9 REASONS HOMEOWNERS ARE FORCED TO SELL THEIR HOUSE QUICKLY

There are times in a homeowner’s life when circumstances call for a quick house sale. Unfortunately, the property market rarely takes into account an individual’s situation. Selling property in the UK is notoriously unpredictable; and if time is of the essence, the process can be downright stressful.

But what kinds of situation would prompt a homeowner to put themselves through such a torrid experience? And why might an owner be willing to sell at a slightly reduced price? We’ve examined what is happening in the UK housing market right now, and we’ve discovered nine clear reasons why some people need to sell a property fast.

1. Problem Tenants

Whether you’re a buy-to-let landlord or someone who simply inherited a property, problem tenants can be the cause of untold stress and worry. Bad behaviour, poor hygiene standards or non-payment of rent are all issues that might eventually result in eviction – but the legal process involved can be long and laborious. If you simply want to get rid of the problem, selling the house quickly is a possible solution, although you’d need to be upfront about the issue with prospective buyers.

2. Retirement

Once a person decides to retire, there’s very little to be gained from waiting around. Often, retirees want to move somewhere warmer or more picturesque, and they don’t want to waste time negotiating an unpredictable property market. Selling their property quickly means a retiree can get on with the business of enjoying a life of leisure as soon as possible.

3. Downsizing

Downsizing involves the sale of a family home after the children have all flown the nest. A large property that once housed five or six people can become a very lonely, empty place when one or two people are left in it. A lot of retirees downsize to something smaller — and use the extra cash to pursue interests or to purchase property in a more expensive area.

4. Relocation for Employment

If a job offer is predicated on relocation to a completely different region of the country, a fast house sale is absolutely vital. In extreme cases, jobs have been lost because homeowners haven’t been able to find a house buyer in time. The faster you can sell your home, the faster you can relocate and take up that job you’ve been offered. But there’s also the matter of freeing up cash to consider. If you’re moving far away, you’ll need the proceeds of a house sale to buy a new property as quickly as possible.

5. Inheritance

The loss of a loved one is always a sad and stressful time, and people usually want to move on and continue the grieving process without having to deal with the various legal issues. If you have inherited property as a result of your loss, you have the added burden of dealing with it — which can be exacerbated if you’re sharing with other beneficiaries. Selling a house quickly in these circumstances can stop arguments and let everyone involved move on.

6. The Breakdown of a Relationship

When a relationship breaks down, sorting through the legal issues — including home ownership — simply adds to the distress. It is only natural that both parties want to get things settled and move on with their life as quickly as possible, but delays on the property market can keep people locked together for longer than necessary. Selling a house quickly eases the pressure and ensures divorce or legal separation can conclude as amicably as possible.

7. Sudden Job Loss

There are many consequences associated with the sudden loss of a job, and missed mortgage payments is one of the most serious. There’s also the issue of living expenses to consider, which might be way above what your new income can cover. Selling a house quickly can help you to cover bills and living expenses until you’re back on your feet. You may also be able to downsize your home to something more affordable.

8. Prohibitive Renovation and Repair Costs

Whether you’ve bought a fixer-upper or your home has gradually fallen into a state of disrepair, the costs of putting things right can be prohibitive. Whether you simply don’t have the cash or you can’t be bothered with the hassle, securing a fast house sale hands the problem (and the expense) to someone else. You can then use the proceeds of the sale to buy a home that is ready to move into.

9. Repossession

Once that initial letter from a mortgage lender lands on the doormat, the homeowner is in a race against time. If a suitable repayment agreement can’t be agreed, repossession proceedings in the courts can begin quickly. And if the property is repossessed, the owners not only faces a bill for any shortfall, they face the prospect of a severely damaged credit rating. But selling the property quickly can stop the repossession process in its tracks — as long as the sale price covers the outstanding loan.

If you need to sell a house fast, there are alternatives to the open property market. Selling to a house buying company cuts out the marketing and viewing stages of the process — saving time and money.

SAVE MONEY ON YOUR LET PROPERTY INSURANCE

If you are a landlord, you probably spend a significant amount of your time trying to manage your costs downwards.

You may have opportunities to do so with your let property insurance as well.

