According to a recent study carried out by PropertyCheck, nearly a quarter of home owners regret buying their current home. The research showed that 22% of homeowners wished they had spent longer doing research before settling on their current house, with the average person having spent only 26.8 minutes viewing a property before submitting their offer.
Buying a house is – unless you are Donald Trump – the most serious financial decision you will make in your life. It can either make or break you. If you get stuck with a dud that neither you nor anybody else wants, the consequences for your finances can be real and long-lasting.
The research showed that 10% of people feel uncomfortable asking for more than two viewings, and that the major factors that leave buyers feeling rueful after the papers are signed are crime, local transport links, nearby parks and green spaces and schools.
There are some things you are never going to be able to find out before you actually spend time living in your new home, but there are some things you can do – and most of these are actually things you can do, rather than relying on an estate agent to tell you everything and then being annoyed when he doesn’t.
1. Assume your realtor knows nothing
Seriously nothing. Imagine that where their brain should be there is a small bell that rings when they walk. That way you will find things out for yourself, using your own initiative, and anything they do tell you will be a nice bonus. Remember that it’s your money at the end of the day, not theirs, and they are working for the seller, not you, so the onus is on you to do your research.
2. Go to viewings prepared
Viewings are often only around 15 minutes long, and that’s not a long time to take in everything about the house as well as ask intelligent questions. Take a list of things to ask with you, and a list of things to check out that are important to you, such as good closet space, light and bright, traffic noise. It can be easy to be so overwhelmed with good feelings for a house that you forget to be practical. Take an impartial friend with you who will keep their head and not be swayed by emotion.
3. Do your research
Find out as much about the local area as possible. Find out where the schools are, the distance to train stations, ask neighbours about the area and how happy they are living there, find out if the house has been sold a number of times in a few years (which may indicate a problem), visit the neighbourhood at different times of day to get a feel for traffic noise, noise from neighbours in the evening, feelings of safety after dark, and try out your commute or school run before putting in an offer to make sure it is manageable.
4. Call in favours
If you have a friend or family member who is a surveyor, solicitor, builder or works in the property market in any capacity, take them with you on your second viewing. Their trained eye may prove invaluable when it comes to picking up small problems that are being swept under the rug by the seller. It can also help you get a rough estimate on how much any building work you are planning to have done will cost. These things should be picked up by the survey anyway, but this will give you a head start before you put your offer in.
5. The house isn’t everything
If you are particularly attracted to a property because of its amazing views or rural peaceful setting, take heed! You should only buy a house for this reason if you can control these factors in the future. For example, don’t buy a house for its view alone unless you own everything between your house and the view. Don’t buy a sweet little cottage surrounded by green fields unless you own those fields. Otherwise five years down the line you might find a new apartment building being built in your view and a new housing estate in your green fields. Do your research and find out the zoning of land around your potential new home; if there are existing plans for development you won’t be enjoying those factors for long. Alternatively you might find that land is protected, or that you can purchase or rent them off the owner, either way you will be able to make informed decisions and avoid nasty surprises.
Do you regret buying your house? What do you wish you had checked out before purchasing it?