viewing, according to research by virtual property viewings platform, U-See Homes.

With house prices surging, reports of buyers queuing for viewings and bidding wars home hunters will be feeling under pressure

With house prices surging, reports of buyers queuing for viewings and bidding wars home hunters will be feeling under pressure

A further 43 per cent required two viewings before deciding it was the right home for them, with just 12 per cent of homebuyers returning for a third viewing.

Of those surveyed, more than half claim they took 30 minutes or less when viewing a property, with 41 per cent claiming they needed no longer than an hour.

‘We know that homes are going under offer incredibly quickly in current market conditions, and we’re now starting to see a shortage of stock entering the market to satisfy the overwhelming buyer demand spurred by the stamp duty holiday,’ said Simon Dempsey, head of marketing at U-See Homes.

‘Homebuyers themselves are also acting at pace, with the vast majority taking just one or two viewings before making an offer and rarely spending more than an hour or two in the process.’

But home hunters are not necessarily buying the first thing they see, with less than one in five purchasing the first property they viewed.

When it comes to finding the right one, two in five home buyers claim they viewed five or more other properties before they found the one.

‘The majority are viewing a number of properties before they discover their perfect home and while viewing times are brief, they can certainly start to add up when travelling from one house to the next,’ added Dempsey.

How can buyers make every viewing count?

The property market is going through somewhat of a boom, with reports of people queuing for viewings, bidding wars and the biggest sales pipeline ever seen. 

Buyers will therefore be feeling under added pressure to decide quickly – making every minute of a viewing that bit more important.

But despite this, buyers can often be guilty of failing to ask important questions during viewings.

Some refrain from asking certain questions because they don’t want to show their hand and scupper future negotiations, whilst others are so excited that they forget to ask anything at all.

There is no such things as a stupid question: Asking the estate agent questions can help you understand more about the seller's mindset and whether they might be flexible on price

There is no such things as a stupid question: Asking the estate agent questions can help you understand more about the seller’s mindset and whether they might be flexible on price

But asking the right questions on a viewing can be crucial in helping to determine the seller’s motivation, whether you face competition for the property, and whether there might be wiggle room in the price.

Most viewings take place in the company of an estate agent, who it must be remembered works on behalf of the seller. It’s their job to encourage you to make an offer on their client’s property.

‘Ask direct questions that are difficult to duck, and confirm anything you are told in an email so there is a record of what you believe you were told,’ says Henry Pryor, a professional buying agent. 

‘Never be afraid to ask anything that matters to you – you’ll be amazed what answers you will get.’

What questions should you ask?

1) When did it come to market?

Property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla often reveal this, but if the property has been re-listed it may be difficult to tell.

‘You should want to find out how long it has sat around not selling,’ says Pryor.

‘Some websites include a listing date, but agents are cunning and sometimes juggle this by taking the property off the market and putting it back on.

‘You want to know if it’s in the first flush of youth or an old dog that has been passed over with a seller who is looking to take a dive on the price to move on.’

2) Why are they selling?

Buyers should try to establish what has brought about the sale, according to Jonathan Hopper, chief executive of the buying agency Garrington Property Finders.

‘Is it being sold because of a divorce and are the people desperate to move on?

‘Is the vendor selling up because they have accepted another job elsewhere? Are they in a hurry to get kids into a new school for the new term?

‘Information like this can give the buyer quite a degree of power as it might help indicate how flexible the seller might be on price and importantly, how committed they are to the selling process.’

3) Has the seller found somewhere to go?

If a seller has not found a property to move to, a buyer may not want to sit around waiting for them.

This might become an issue, if the buyer is under time pressure on their own property sale, or if they are moving home for work purposes.

‘Find out what the seller is looking for and what the chances are of them finding something,’ says Pryor.

‘If you offer them a delayed completion, would they then be prepared to exchange contracts?

‘At least, that way, you know you have the property.’

4) Has there been a previous survey?

Being able to look at a prior survey could save you both time and money. 

The price of a building survey typically ranges from £500 to £2000 depending on the size of the home, according to the Homeowners Alliance.

Henry Pryor’s six ‘easy to forget’ questions to ask during a viewing:

1. Has anyone had a survey of the property?

2. Is there anything that a building survey will throw up that you want to tell me about before I commission one?

3. What would you client sell with the property? White goods, carpets, curtains, Labrador?

4. Can you show me the internet speed now using an app like SpeedTest?

5. Have there been any issues with noise or neighbours?

6. Has the property ever flooded? 

‘Press the estate agent over whether there have been any previous surveys of the property,’ says Hopper.