Here are a few ideas that may help.  Do please remember that these are ideas in principle only.  They may not be specifically applicable to your current letting situation or your existing let property insurance.

You may wish to consider:

  • making sure you are using a specialist provider of landlord insurance. Some generalist providers may not have the experience and expertise in this sector that is required to produce specifically crafted policies that match your unique circumstances and at a cost-effective price;
  • ask your policy provider if they offer options to voluntarily increase the excess. That is the sum of money you will be obliged to pay towards the cost of any successful future claims.  In some cases, you may have the option to agree a higher excess amount and thereby see a lower premium in return;
  • look carefully at your existing let property insurance policy to see whether or not you are paying extra because of the tenant categories you let to. This can be a complex area.  Some policies may exclude entirely, certain categories of tenant such as asylum seekers, housing benefit recipients and students.  Others may cover them but only at the cost of a significantly increased premium.  Yet other policies might offer “any tenant” cover included as standard;
  • carefully review the cover levels you have specified for your contents. Though perhaps not common, it is far from unknown for some landlords to significantly over-estimate the total value of their possessions.  That might mean you are paying more to cover them than is justified;
  • in situations where your property is a mixed residential–commercial one, be certain that you have appropriate insurance in place. If your tenants are living in a flat above a shop and they are using the shop as an active going concern, you may need specific cover.  If the shop component is abandoned or simply not being used and your tenants are purely domestic, living in the flat above, you may need a different type of cover.  If you are paying for the most expensive financial and commercial cover but not using it, you may save money by changing;
  • try to avoid making relatively minor claims on your policy. This, of course, needs to be a medium-term strategy and won’t save you money overnight but keep in mind that your no-claims discount is likely to be worth a significant sum of money to you.  If that sum is higher than the value of a small claim, it might be sensible to pay the claim out of your own pocket and retain your no-claims discount.

Finally, remember to use your let property insurance provider. Ask them for other ideas about ways in which you might be able to reduce your premium!

5 Principles of Property Investing

Following on from our previous article, these are another 5 principles of property investing

 

11. Invest in what you know – the right type of property

  • Buying Overseas, off plan & out of area – this is probably the biggest one that often hurts new investors. We learned this the hard way in our earlier investing days when I bought my flat in Bulgaria which only rented out for 2 weeks per year!

12. Buying on Emotion

  • How we, and many hundreds of thousands starting out, got suckered right in by those big, colourful, lifestyle brochures, new build and dreamy holiday homes. No. Not anymore. This, as we learned the hard way, is vanity. It’s emotional buying. Perhaps you can relate?
  • You see, talk like the above can get you in financial trouble quickly. We know, it’s easy to get carried away.
  • Yes, you will miss a few ‘deals’ on the way up, the more detached you are which is fine. But the more you stick to your buying rules and the fundamentals, the better cashflowing investor you will be. And if you can’t get the deal, at the price you want, then move on. There will be other deals. It’s a skill to think with logic…not your emotions

13. Match your target rental audience

  • It is crucial to remember that an ideal BTL property is not necessarily the same as your own idea of an ideal home – rather, an ideal BTL investment is one which matches your target rental audience – students, professionals, families, tenants on benefits, friends/family

14. Estimating Gross and net yields

  • And to stress test future spikes in interest rate rise
  • If the property does not pay you monthly to own it you are taking on a liability. You will need a day job to support the property in that case. If the property does pay you each month (after all operating expenses plus debt service then you can afford to own the property for a very long time. (In this sort of situation you are buying an income stream and not speculating on future appreciation.)
  • To make the cash flow work you might need to raise the amount of equity you put in.
  • Almost any rule of thumb, ratio or other measure lives in a context. Just because a lender asks for 125% -145% mortgage at 5.5% cover does not mean that is the right number for an investor to use. You need to understand the underlying details and you have to be prepared to change the indicators as the ground shifts. Just be careful about lowering standards to chase business rather than sit on the sidelines.

