Key Decisions: Finding Your New Home

Two key questions to start finding a new home …

"How much can I afford?"

"Where do I want to live?"

These are the two most important questions that determine most people’s property search. There are other factors to consider …

How long do you intend to stay in your new home? A lot can happen in the space of a couple of years. For instance, that first-floor two-bed conversion flat may be ideal now, but are you going to be able to manage the stairs with a buggy? Or if you are at a more mature time of life, will you still be able to manage all those stairs with a walking stick?

Will it be easy to sell when you want to move? The home you are thinking of buying may be right for you, but will you be left with a difficult-to-sell home when it’s time for you to move?

Is it the right time for you to be buying? House prices go up as well as down, and judging the right place in the market can be a fool’s errand. For example, in July 2017 the BBC was saying that the UK housing stock was at its lowest level for 40 years, while The Sun maintained that a slump was underway. The result is that only you know when it’s the right time to buy, as it’s an intensely personal decision.

Stop and think: you’ve found a dream home – but whose dream is it?

Sometimes a property gives you a wonderful first impression. After the first viewing, you walk away still thinking about that huge garden, the walk-in shower and state-of-the-art kitchen.

When we think we’ve found our ideal home, it’s all too easy to gloss over the negatives (or not even consider whether there might be any negatives).

The surveyor will make sure the building is structurally sound and a good solicitor will take care of the legal side. However, this still leaves plenty of things for you to be mulling over. It is astounding how often people buy a house or flat, go through the not inconsiderable expense and inconvenience of buying it and moving in, before realising they’ve made a mistake.

Location, location and … er … location?

That idyllic location becomes less attractive if you’re going to begrudge the half-hour drive to the nearest supermarket.

Having shops and restaurants on your doorstep loses its appeal if you’re still in bed when the delivery lorries roll up each morning.

Formal enquiries will reveal issues such as risk of flooding, subsidence, access and potential developments on neighbouring sites – so expect to be asked to think carefully about any issues that arise.

At the same time, there are lots of practical points to consider. Many people would no doubt enjoy living in this basement flat/converted barn/suburban semi with all of the practical and lifestyle implications that come with it. Are you one of those people?

Think carefully before committing to buying a home …

Hasty decision-making when buying your home makes for unhappy homeowners. So when you’re on the verge of putting in an offer to buy a home, ask yourself two questions:

  • Have I considered all the potential negatives concerned with this property?
  • Can I live with those negatives?

And here are some more points to think about:

  • Measuring the floor space: this is particularly important if you’re viewing an empty property where it can sometimes be difficult to visualise how the space will be used. Don’t be afraid to bring (and use) a tape measure.
  • How much work is actually involved before you can move in? Does renovation mean a few weekends of painting – or is it going to involve major work? Your surveyor will highlight structural issues, but in the meantime it’s also worth making enquiries with local tradesmen.
  • Check the locality. Just how long does that “5 minute walk to station” really take? What station does it get you in at, and how much is the season ticket? If you’re paying a premium for a certain school catchment area, are you still likely to face hurdles in getting your children in? It’s worth checking with the school and local authority.
  • How much council tax are you going to have to pay? The VOA website gives council tax bandings for every area in England and Wales.
  • If it’s a leasehold property, how much time is left on the lease? When it comes to resale, is extension of the term going to be desirable and how much is that likely to cost?
  • Is this really a place I want to live? The Office for National Statistics website is a useful source of information on a number of topics including crime, health, housing and population growth in each area of the country. It’s also worth checking the local authority’s website and ‘what’s on’ guides for a general feel for the area. The Environment Agency’s site is useful for specific issues,
    such as flooding risks.
  • Explain clearly your requirements. There’s no point wasting your time (or anyone else’s) on looking at homes in the wrong price bracket or the wrong area.
  • Give feedback on properties you view (what you liked or didn’t like). That way, you can focus your search.
  • Give correct information. Be honest about where you are with your chain and with your mortgage application. If you leave things out or are vague, it will be hard for the seller to take you seriously.

Estate agents: how far can you trust them?

Remember, as a buyer at least, you do not ‘have’ an estate agent. It’s the estate agent’s job to present a property in the best possible light – and to get the highest price possible on behalf of his client – i.e. the seller. This, in turn, usually increases his commission – depending on the deal he has with the seller.

It’s fair to say estate agents don’t enjoy the best reputation in the world. We all know the stereotype of the ultra-slick estate agent weaving his magic in a world where a shoebox-sized bed-sit is a ‘luxury self-contained apartment’, where ‘cosy’ means tiny, and where a major construction project ‘may need some work’.

There may be more than a grain of truth in that stereotype – but the fact remains that a good estate agent can play an important part in ensuring the property purchase runs smoothly. So far as you’re concerned, a ‘good’ estate agent is one who shows you the properties on his books that match your profile, someone who’s able to arrange viewings at a time that’s convenient for you, and someone who’s on hand to answer your specific questions.

The estate agent is NOT your advisor.

Always bear in mind when looking for a new home

There is no ‘RRP’ on property!

A home is ‘worth’ however much someone is willing to pay for it at any given time. Don’t be talked out of putting forward what you consider to be a sensible lower offer on the basis the estate agent has said the seller is ‘unlikely to budge’.

Remember, it’s your money, and the estate agent will try and secure the fastest sale and the biggest commission for themselves. While you are trying to get the best home for the smallest price.

Hopefully the two will coincide and everyone will be happy!


Previous post: Step 1 – First things first: The finances

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Cunningtons LLP in Great Square and Tofts Walk in Braintree, Essex, is the head office for Cunningtons Solicitors across the UK. Established in 1748, the Braintree head office in Great Square is still in its original offices. This amounts to almost 300 years of Experience and Tradition.

The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

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