This guide was last updated 13 April 2016
We’re often speaking to people who have already found a house they love and are applying for a mortgage to buy it.
Their enthusiasm is infectious. However, distressingly frequently the love people have for a home is based on fleeting visits to a property and unreliable reassurances – 49% of people buying a property find a problem after they move in.
Part of the satisfaction we at Coreco get from helping people obtain their ideal mortgage is the fact that once we’re done, our clients will be moving into their dream home (be it semi-detached, flat, a shoe for you and your many children etc.). For this purpose we offer our top tips for when you’re viewing a property: we want to make sure that your dream home is everything you expect it to be.
Before you’ve even gone to view the property, make sure you’ve had a gander at the area. The area in which you’ll be living will have almost as much of an impact on your life as the property you move into. It’ll certainly be more informative than the pictures you’ve seen of the property. Alternatively, to save you the time, there is the very useful Google Streetview. This means you can check out the local area without even having to leave the house! Bare in mind the images may not be up to date and might not show you things like long-term construction that could be going on nearby.
Since you’re driving by, take a look at the neighbourhood to see if it lines up with your expectations. Absolutely must have freshly baked granary bread every Sunday? Make sure there’s a baker around. Have a tradition of going to overvalued, circulation hindering, meat-alloy serving restaurants? Be sure there’s a kebab shop nearby.
Have your checklist ready! There will be many little questions and tests you need to carry out on your viewing and you don’t want to miss anything. Are the rooms big enough for your needs? Is the plumbing up to scratch? Are the windows double-glazed? How’s the water pressure in the shower? Is the roof fully intact? Are there enough power points (in good condition)? There are many forgettable elements of comfortable living we take for granted and missing them out in your check could cause a headache!
Be wary of staging. Sellers use many tricks to make their property seem more appealing but really they just give you a false impression. These could include good smells, clever positioning of mirrors, optical illusions and strategic lighting. They all give the misleading impression of the property is more spacious, well lit and newer than the reality. Stay focused on what you need to look for.
Don’t go alone. It’s also a lot easier to discuss points and have someone to bounce ideas off, plus an extra set of eyes will give you twice the chance to spot something out of place. Ideally bring someone who has gone through this process themselves recently. They may well have had an experience where they forgot to ask a question in the viewing and it affected their new home. Their pain is your strength!
Perhaps that drive by might have given you a decent impression of the exterior but you won’t have had a thorough look at the outside of the house. Watch out for peeling paint, tide marks or loose tiles. It’s also worth considering which way the property is facing and how much sun will come in during summer. You’d be surprised how much a house filled with sunlight can affect your mood!
While you’re out there, be sure to take a proper look at the roof. Replacing a roof is expensive and since the average life-expectancy for a roof is 15-20 years, it’s wise to ask how old it is.
We’ve touched on plumbing already, but it’s really very important. One expensive problem you could run into is if the pipes are lead – these would need to be replaced, as they are relics of Victorian plumbing. How old is the boiler, and do the radiators actually work in the property? Don’t feel shy about asking to use the toilet. Does the toilet flush? Cause, you know: deal-breaker.
If they’re willing to share, have a look at the previous bills for the property. It’d be good to have a decent idea of how much the council tax, gas, electric etc. comes to. Also things like what is on offer for broadband/fiber and what kind of internet speeds you can expect: these are all things you don’t want to be surprised about when moving in.
What is including in the house? Be sure you and the seller are on the same page when it comes to appliances or furniture. If it turns out you have to buy a new fridge and washing machine when you move in, it could bring you extra hassle you don’t need. Make sure that anything you’ve been told is staying is included in the contract.
Buying a property that’s been recently renovated has its perks, namely that it’s nice and new. But make sure you know what work has been done do you can properly inspect that it was done properly. More importantly be sure to confirm that the owners had permission for the work they did. In some cases, the previous owners may have needed to apply for permission from building control. This is essential because construction that is not approved by building control can be a serious risk to your safety.
This is the bane of homeowners so it’s imperative you investigate thoroughly! You can usually tell if there is damp in a property due to smell, steamed up windows, watermarked walls/ceilings or flaky plaster. Careful around sly sellers, who could have repainted recently. It might look fresh and new but it could be used to cover up damp.
There’s a good chance your mortgage lender will hold back the repair cost and reimburse you after the issue has been resolved, resulting in more up-front costs for you’re already stretched budget.
Of course, all this sleuthing and scheming is going to make you feel like you’re duelling with the seller. To be fair, you need to do what you’ve got to do to get a better perspective, but you should also be friendly and courteous. Sellers will often choose buyers based on how much they like them personally – sometimes even accepting a lower offer. You catch more flies with honey, you know.
You need to make sure you take your time. Remember, this is probably the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make. The average time a buyer spends viewing homes before putting in an offer is just 96 minutes, 43 minutes less than people typically spend deciding where to go on holiday or what computer to buy. Take your time, visit multiple times and be thorough. As the ancient expression goes, ‘Fools rush in and dissatisfied buyers didn’t ask if the toilet flushes’.