15. Leverage

  • If you have minimal capital of your own to invest, then leverage can help you (subject to status and availability). Leverage means using other people’s money to finance a significant percentage of your property investment.
  • Today, a typical deposit using leverage would be 20% to 30% of the property’s price. Stick to sensible loan to value ratios (50% to 70%) & do not over to under utilise leverage
  • Leverage is an excellent way for new property investors with limited capital and experienced investors who wish to expand their portfolios at a minimal cost

 

3 Tips to Help You Get Your Property Let Quickly

If you are in a rush to let your property fast, either because you have just completed on your purchase, or in between tenancies on existing property, then the most crucial aspect is to have the property quickly occupied by a paying tenant. Some property may take longer to let, but that will most likely be down to the market place or the condition of the property.

Breaks om letting out a property can cause anxiety and disrupt the schedules and income of property investors. If it means dropping the rent a little to get a tenant in then proceed to lower the rent. 1 month break at £500 will cover almost a year at £50 less a month. It’s much better to get the tenants in and then increase the rent slowly over time. But 2-3 months break will eat ALL NET Cashflow and eradicate far more than the benefit you may get of an above market rent.

Whatever the reason may be, here are 7 simple steps to help you get your property let quickly:

1) Ensure the property is listed on all the major online portals

Getting the most exposure of your property is crucial if you want to let the property fast. These portals will help generate more views. Over 90% of tenants now start searching for their next property online. Getting the property on sites like www.propertypropertyproperty.co.uk and many other UK property portals will help generate as many tenant enquiries as possible, perfect for getting your rental property off to a good start. You will also be in a better position to drum up the competition on your group viewings, thereby increasing the rent & getting the unit let quicker.

2) Ensure the property is clean

This is probably one of the most simplest, yet most effective tips, but one of the quickest ways to let the property fast is to ensure it’s clean and tidy when potential tenants come to view it. A grimy property will only put off potential tenants, so it important to ensure your property is clean but also clutter-free. If there is any clutter, make sure you tidy this before you show any prospective tenants, as the property will otherwise look small and dingy. Any ‘stuff’ you have lying around won’t help tenants visualise themselves living there during the viewing and will put them off from making an offer.

 

The best advice is to keep things minimum and remove any offensive or personal belongings as it will entice fasters offers which will increase your bottom line. Presenting a property well will also help a lot, you need to make it feel as warm and homey as possible. If you need help with this bring someone in who knows how to get it looking right like I had to (different side of the brain!).

4) Get some professional photos done

Photos are vital if you need to find tenants. Too few might suggest you have something to hide, which can be off-putting. So always ensure you have clear and bright photographs taken of the rooms/property you want to show off. This can either make or break you letting your property. If potential tenants can’t get any idea of the property in the first place, they are unlikely to get in touch for viewings. Most letting agents will ensure their staff are trained to take attractive photographs of the exterior and interior rooms and display several on their website and all portals. But here are a few things to think about whether you’re instructing an agent or not:

  • Use a good-quality camera
  • Turn on the lights in any dark places
  • Take photos during the day in natural light
  • Remove distracting items from the shot, such as rubbish or building materials, and don’t show your reflection in any mirrors

Your listing should have around six-to-eight photos paying close attention to the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, lounge & the outside.

5) Allow pets

Although this isn’t a popular option with property investors, your property will likely stand out from the majority of other properties which simply state ‘no-pets’. Although we have a growing population of pet owners, a recent study conducted found that nearly 50% of landlords would not take any tenants with pets. So how can you stand out & let your property quicker? You might suggest that although they can have a pet, they will need a bigger deposit and a clause in the AST stating the property must be professionally cleaned when they vacate to ensure all smells and any infestation is completely removed.

5) Redecorate between tenancies

Refreshing the decor between the incoming new tenants and the old ones leaving will make the place feel brand new. This relatively cheap and easy fix with powerful colour combinations will make a tremendous impact and improve the standards by securing higher rent and minimising breaks.

Other tips might include:

  • Having good floor plans
  • Having a thorough property description
  • Setting a competitive rent
  • Having a high speed internet provider
  • Being flexible with viewing times

 

7 tips on how to invest in a buy-to-let property

1. Find more ways to borrow

You may find that it is going to be harder to borrow money in traditional ways these last few years, so when there is a commercial property deal you are keen to take advantage of, you may have to find more ways to borrow. Banks are likely to be less lenient with lending funds, but we predict that there will be more private financers, crowdfunding opportunities and other such methods of raising funds growing in popularity. Remember, even during tougher years, money doesn’t simply evaporate!

