Each property is unique, so the set of questions you'll want to ask will be personalized to each case. To start, however, this is a list of questions you might be interested in asking. You'll find many lists on the internet, and, for example, this is a great checklist from the 'Competition and Consumer Help Protection'.
Please remember that the Estate Agent is working for the seller and that you might need to contact the Agency itself for more detailed information regarding the property.
1. - Are there any current offers? Has there been much interest in the property?
While the asking price might match your budget, there might be current offers by other potential buyers like yourself. Don't let this discourage you, the seller might not accept the highest offer if the buyer's situation is not stable. If your offer is lower, but you can deliver for sure (and you already have a Bank Approval in Principle), you might be the best candidate.
2. - What is included in the price (es: furniture)?
If a house's asking price already borders your budget, be sure to know if there are other possible expenditures to consider too: the furniture displayed in the house might not be included in the price. Some sellers even go as far as to rent the furniture displayed, as to make the best impression on the buyers.
However, if the furniture is not rented, you can always contract with the seller to include it in the price or how much it would cost.
3. - How flexible is the seller in the asking price? What is the minimum price the seller is willing to accept?
You might find that the seller is actually a bank and that the minimum price is non-negotiable. In other instances, you might find out that the property was previous Sale Agreed and that it fell through; this gives you a better idea of the seller's urgency in selling.
4. - How did the agent decide the asking price? Are many other properties in the area with the same price?
This would allow you to understand if the property is within the average price in that area, or if there is something unique about this property that justifies the price.
5. - How long has the property been on the market? How long has it been vacant?
Especially for foreign buyers who are not familiar with the various areas of Dublin, if a property has been long on the market, that is certainly a sign that there is something un-appealing about the area or with the property itself (particularly nowadays, when new properties on the market are snatched as soon as possible). To clarify, the area itself might not be bad per se, but it could be that it's not one of the 'in' areas where to shop for properties.
6. - When was it built? How long have the owners lived in it? Has it changed hands / been rented?
As the Estate Agent will never tell you if there is anything wrong with the property, there is no harm in speculating on how the property might have been 'treated'. If the property was owner occupied and it hasn't changed hands, the probability that it was cared for, is higher than if it was rented out and changed hands multiple times.
I, personally, would prefer to live in a newer house as I wouldn't want to budget potential structural damages because of the age of the house, however, if you are looking for a period house, knowing if it changed hands often is an even more critical element to know how it was cared for.
7. - Are the sellers trading up or down (why are they leaving)? When do they want to close?
Not only this will let you glimpse whether the owners want to close the sale quickly, but it will also let you know how long you'll have to wait for them to move out. Furthermore, if they are trading up and they are waiting to sell their current property in order to buy a bigger one, then they might be less flexible in the price.
8. - How much are the utility bills? Can they explain the energy certificate?
If the energy certificate is not listed in the property advertisement, be sure to ask for it: older houses might have lower energy certificates, which not only imply higher bills but also possible renovation costs.
9. - How is the neighbourhood? Is it mainly rented or owner occupied?
Depending on the reasons you are looking to buy a property, you'll want to know whether it would be easy to let it or whether it's a quiet
10. - Have there been any redecorations? How is the house heated / insulated?
This is also a great question to understand if the house plan has been changed since the construction and which areas of the property need more careful inspection.
11. - What is the annual service charge?
Especially for apartment complexes, the service charge might be a very relevant expense in your annual budget. Depending on how central the area is, the service charge can be from €350 to €1300, if not more.
12. - Is the Owners' Management Company (OMC) fully set up and financed?
Owners' Management Companies are responsible for the maintenance of communal areas and shared services within multi-unit developments, such as apartment blocks or housing estates. For example, the company may be responsible for the maintenance of halls, corridors, lifts, public lighting, footpaths, gardens and waste services. When buying a property in an apartment complex, you'll want to be sure that such institution is in place and working smoothly.
13. - Can you speak with the sellers?
Most of the sellers are people like you, who would reply to your questions with answers that estate agents might consider shockingly honest. This also allows you to have a better feel of the house, getting to know its best and worst points.