Should you search for a property with your head or your heart?

POSTED: 21st August 2015
IN: Personal Guides

It’s important for house hunters to use their head as well as heart before making a decision. Here are seven things to consider before putting in an offer.

On average, homebuyers spend just over 25 minutes viewing a property before deciding whether it’s right for their needs. However, government research shows that one in five first-time buyers regret their choice of house or flat.

Looking for a new home can be a difficult process and, for many buyers, it can be tempting to ‘panic-purchase’ the first property that meets the criteria in case it’s snapped up by another buyer or will be the only property that comes on the market in the right price range.

Likewise, sensible property acquisition almost always comes with some level of compromise, which buyers need to remember if they’re to find a good property without paying over the odds or stretching the budget too far. It helps to be clear on where this can be accommodated before starting the search, including identifying the ideal search area, plus where it could be extended if necessary and being realistic about the size of property needed. Many homebuyers start off their search with a clear idea of qualities that the ‘dream’ home would have and, while it’s always good to be clear on these, failing to prioritise or adjust these during the actual search could result in ruling out great properties for no good reason.  

Here are seven things to consider before placing an offer on a property.

1.   Look past superficial details

Whether the heart’s set on period features or modern move-in condition, it’s easy for buyers to find themselves caught up on superficial details in the midst of a property hunt. However, it is wise to look past such features as they could cloud judgment and do often command a premium. 

Through the years, there’s been a great deal of research revealing what buyers are prepared to pay a little extra for, revealing some surprising statistics, including that:

  • Seven out of 10 people in the UK would consider paying more for a property that has a wildlife-friendly garden
  • Being located within an area that has a ‘Waitrose’ supermarket adds around 12 per cent - or nearly £40,000 - onto the cost of a property. This is known as ‘The Waitrose Effect’
  • A tidy garden can add 20 per cent onto the value of a property
  • One in 14 people pay a premium for a property with a name rather than a number. A house name can add between 0.5-5 per cent in value, according to estimates
  • A working fireplace can add up to £10,000 onto a property’s value.

While it’s not necessary to dismiss all superficial details, the most important thing for buyers is that the property suits them for their everyday needs and their own belongings. Instead of looking for scuffs in the paintwork, buyers would be better placed checking for underlying problems such as mould or damp, which can often be disguised with a fresh coat of paint and well-placed furnishings. When viewing property, take the time to look behind curtains and sofas to look for potential obvious issues.

2.   Conduct a home health check

It is important that potential buyers seek the support of a chartered surveyor when deciding whether to purchase a property, depending on the type of property involved.

New build properties don’t usually require input from a surveyor as the house builder will provide a building guarantee. For older homes, however, there are various levels of survey available – the one you opt for should be determined based on the age and condition of the property at the time of purchase. The surveyor will assess the quality of the building and ensure there are no hidden issues that could cause problems in the future.

3.   Visit at different times of the day

There may be factors which affect the surrounding environment of the property. Buyers could soon discover that neighbours are noisy in the evenings or that shoppers will block their driveway at weekends. By visiting the property at different times of the day, or visiting the area repeatedly during a week, buyers can improve their knowledge of the local area.

4.   Is the property going to provide a long term investment?

Before making an offer, buyers should check the property’s historical sales data to see how the price of the property has risen over the years. This can provide an insight into how quickly the property’s value has or has not increased. Property search engine, Zoopla, has a vast collection of data available online for checking such things.

Buyers should also perform a quick internet search of the area before putting in an offer and pay close attention to the local searches that are conducted during the purchasing period. Although the building itself may seem perfect, it could be located in an area that is likely to undergo a lot of change over the coming years and this can influence value dramatically.                                                                                   

There are a number of reasons why a property is unlikely - or indeed more likely - to benefit from growth and this can have a big impact on the overall outcome of a long term investment.

5.   Is the property affordable?

It is always tempting to stretch a little past the budget when looking for a new home, but it is worth staying realistic about affordability.

Although mortgage providers are likely to have strict lending criteria to ensure they’re offering mortgages to those who can afford repayments, it’s crucial that buyers also conduct affordability checks of their own. By taking a close look at their monthly expenditure, potential home owners can ensure they will be able to gradually repay their mortgage without any problems. 

But it’s not just keeping up with the mortgage payments that need to be considered here. Before stretching the budget, buyers should consider additional costs of moving in, including how much it will cost to furnish to a liveable standard.

6.   Have associated fees been calculated?

More than half (55 per cent) of first time buyers found the additional expenses associated with purchasing a home to be more than they expected. As a result prospective home owners must think about more than just the property’s price and their monthly repayments. They should also take the following into account:

  • Solicitor fees
  • Land registry fees
  • Surveyor costs
  • Stamp duty
  • Moving expenses
  • Building insurance
  • Council Tax Banding
  • Water rates vs water meter
  • Mortgage completion fees
  • Estate agent fees (only applicable for home movers)


7.   Is the property energy efficient?

In 2013, government research revealed that improving a home’s energy efficiency rating could add more than £16,000 to its value. With energy efficient properties having the potential to keep electricity and gas costs down, it’s increasingly important for buyers to look at the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before making an offer. The property will be rated from A to G, with A-rated properties being the most energy efficient.

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