2. Embrace technology more

More buy to let property investors are running their entire portfolios from their smartphones, so if you don’t already, embrace technology more. The amount of apps to make your life easier is growing by the day, so take advantage of or investigate Rightmove, Zoopla, Property Property Property and much more are out there for your use. Don’t limit your portfolio or your advertising to just face-to-face or estate agents.

3. Don’t worry about Brexit

Don’t fear Brexit when it comes to investing. The UK economy is the fastest-growing in the world and will continue to grow. As the government are introducing new laws and regulations take advantage of the ones that benefit you now and later.

4. Serviced accommodation

The buy-to-let property market is changing, being shaken up and disrupted. One of the biggest recent changes is the advent of websites such as Airbnb and more investors looking to investigate providing serviced accommodation. Bridging the gap between living accommodation and hotel stays, serviced accommodation is a growing market take advantage of it!

5. Limited company

We are looking at a year of buy-to-let property tax changes. Clause 24 has began phasing through 2017, and will eventually require landlords to pay full tax to the basic rate (20%) on rental income. This controversial development will see landlords seeking ways to reduce the tax they pay – so many will consider becoming a LTD company. While this will not be the answer for everyone, this will be particularly appealing to landlords wishing to reinvest their profits, due to the cumulative build of the money saved in tax over time.

6. New developments

Another change suggested in the Housing White Paper 2017 is that there may be imposed density requirements for new properties being built. For this reason, think carefully about how to use space to your best advantage in new developments.

7. Educate yourself

Educate yourself more! If you haven’t already, join a buy-to-let property network, attend networking events and property meets, read, listen to podcasts and audiobooks, watch more videos. You cannot inform yourself “too much”, so take advantage of all the free material available. For those wishing to take their knowledge to the next level, whatever stage you have already reached, Progressive Property offers everything from day events, through to intensive courses, and up to direct mentoring.

 

Is buying to let still a thing in 2018?

A three per cent stamp duty surcharge and a change in tax regulation are factors future landlords will have to consider.

Talk to a seasoned landlord and the chances are that they will moan about the good old days before George Osborne added higher stamp duty on second homes and withdrew higher rate tax relief on mortgage and finance interest.

Few experts are predicting a buy-to-let bonanza in 2018. “The changes in taxation and other rising costs of home ownership are not making it easy to be a landlord,” admits Kate Eales, Head of Lettings at Strutt & Parker. But where Eales does expect to see growth is in so-called build to rent (BTR) properties. This is an emerging sub-market within private residential rented stock, designed specifically for renting rather than for sale and typically owned by investors. In fact, Strutt & Parker’s analysts believe that the UK is ‘on the brink of a large-scale commercially developed, owned and operated BTR sector’.

 

For more traditional landlords, with a portfolio of older properties, this year has been frustrating following recent tax changes. But if profit margins are tight, that does not necessarily mean that the buy-to-let game is not worth considering.

The great thing about the buy-to-let sector is its adaptability. If some landlords fall by the wayside, others learn how to weather the bad times and cash in during the good times. And if the 2016 tax changes were a jolt to the system, there is evidence that the buy-to-let sector has absorbed the shock and is starting, albeit slowly, to bounce back.

“Rental values in prime central London fell by 2.5 per cent in the year to October,” says Tom Bill, Head of London Residential at Knight Frank. “We now expect rental values in London as a whole to move from broadly negative to flat in the near term. It looks as if the large spike in new stock that followed the additional rates of stamp duty introduced in April 2016 has been largely absorbed by the market.”

 

Another factor keeping rents high enough to attract would-be landlords, is the shortage of supply. Paradoxically, because some landlords were discouraged by the 2016 tax changes and slimmed down their portfolios, the ones who have held their nerve have realised that their properties can still command decent rents with demand remaining strong.

The key thing, as always, in the buy-to-let sector is to research the market properly. Asking rents in the capital fell by 3.2 per cent in the year to June 2017, but rose by 1.7 per cent in England and Wales as a whole, according to Savills figures. ‘‘The rental outlook is strongest in regional cities that attract investors from high value sectors such as professional services, technology and finance,” says Lawrence Bowles, Research Associate at Savills. Cities such as Edinburgh, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge all seem to tick the right boxes.

