Written by: Cally Worden
Your property is probably the most expensive thing you will ever buy. Getting it right is essential, so it pays to take your time and consider your purchase from every angle. Here are some tips for what to look out for when you are buying a new home – some obvious, some less so. It’s very easy to let your heart rule your head when you’ve fallen in love with a property and overlook even the most simple of issues. But this is serious stuff and you need to keep your eye on the ball.
Check out the Area
You may already be familiar with the area where you are planning to buy, in which case you can skip this point. But, if you’re new to a place it is vital that you make sure it is the right area for you. Stroll around the place at different times of the day. Visit the parks, pubs and shops. Make a note of whether the homes, gardens, cars, play areas and other local facilities are well used and cared for. Or not. Is there graffiti around? Litter? Do you feel comfortable being out and about? If this is to be your home you want to be sure you fit in and feel safe and welcome. Check out Police crime mapping resources, chat with a local Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator to get some local knowledge on the area.
Assess the Schooling Options
This point may well be top of most parents’ lists. While there is no guarantee that buying a home in a certain area will always secure a place for your kids at your preferred school, it does place you in strong position. It’s worth bearing in mind though that although some schools have a good and long-standing reputation; it is possible for that to change over time, especially if there is a change of Head teacher. As well as looking at league tables and OfSted reports, talk to local parents for the low down on the schools in your chosen area; try to find out about any impending changes at the top. It is also worth visiting a school to see if you and your child likes the atmosphere and environment. Great results don’t always make for a cheery school.
Pump your Vendors for Info
Before you make an offer, ask your seller as many questions as you can about the property that may eventually be your home. They may not always answer honestly, but by getting lots of answers you can start to make a more accurate assessment of what you are letting yourself in for. You will be able to determine where they are being economical with the truth. No property is perfect, it’s up to you to decide what elements you are prepared to compromise on – you can only do that by arming yourself with information. The neighbour’s barking dog may be an issue for your sellers, but is something you could live with, for example.
Ask about why they are selling now, how long it’s been for sale, the number of viewings and offers they have had and if there are any issues a buyer should be aware of. Does the house have a history of crime associated with it? Are the appliances all safe to use? Has there ever been damp issues or subsidence? Has any structural work been done, and who by? And so on. The only silly question is the one you don’t ask.
View it More than Once
Seeing a property at different times of the day can be very revealing. Noise nuisance from neighbours may not be apparent during the working week. Different areas can have a very different feel at night than during the day. Rainy days are good to visit too – they allow you to see the property in the gloom and increase the likelihood of any damp or leakage issues becoming apparent.
Watch out for Hidden Problems
When you are viewing a property don’t be afraid to look in detail. Pictures and rugs may be hiding stains, or holes and cracks in the walls. Curtains or furniture can obscure damp patches. Plumbing problems may only become apparent if you flush the loo, turn on a tap, check in under-sink cupboards for signs of leaks. Take a look in the attic and assess the condition of the roof and wood work. Is it insulated? Ask to turn on appliances and the boiler to make sure they work. Wander into the garden and take a peek over the fence at your prospective neighbours’ homes and gardens – do they look well cared for?
Look Beyond the Property
To avoid nasty surprises suddenly appearing on your new doorstep, be sure to check out the latest planning applications that are live in your area. Is that view you are buying about to be developed into an estate or a wind farm? Does the next-door neighbour have plans to build an extension that will inhibit your view or access in some way? It could also pay you to check whether the home of your dreams is in a flood zone, or area that has been flagged as at risk of subsidence due to underground tunnels. You may still decide that you are content to buy a property with these issues, but forewarned is forearmed.