‘Consumer protection regulations mean the agent and the seller are legally obliged to provide you with information which could have a material impact on your purchase.

‘This also serves to avoid mid-transaction surprises later on, when you get your own survey done and have spent significant sums of money.’

5) Have you had any offers?

Other viewings taking place at the property is one sign of interest, but offers are the real test when it comes to revealing competition.

A buyer’s greatest fear is often whether an estate agent might be fibbing about other offers. 

Further questioning can help a buyer determine whether such offers are to be believed or taken seriously.

‘Their answer will tell you if anyone else fancies it,’ says Pryor. ‘If no one has offered, then why not? And if there have been offers, why weren’t they accepted?

‘Agents will often say Oh we had an asking price offer, but it wasn’t accepted” and when you probe, it turns out it was because the buyer has a house to sell or needed a winning lottery ticket!’

6) Is the asking price yours or the seller’s?

‘Find out who set the price,’ says Pryor. ‘Was it the agent; keen to get instructed, or the seller, high on news of rampant house prices?’

‘If it was the seller then maybe the agent will be helpful and admit what they advised.’

7) Will the seller take the property off the market if I make a good offer?

Here you are testing whether the seller is willing to take the property off the market for the right offer, or whether they are hell-bent on having multiple viewings before accepting anything.

‘If they are prepared to take it off the market then it pays to put your best foot forward,’ says Hopper.

‘If on the other hand, they have a desire to do dozens of viewings, then it pays to keep your powder dry.

‘You don’t want to end up being used as a stalking horse to whip up competition.’

8) What would they accept to take it off the market today?

Sometimes, it’s best to put the ball back in the seller’s court and see how they respond.

‘If there is competition for the property, the sellers may not be willing to accept any offer on a given day – all you’ll be doing is setting a bar for other buyers to jump over,’ says Pryor.

‘But if they will do a deal – perhaps so they can make an offer on a property they wish to buy – then find out what that number is they require.’

9) Are there factors apart from price that are important to the seller?

There is a tendency to think that everything rests on price, but this isn’t necessarily always the case, according to Hopper.

‘Don’t ask the estate agent “What do I need to bid to be in with a shout?”‘ says Hopper.

‘Try asking “What is your seller looking for from a buyer and what aspects of an offer will be most important to them?”‘

‘It’s definitely not just about money, it’s about the dependability of the buyer and, right now, flexibility on move dates also ranks highly.

‘Sellers are nervous about getting pushed out of their home into rented accommodation by a demanding buyer and many of them need time to find somewhere suitable to move on to.

‘I have seen countless situations where the highest bid hasn’t carried the day.’

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Orange warning in place for five counties on west coast

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Violent storm force 11 winds are expected off the west coast as Storm Barra approaches on Tuesday morning.

Met Éireann has upgraded its marine weather warning to red, the highest category, on Irish coastal waters from Galway Bay to Bantry Bay from 3am on Tuesday morning to 11pm tomorrow night.

A status orange warning is in place on land for the counties of Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am on Tuesday morning until the same time on Wednesday morning.

Counties included in orange warning could see damaging gusts of up to 130km/h which will head to high waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge.

The rest of the country will be under a status yellow warning for the same period with the possibility of localised flooding.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack told Newstalk Breakfast that the storm system is developing rapidly over the Atlantic at present and will hit Ireland’s western seaboard on Tuesday with strong gale force winds which will quickly extend across the country.

There will be heavy rain turning to sleet and snow on higher ground, she warned.

Met Éireann will meet with gardaí, local authorities and emergency services this morning to update the progress of the storm and provide advice on what precautionary measures should be taken.

“It will be a pretty horrid day,” added Ms Cusack who advised against cycling.

The high winds and heavy rain will continue throughout Wednesday but they will have moved on by Thursday.

On RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, senior meteorologist Liz Walsh warned that trees could be knocked down during the high winds. She also advised that outdoor street furniture should be taken in or tied down and cautioned that Christmas decorations could be damaged.

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Coronavirus rules for driving tests spark complaints

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Claims of rude testers, of not being allowed to cough and having to drive with windows open due to Covid-19 were among the complaints received from people who failed driving tests recently.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which oversees driving tests nationally, released a sample of the 1,505 complaints received since the start of last year under the Freedom of Information Act.