You would have to be very clever, or very lucky, to make a killing in the UK buy-to-let sector in the near future. However, property has always been a long game for those prepared to do their research, budget carefully and become hands-on landlords. There are still interesting times ahead for savvy investors.

 


9 of PropertyPropertyProperty.co.uk’s tips for renting a property

The lettings sector of the UK property market has grown dramatically over the past decade and the growth is predicted to continue.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 36% of households in England and Wales were rented rather than owner-occupied in 2011.

 

Being a tenant is widely accepted as a viable alternative to home ownership, particularly among those who may not yet be willing or able to consider buying a permanent home.

 

Renting a property should be an enjoyable experience and for those who are new to the process this renting guide from propertypropertyproperty.co.uk will explain what to look out for with these nine renting property tips.

1. Preparing your finances

Decide how much you can reasonably afford to pay in rent each month. Consider your general costs of living and the fact that you will be paying Council Tax as well as fuel bills, contents insurance, TV licence and broadband. In addition, you will need to budget at least six weeks’ rent as the amount to be put down as security deposit for the length of the tenancy.

2. Finding a suitable property to rent

Search propertypropertyproperty.co.uk for properties in areas that you want to live in. You’ll be able to filter the results by the amount of rent and the accommodation so that you can create a shortlist of potentials to go and look at. Remember that the rental market is usually fast-moving and that good properties in popular areas don’t stay on the market for very long. If you see something that may suit your needs, get your skates on and quickly go and see it. Get in touch with local letting agents (you’ll find many of them on Propertypropertyproperty.co.uk) and register to receive alerts when new places come available. Many letting agents belong to industry bodies such as the ARLA Property mark (formally the Association of Residential Lettings Agents) or the National Approved Letting Scheme (NALS). This can provide some peace of mind to tenants that they will be dealt with in a professional manner.

3. Asking questions

When you find a property that you would like to rent, you will most probably have read about it online or in an agent’s printed details. You will have seen only basic information, so if there is anything that is unclear or not stated don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, check who is responsible for maintaining the garden, and whether there are any restrictions concerning pets or smoking in the premises. If you clear such questions at the earliest stage you won’t waste money applying to rent an unsuitable property. Don’t hesitate to ask the letting agent for a list of all the charges that you may incur throughout the process of applying to rent the property.

4. The tenancy agreement

Assuming you pass the checks and referencing process, the agent will draw up an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (see the Propertypropertyproperty.co.uk “Jargon buster”) for signing by you and the landlord. Read the agreement very carefully before signing and if you are unsure of anything don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. The tenancy agreement is a legal document and binds you and the landlord to the terms within it. Make sure they are in accordance with your understanding.

5. The deposit

You will be required to pay a security deposit that will be held by the agent on behalf of the landlord for the duration of the tenancy. Its purpose is to provide the landlord with compensation if you damage the property or its contents. Fair wear and tear is excluded from these dilapidations (see the Propertypropertyproperty.co.uk “Jargon buster”). All deposits in assured shorthold tenancies must be registered with one of the government-approved tenancy deposit schemes that guarantees no-one can run off with the money. The deposit scheme will also provide a dispute resolution service if, at the end of the tenancy, you cannot agree the amount charged by the landlord or their agent for the dilapidations.

TDS has launched a Code of Recommended Practice. This Code of Practice sets out the recommended requirements which letting agents and landlords should meet as members of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme.

6. Inventories

Even if the property is being let unfurnished, it is really important to have a properly prepared and comprehensively detailed inventory, which is carefully reviewed and signed by tenant and landlord. It will list any existing faults in the property such as areas of damaged decoration, marks on carpets or chips in bath enamel. This ensures that when the dilapidations are assessed at the end of the tenancy you will not be charged for those that were in the property when you took it over. A good inventory will include photographs of such faults.

7. Paying the rent

You will probably be paying the monthly rent by standing order to the landlord or their agent. Always ensure that rent is paid on time and in full. Non-payment of rent is a serious matter that can end up in court. If there is any problem with the property, do not withhold payment of the rent. Such an action is guaranteed to make resolution all the more difficult and puts you in breach of the terms of the tenancy agreement. It can also show up in future referencing checks and might cause problems if you come to rent another property.

