If you’re looking to buy a house, you probably have a rough idea of what you want. Maybe a three-bedroom condo near your workplace (unless you’re working from home of course) and close to amenities… and far enough from your in-laws. Check, check and check.
But if you’re a first-time house buyer, there might be other things that matter, which you did not think to ask. Simply because…you don’t know what you don’t know.
To help you out, we asked two agents about this: Hilmi Akmal from Polygon, and L (who prefers to be anonymous).
Before looking for a property, you should know why you’re buying it. In general, most people would have three reasons to do so:
- For own stay (you plan to live there)
- Renting it out
And for each of these, you would need to think of different things when looking for one.
Buying for Own Stay
If you’re planning to stay there, then it’s actually quite subjective, as that would depend on your taste. However, there are some questions you should ask, which you might not find out even with research or a few visits.
For example, there might be terrible jams on workday mornings, but most of us would probably only visit the area on weekends or after work, so we wouldn’t see these things.
You could ask your agents if there are any issues or general complaints about the area. But you could be more specific and ask questions such as:
- Is it near a T-junction?
- Is it near busy entry/exit points?
- Is there high traffic?
- Is there noise from the main road?
- Is this a high-density area?
Again, this is still subjective, because if you’re working from home and only have online meetings, traffic issues might not be a problem for you. While if you plan to start a family, you might value having school and amenities within a short distance.
So you’ll need to figure out what matters to you, and what doesn’t. Some of these might sound like common sense, but surprisingly, according to L, property buyers regularly forget to ask even basic things such as layout type and the dimension of the house.
And sometimes, instead of having a certain location in mind, you could just ask them about a place with certain amenities and a distance in mind. For example, maybe you’d like a place with a mosque and school nearby, and at most a 30-minute drive from your family and workplace. This will open up your choices, as your agent would typically have a lot of listings, sometimes hundreds, and could recommend you a place close to where you intended, or even a better one.
Buying to Invest or Rent
If you’re looking to invest, you generally want something that gives you bang for your buck, but also something that people would want. So you should ask these questions about the units:
- What is the price per square feet?
- What are the amenities?
- Is it accessible?
- Is it in demand?
- How many units are available?
- What is the layout?
- How many bedrooms/bathrooms?
“You ask these questions, because you don’t want to buy an overpriced property. You want to buy below market price. But you also want something that’s in demand.
For example, in Cyberjaya the units are relatively cheap, but that’s because the demand is low. – Hilmi”
According to Hilmi, a question most seasoned investors would also ask is about the developers. As in, what is their track record, and what are their previous projects? Some seasoned investors would buy up to 3-4 properties in a year, so this is one way to figure out if the new project is worth the investment.
Pro tip: If you find a nice place near a cemetery to invest in, you might be scared that this will lower the property value in the future. However, according to the agent we asked, based on info from NAPIC, where you can check annual property reports, it doesn’t really affect the value as it still goes up year by year.
If You’re Buying a Subsale (second hand property)
If you’re buying a second-hand property, unless you plan to demolish the house and build a new one, it’s worth asking if it needs a lot of repairs or renovation work. This will help you factor in the extra cost involved in buying it.
You should also ask if there are underlying issues with the house that may not be obvious to the eye. So this can be things such as wiring or piping issues, or even ventilation. Non-obvious issues can also mean whether previous renovations to the house have been approved by relevant authorities and received a Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC). This is because the previous owner might have done renovations without getting approval, so this can potentially get you in trouble with your local authorities, or even be downright dangerous.
There are also things your agent might forget to tell you if you do not ask. For example, how many owners have the house had? This might not give you an obvious answer, but if there were 4 owners in 3 years, you should probably find out why.
Another one is if there are issues with the house title. Sometimes, transferring the title would require consent from the state, such as selling a low-cost house, or a Bumi lot.
Title issues aside, one common question agents get if a house looks old and unoccupied is…“Is this house haunted?”
If you’re asking that to an agent, it probably isn’t haunted, simply because…agents would not even touch the house.
“If there is, I don’t think I will take on that listing. But if I have, I will definitely disclose it, and it’s up to the buyer to make the decision.” – L
But sometimes the agent may not be aware if it has a history of ghost sightings. So in that case, you should ask if the house had a bad history, or if there were any crimes or murders there.
Are There Things to Be Wary About?
Despite doing your due diligence and asking all the questions, there might still be issues that could pop up in the future.
Some of these can be just genuine oversights that you might not think to ask. For example, the orientation of the house and the direction it’s facing. So you might have gotten the perfect house, but after staying there for the first night, you’re welcomed by the cheery morning sunshine through your bedroom window…and you’re not a morning person.
But there are cases where the agent does cheat you. For example, misrepresenting the size of the house by telling you it’s larger than it actually is.
Other reasons could be long-standing practices that seem like the norm but are actually illegal. For example, collecting booking fees.
If that happens, you can actually file a complaint against them at the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents (MIEA). The MIEA represents all of the registered property agents in Malaysia. In case you don’t know, all registered property agents will have a registration number, and you can confirm it by going to this website.
Don’t Feel Bad About Asking Questions
In case you’re worried you’re asking too many questions, or the wrong questions, don’t worry about it. There are no questions that are stupid, unimportant, or too much. In fact, they like it when you ask them a lot of questions, so ask away.
Why? Because as an agent, this shows your interest in the property. If you weren’t interested, you wouldn’t be asking for more details, would you? But another reason is that asking them questions helps them to suss out what’s the best property for you. So in case you ever think there’s something you shouldn’t ask, don’t hold back and ask away.
On the flip side, as typical Malaysians, we’d probably think there’s a “best” thing we could ask. Just like taking the product furthest back on the shelf, you might think there’s a “best” question hidden somewhere at the back. But the best question is actually…for the buyer. Why do you want to buy this house?
Do you want to stay there? Do you want to rent it out? Are you planning to start a family? Are you just buying it to resell later? Once you know the answer, then it’s much easier to know what to ask.
But if you were to ask these agents what their favourite question is, it would be:
“How do I book this property?”
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