New figures show the driving test centre in Cork had the highest pass rate with 75 per cent of people passing, while the lowest was Charlestown in Dublin with a 42 per cent pass rate.

One person complained he had told his tester he had asthma and might need to cough because he had recently changed inhalers, causing irritation to his throat.

“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage, the test would be over immediately. This was difficult to control while under exam pressure and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress and pressure,” the individual complained.

Another individual complained their tester said if their face mask slipped “a little bit from my nose” while driving, the test would be ended.

“I’m in shock how he treated me that day,” said the complainant.

Another learner driver who failed said their car was hot and “very uncomfortable” because the tester said the hot air de-misters had to be kept on to prevent the windows fogging up because the back windows had to be kept open due to Covid-19.

One complainant said the tester seemed to have prejudged the test when they spotted a small stain on the driver’s seat as the car was supposed to be “spotless”.

‘Anxious’

“The tester was clearly taking it too far. I was complying with all Covid precautions as I had just Hoovered and sanitised the car and it was simply a mark on the seat.”

There were general complaints beyond Covid-19 issues. One person complained about feeling “anxious” because the tester was “sitting there shaking his head”.

Another said their tester repeatedly shook his head and sighed several times, and then made notes on the score sheet, which was “extremely off-putting and really unfair”.

Another driver said the tester was “extremely condescending and patronising” and mocked their answer to a signpost theory question about an “unguarded cliff edge”.

“We don’t drive along cliff edges in this country,” the tester was quoted as saying.

The RSA has been dealing with a backlog of driving tests due to the pandemic.

The centres with the next highest pass rates were Clifden (71 per cent), Killester in Dublin (70 per cent), Birr, Co Offaly (70 per cent) and Cavan (69 per cent).

The test centres with the next lowest pass rates were Dublin’s Churchtown, since closed (44 per cent), Nenagh, Co Tipperary (44 per cent) and Mulhuddart (45 per cent) and Raheny (46 per cent), both in Dublin.


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Former US presidential candidate Bob Dole dies aged 98

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Bob Dole, the long-time Kansas senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1996, has died from lung cancer. In a statement, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, founded by Dole’s wife, said: “It is with heavy hearts we announced that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died earlier this morning in his sleep. At his death at age 98 he had served the United States of America faithfully for 79 years.”

In late February, Dole announced that he had advanced lung cancer and would begin treatment. Visiting him, President Joe Biden called Dole his “close friend”.

On Sunday the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, like Biden a Democrat, ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

Born in Russell, Kansas in 1923, Dole served in the US infantry in the second world war, suffering serious wounds in Italy and winning a medal for bravery.

His wounds cost him use of his right arm but he entered state politics and soon became a longtime Republican power-broker, representing Kansas in the US House of Representatives from 1961 to 1969 and in the Senate until 1996. He had spells as chairman of the Republican National Committee and as Senate minority and majority leader.

In 1976 he was the Republican nominee for vice-president to Gerald Ford, in an election the sitting president lost to Jimmy Carter. Two decades later, aged 73, Dole won the nod to take on Bill Clinton.

Against the backdrop of a booming economy, the Democrat won a second term with ease, by 379 – 159 in the electoral college and by nine points in the popular vote, the third-party candidate Ross Perot costing Dole support on the right.

Dole received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest US civilian honours.

In the Trump years and after, Dole came widely to be seen as a figure from another time in Republican politics.

On Sunday, the political consultant Tara Setmeyer, a member of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, tweeted: “I cast my first ever vote for president for Bob Dole in 1996. A war hero with a sharp sense of humor ? another piece of a once respectable GOP gone.”

However, Dole remained a loyal Republican soldier, telling USA Today this summer that though Donald Trump “lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did”, and though he himself was “sort of Trumped out”, he still considered himself “a Trumper”.

Dole called Biden “a great, kind, upstanding, decent person”, though he said he leaned too far left.

He also said: “I do believe [America has]lost something. I can’t get my hand on it, but we’re just not quite where we should be, as the greatest democracy in the world. And I don’t know how you correct it, but I keep hoping that there will be a change in my lifetime.”

On Sunday, Jaime Harrison, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, said: “Sending heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of Senator Bob Dole. We honor his service and dedication to the nation. May he Rest In Peace.”

– Guardian

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