8. At the end of the tenancy

When the tenancy period is nearing its end, you can ask if the landlord will agree to renew the tenancy (the amount of the rent may change and there may be some administration charges to pay) or you can leave the property. Arrange to move out by the agreed time on the agreed day. Make sure the property is clean and tidy and in at least the same condition as when you moved in. On the moving day, the inventory should be checked at the property by the landlord or their agent, with you in attendance, and it should be signed off by you as correct before you vacate.

 

Take a note of the meter readings for gas and electricity and apply for final billing. Don’t forget to arrange with Royal Mail to redirect mail to your new address (ensure the redirection is specifically for mail in your name).

9. Repaying your deposit

Shortly after you move out, you will receive an account from the landlord or their agent detailing the charges for dilapidations, if any, that you agreed when the inventory was reviewed during the check-out. Providing you agree the amounts, the balance of your deposit should be returned without delay.

N.B. Scotland has specific rules governing rental property. For example, landlords must register with the local council. Properties must be kept in good condition, to what is known as the “Repairing Standard”, and a tenant can apply to a Private Rented Housing Panel if a landlord fails to carry out essential repairs. The PRHP will also deal with rent disputes. In Scotland, agents are not allowed to charge administration fees to tenants.

 


How to get to the front of the buyers’ queue

Many of the best houses and flats are sold before they even reach the market. Even if it is on the market, you need to ensure you are more attractive to sellers than other buyers. Follow these top tips so other people don’t keep getting there before you

Develop a good relationship with estate agents

 The more you get them on your side, the more they will help you:

  • They may give you forewarning of great properties that are about to come onto the market
  • Some properties are only marketed quietly to buyers the agents trust. This can happen when sellers are divorcing and the sale of the home is a sensitive issue, or a property developer wants to discreetly liquidate stock
  • Top end properties are often sold off market. They don’t want the curious snooping around

Leaflet the area you want to live in

If you know exactly which area or street(s) you want to live in, and there aren’t many properties on sale, then consider leafleting it

  • Put notes through people’s letterboxes telling them about yourself and asking if they intend to sell. Many people spend years thinking about selling, and you might prompt them to take the plunge
  • The seller may not want to put their house on the open market in order to avoid estate agency fees. Direct sales incur no such costs

Ask friends and family

Turn them into your army of property scouts – most people like the thrill of the chase

  • Tell everybody you know that you are looking to buy and ask them to keep their eyes peeled and their ears open for any suitable properties
  • Often you will hear through word of mouth that a suitable property is, or will soon be, for sale

Approach absentee landlords

 Absentee landlords, particularly of empty properties, often simply haven’t got around to selling, and so you can make the decision easier for them

  • If you find an empty rental flat or house that you like the look of, put in an offer – especially if it has been empty for a long time
  • The further away the landlord lives, the more likely you are to get a good deal

Knock on doors

If you have really narrowed down the area you want to buy in, consider just asking door to door:

  • It may be awkward, but you could strike gold. It is far more diplomatic to say you are looking to move into the area, and asking if they know any properties that are likely to come onto the market soon
  • Go on a weekend, when more people are at home
  • Prepare for rejection
  • Take along cards/notes with your contact details on

Prepare your finances before hand 

When a hot property comes on the market, the sellers are far more likely to go for a buyer who is in good financial shape:

  • Cash buyers, or those with mortgages in principle, will often be preferred to those who still have to scramble to get the money together. They will be seen as less risky
  • Admitting you haven’t even talked to anyone about a mortgage will not instil confidence you are serious

 

Things to not forget when viewing a property

Would you spend just 20 minutes viewing a property that is going to be your home for many years? Some buyers do – and live to regret it. Don’t remember the things you should have looked for after you have left

1. Is there damp?

The main giveaway signs are a mouldy smell, flaky plaster, and watermarked walls or ceilings. It sounds obvious, but make sure you look closely near the ceiling and around the skirting boards. Another clue might be if the room has just been repainted – possibly covering any damp

2. Is the building structurally sound?

If the house looks and feels solid and structurally sound you may not need a surveyor at all. Big cracks are what you are looking for – you should expect some hairline cracks. Look especially around where extensions join, end-of-terrace walls, and bay windows, all of which can start to fall or bow away from the rest of the house. But you can only look for what you know; a chartered surveyor with years of experience is trained to spot risks and know what needs attention.

