I think on average people spend about 15 minutes in total looking around a house before buying it. Considering that for most it means a financial burden being placed over them for the next twenty five years or so, those fifteen minutes are crucial.
It's not only what you can afford, but what suits you and what you want from a house.
Despite the Lad initially being reluctant to look around houses that weren't really 'ideal' for us, I've finally swayed him to see the benefit of looking around houses for the hell of looking.
Some of you might think that we were time wasting, but by providing feedback when requested we were actually doing the vendors a favour and they might be able to sell quicker to another potential buyer after listening to what we have to say.
The key things we found were:
1. If the house is empty, try to envisage what it would look like with your current furniture in there.
If the house is still lived in, it might be easier to see how a sofa will fit in the living room or how a single fits snugly into the box room upstairs. A space might look huge to begin with, but once you get all your 'stuff' in there, you might find you have a problem. Likewise, the vendors might have so much stuff you can't really see the walls, but try to get a good gist of what the property 'could' look like if you had your basic furniture in it.
2. Signs that the property has been loved.
There are some people who will leave cereal bowls out when their property has it's brochure pictures taken and there are some people who will fit a new boiler to reach their asking price. It's not always the case, but those unloved properties might have more hidden problems than one where the owner has taken the time to present their home smartly or fix issues before marketing their property. In some cases you'll see where the owner has tried to improve their home and failed. Is it something you're prepared to take on? Is it fixable?
3. Why is the vendor selling?
Is it a divorce? Are they downsizing/looking for a family home? Is it a family member selling after a death? You might think that this shouldn't be a factor when deciding to buy a home, but sometimes you might get an answer like 'there are noisy youths next door' and those are the properties that, however lovely looking, might not be the ideal home you were hoping for. You should also always check out the state of the neighbours houses. We saw some great homes, but the neighbourhoods weren't the kind we were prepared to live in.
4. Signs of structural fault/drainage/damp/major issues
It's typical of properties to sometimes have hairline cracks along the edges of ceilings or walls, but check the outside too to see if there are any cracks that run from floor to roof - those are more often than not, major issues. There are also drainage issues and consequentially damp problems that can cost thousands to fix if it's found in the property you want. Ask the question about any issues and the Estate Agent should give you a reliable answer. You can always offer a lower price should there be a genuine issue and you're prepared to foot the bill, but if not - stay well clear.
5. List the things you would do to the property and total the costs
We have great plans such as a new bathroom, kitchen, knocking a wall down, etc for the property we intend to buy. Those things add up. Thankfully ours is currently liveable in, it's just a tad dated and we know we'll be living there for a good few years so we have time to update slowly if needs be, but if you chose a property that is not habitable to begin with, consider the extra costs on top of the initial fees to buy and make sure you can afford it.
6. Outside space
We want off road parking and some of the properties we've seen do have off road parking, but it's minimal and if we had guests (which I hope we will) there would be nowhere for them to park. We also want a decent sized garden for future potential pets to be able to roam about in. Don't compromise on that outside space - if it was important enough for you to include on your initial criteria list, then stick to it. Outside space is a premium and even if you gravel or astro turf everything, you'll still enjoy having your own piece of the outside when summer comes.
7. If you're buying with a partner find a property you are both happy with
To avoid future arguments consider what you want, but also what your other half wants too. Don't undermine one another - seriously, as mentioned before, this is a huge commitment and one that'll be with you for years to come.
I'm sure I can think of a load more things we picked up on over the past few weeks, but these are the top points we tried to keep in mind whenever we looked around a property. Please add your own points in the comments!
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