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Property Tips for Buyers
As an estate agent we represent the property seller (who pays for our services) but as an ethical business we seek to ensure that both parties, the seller and the property buyer, will be 100% satisfied with the agreement that they reach. Most sellers are also buyers and many buyers are also sellers so they should expect and receive honesty and integrity whichever hat they are wearing.
With this in mind we will seek honest answers from the seller and ensure that the buyer is fully in the picture. Most agents will do the same but in case you are buying from one of the few exceptions who does not readily volunteer these details here are some property tips for buying – it could make the difference between buying a dream and landing in a nightmare.
Length of ownership and Reason for Selling
How long has the owner lived there and why are they moving?
The reason for moving out after only a short period may be innocent but equally can set alarm bells ringing – maybe they’ve got noisy neighbours or have discovered that the local train station is about to close or that a gravel pit is opening nearby.
The seller doesn’t have to divulge a reason for selling but most are happy to do so.
As a buyer it is useful to know as it might give you a clue about when you will need to think about re-selling yourself. For example if you are a young couple buying your first home and the seller needs more space to accommodate a growing family it will give you a clue about the potential longevity of your stay.
What is and isn’t included
Establishing exactly what is or isn’t included in the sale should be clarified right at the start.
Internal features, fixtures and fittings, white goods, curtains, carpets etc. should all be identified as either included or excluded from the sale.
Similarly in the garden any plants, sheds, greenhouses etc. which the seller is proposing to remove should also be clearly identified.
Length of time on the market
Depending on the general state of the market properties can move quickly or sit around for some time. A good agent will always be able to give a confident and honest opinion on the average length of time they expect the average house to remain unsold. Any house that stays on the market beyond that average time may be over-priced, may have problems or may be in a bad location (on a “red route” for example).
Ask your agent for their opinion on why it hasn’t sold and if it’s a property that really appeals make an offer well below the asking price to gauge how desperate the seller is to sell.
Bear in mind however that you might have the same difficulty in getting a top of the market price when you come to sell.
One careful owner or many?
Just like a car which has had many owners over a relatively short period of time you need to be cautious when seeking to buy a property that has frequently changed hands. You may expect properties in some areas to have many owners – studios or l bed flats for example that appeal to first time buyers but for larger and more mature properties try to contact previous owners and find out why they moved out.
Query the asking price
A good agent will provide you with their justifications for the asking price. There is so much information about estimated values in the public domain now that you should be able to gauge how fair you think the value is compared to nearby homes for sale (or that have recently sold).
Don’t be afraid to ask whether the bottom line is negotiable. Obviously in a “buyer’s” market (i.e. one in which properties are not moving quickly) you will have a much better chance of negotiating a lower price than if there are a queue of buyers all madly keen to secure the property at any price.
Have offers been made and rejected?
The agent will normally tell you if there have been other offers, but not how much they were. If there have been no offers then depending on how long the property has been on the market you may be in a stronger position as a buyer to win the sale at a price well below the asking price.
Does the seller have to move out?
If the seller has already found another home they may be under pressure to sell by a certain date. As a buyer if you have no property to sell or can guarantee to have the finances available before that date you may be able to negotiate a reduction in the asking price.
If the seller hasn’t yet secured another home and you have to wait until they find somewhere else you could end up in a long chain that might fall through.
Check planning and building consents
If any building work, extensions, change of use etc. have been undertaken check that the relevant planning and building control consents exist. If not you may be at risk of having to pull down any unauthorised structures.
How old is the property?
A new or newish property will have a 10 year builders guarantee but not so for older properties where the upkeep is often more expensive. If the property is leasehold check the length of lease remaining – the longer the better. If the lease is shorter than you’d prefer investigate the options and cost of extending.
Once you buy you will need to have the funds to meet the recurring expenses so establish the amount of Council Tax, any Service Charges, average utility bills, parking charges (if you don’t have off-street parking), cost of upkeep if on a private road, frequency and cost of emptying the cess pit if you don’t have mains drainage etc.
The Energy Performance Certificate will provide a good idea of how energy efficient the property is but dig a little deeper than just accepting the rating it provides. Check whether there is loft insulation, wall cavity insulation, lagging round the boiler, heating in all rooms, the number of outside walls etc. If some or all exist check when they were installed.
A listed property – how lovely!
Owning a listed property brings certain bragging rights but can severely restrict what you can do outside and, in some cases, inside as well. Similarly if the property is in a conservation area you may find that certain restrictions apply. Even in unlisted buildings, particularly leasehold, there may be restrictions imposed (such as no external TV aerials for example) so you should always check carefully before buying.
Can I enjoy my sundowner on the terrace?
Sipping that pre dinner cocktail with the sun dipping over the horizon is a dream for many but shivering over an ice cold gin and tonic in the shade of a north facing patio doesn’t seem quite as appealing! Check the aspect of the property – if you are a morning person you might prefer to wake up in a south east facing bedroom, checking which way the rooms and gardens face is always a good idea. Also beware of overhanging trees from surrounding gardens or tall buildings that may block out the sun etc.
Things to inspect when viewing
Plumbing and Heating
Do the taps work (inside and outside if applicable) – does the water come through quickly and in a regular flow? Do the hot taps produce hot water, do the loos flush? Are there any dripping taps? Is there sign of water damage or hard water scale? Any sign of leaking radiators? Is the water hard or soft? Where is the stop cock – check that it hasn’t seized up? Is the water supply on a meter; is the input shared with neighbouring properties? Check whether the boiler and radiators have been regularly checked and maintained, ask whether there have been any problems or repairs needed.
Use your nose – often the smell of damp will linger even if a room has been redecorate in order to cover it up. Move the furniture and look under the rugs to identify any floor problems. If possible check the loft – this may indicate whether there is any problem with the roof.
Check the drains, guttering, missing roof tiles; look for any subsidence of paths or in the drive, also identify which of the boundaries are your responsibly and check how effectively they have been maintained.
Do you have noisy neighbours?
If the seller has lodged any complaints against their neighbours they legally have to tell you if you ask.
Check out the neighbourhood
Check the things that are important to you now and also anything that may become important in the future. For example transport links, schools, shops, bus routes, churches, cinemas, restaurants, recreation facilities, parks, doctors, dentists etc.
Getting Professional Help
For many people in highly pressured jobs, working long hours, or with no experience of the property market finding the time to search for the ideal property is just too time consuming. If you are such a person you may benefit from employing the services of a “property finding” agent to do the job for you. This won’t come without a charge but will cut out several hours if not days of effort and provide you with a short-cut to your ideal home. The agent will also undertake stringent due diligence and only present homes for your consideration that meet the appropriate requirements and tick all the right boxes.
If you would like more information on the above or are interested in selling, letting, renting, buying or need professional assistance with finding your ideal home please contact us at thehomecloud.xenacia.com