3. How much storage space is there?

Storage space is a valuable but often overlooked asset. Where will you keep your vacuum cleaner, towels, spare linen, and boxes of junk? Is there room for cupboards or shelves to be built in? Especially in newly built houses, storage space can be scarce.

4. Which way does the house face?

In winter, during a cloudy day or at night, it is difficult to tell the difference between a north and south facing house or garden – but in summer it can make the difference between a home that is full of light and warmth, and one that is frustratingly dark. Your favourite plants might notice too, and protest by dying. Don’t be shy about taking a compass with you to the viewing – you might have one on your phone. With bi-fold doors all the rage, be aware that in moments of sunshine the solar gain can make the room unbearably warm, so try to visit and spend some time in that room when the suns out.

5. Are the rooms big enough for your needs?

We’ve heard off new build home developers putting smaller furniture in rooms to make them seem bigger. Be warned! Assuming you won’t be buying all new furniture as soon as you move in, will your existing furniture fit?

 

6. Have you been fooled by staging?

Cleverly placed mirrors, strategic lighting, delicious smells, cosy fires, and fresh licks of paint are all tricks sellers use to make their home more appealing. It’s nice to feel you can move straight in without having to do a thing, but try to remain objective. And if their furnishing make the space, take photos and ask what they are leaving behind. Perfect light fittings, for example, can take an age to find and replace!

7. Do the window frames have cracking paint? Is the double-glazing intact?

The state of the external window frames is a great indicator of the state of the house – if people have invested in and looked after those, they are likely to have taken great care of the rest. If you can easily push your finger into wooden window frame, they are usually rotten. If there is condensation between double-glazed window-panes it means that they are faulty. New windows need to be installed by a registered approved inspector so you should get a FENSA or similar certificate, which often come with guarantees. Ask if this is the case.

8. How old is the roof?

Replacing roofs is an expensive business, and newer roofs have a life expectancy of only 15-20 years, depending on the materials

Also, if the property has a flat or nearly flat roof, check out the material with which it sealed. Nowadays a membrane is used and is better than asphalt and gravel, which can leave seams and edges unsealed

9. Are there enough power points and what condition are they in?

Dodgy wiring can be dangerous, and rewiring your new home can be an expensive business. Also check out the fuse board – often an indication of the state of the wiring but a survey will confirm if it needs replacing. Having enough plug points is apparently a big selling point in our increasingly gadget driven world so worth taking note on the way round.

10. Is the plumbing up to scratch?

Run the taps to check the water pressure. Ask if the pipes are insulated, and ensure they are not lead which would have to be replaced. Do the radiators actually work? How old is the boiler? If the hot water tank is situated in the roof it is probably an old one, and may have to be replaced soon

11. Is the property adequately sound-proofed?

If the sellers have the radio or television on ask for it to be turned down to ensure that you can’t hear your neighbours’ every word.

12. What’s the attic like?

People often ignore the attic, but it is an important part of the house. How easy is it to access? Is there much storage space? Could it be converted into extra rooms? Is there insulation? The latter can make a huge difference to your bills and general comfort in winter.

13. What’s the neighbourhood like?

 

This is always good to know so that you are prepared for any disruptions, delays and issues that may commonly arise in the neighbourhood.

  • Are you near a pub or bar or kebab shop that becomes rowdy in the evening?
  • Can you walk to shops to get a pint of milk, or do you have to drive?
  • Is it easy to get to public transport?
  • Are there noisy roads or train tracks nearby?
  • Are you underneath a flight path?
  • Is there a local dump in smelling distance?
  • Are you near a school that makes it impossible to get out of your drive at school run time?

And most importantly, does it feel like you could make it your home?

If you do like a property, arrange another viewing for a different time of day, and scout out the local neighbourhood a bit more. If you can, take somebody with you who might be able to notice things you don’t.

 

Questions to ask the estate agent when buying a property

Buying a home is a often referenced to a game of poker, with very high stakes, and huge incentives to bluff and avoid inconvenient facts. However estate agents are legally bound to tell the truth, so you need to make sure you ask the right questions to find out what the real situation is. It could make the difference between buying a dream home and buying a dud – and save you a fortune

  1. 1.     Why is the owner selling?

The estate agent doesn’t have to answer, but if you’re lucky they might hint at the circumstances. You might find out the owner is desperate to sell, perhaps because work is taking them overseas, and so would accept a lower price

  1. 2.     Is there anything that you would want to know about the house if you were buying?

The big fear if you are buying is that you are missing out some big negative factor that others know about. Is the local train station is about to close, a nearby sewerage plant opening up, or the next door neighbours the family from hell? People have been known to move into the homes of convicted mass-murderers without knowing – but you can bet they wish they had known. If you have any doubts about a house, ask next door neighbours or local shop keepers what they think.

  1. 3.     Exactly what is included in the sale?

Is the garden shed or greenhouse included? Are the fixtures and fittings? Exactly where does the boundary lie? Make sure you see all of what you are getting. It is not unknown for most of the contents to be included in the sale

  1. 4.     How long has the property been on the market?

If the house has been on the market a long time (more than three months), ask the agent why they think it isn’t selling. Are there problems that other people have realised that you haven’t? Is it just overpriced? A long time on the market might mean that the seller would accept a lower price

  1. 5.     How long have the owners lived there?

If they are moving out after a short period, it is important to find out why. Do they have noisy neighbours?

  1. 6.     Has the property repeatedly changed hands?

You should be alert to serious problems if the property has frequently changed hands. Find out why previous owners moved out. Perhaps even try to contact them to ask why they did

  1. 7.     How did the agent decide on an asking price?

A good agent will provide you with their justifications for the asking price, which you can then judge. Or, if you get lucky the agent might tell you that they think the seller is overvaluing the house. You should in any case visit other homes for sale nearby so you get a good idea what properties in the area sell for.

  1. 8.     What is the minimum price the seller will accept?

It sounds silly, but asking if their bottom line is actually negotiable can save you thousands. Estate agents will often give you an indication – it is in their interest to make a sale, even at a lower price, because if they don’t sell, they don’t get paid

  1. 9.     What offers have they had so far?

The agent will most likely tell you if there have been other offers, but not how much they were. But again, they have a big incentive to get a price agreed, so might drop some pretty heavy hints in whispered tones. If you can find out about the other offers, it obviously makes it easier to know what you should offer.

  1. 10.  When do the sellers have to move out?

Have the sellers already found another home? If they have, they may be keen to sell as fast as possible. Otherwise, if you have to wait until they find somewhere else, it adds to the uncertainty, with all the risks associated with being in a chain

  1. 11.  Can you speak directly to the sellers?

Agents generally hate this – it is their job to negotiate – but they can’t stop you speaking to the sellers, which can be the best thing you do. Most sellers are like you – not industry professionals – and this means they often give answers that agents would find shockingly honest. Unlike the agent, they can’t pretend ignorance if you ask why they are moving. It can also give you a much better feel for the house – ask them the best and worst points.

  1. 12.  Have any major works been conducted?

If so, are you able to have a look at the relevant planning and building control consents? In most cases you can search online for planning applications (granted and refused) on the local planning authority website. It would be awful if you bought your dream home only to find out you would have to knock half of it down

  1. 13.  How much is the Council Tax? And how much are utility bills in the area?

Try and get exact amounts. Talk to the seller if you have to. While these may seem like small considerations in comparison to the amount you will spend on the house, they are reoccurring expenses that will add to the pressure of owning your home

  1. 14.  Can they explain the Energy Performance Certificate?

The rating on the Energy Performance Certificate, which says how energy efficient the property is, will be influenced by a number of things. Is there loft insulation? Is there wall cavity insulation? When were they all put in? Is the boiler covered with lagging? How many outside walls are there?

  1. 15.  How old is the property?

Not only is this good to know, but the upkeep of older houses is often more expensive. So it’s better to be more prepared for those upcoming expenses.

  1. 16.  What can they tell you about the local neighbourhood?

What are the schools like? What is the crime rate like? How good are transport links? Where is the nearest petrol station? While it is a good idea to see what the estate agent has to say, make sure you do some independent research as well.