Our thoughts

12 tips when buying property

1) Your overriding aim is to present yourself as a “serious buyer” who is unlikely to let the seller down at the last minute. Be organised, realistic and clear about the property you are trying to buy.

2) Before you start looking make sure you have a solicitor and surveyor ready to act on your behalf.

3) If you require finance ensure you have a mortgage agreed in principle.

4) Do not rely on websites to keep you fully informed as to the latest properties coming onto the market. Estate agents are not obliged to post new properties on websites. They may not do so as they think it would create unnecessary work arranging viewings, when they believe they already have prime buyers for the properties in question. In these instances, some properties may never appear on the ‘open market.’

5) The majority of properties are still bought through an estate agent. When registering with an agency, ensure contact is made with one individual who will then feel responsible for keeping you informed, and try to be in regular face to face contact with that person. This will raise your profile; one survey in January 2011 found that less than 50% of prospective buyers kept in ‘repeated’ or ‘regular’ contact with an estate agent.

6) Make a note of who the manager is in the relevant office. This person often does the valuations and will likely have advance warning if suitable properties are due to come to the market. He or she should also be up to speed if your original contact is away on holiday or ill.

7) View a property at least two or three times if you feel it might be a possibility. View in the dark, in daylight hours and at weekends when traffic and wind direction will all vary.

8) Natural light and aspect are important so bear in mind the property may look different in winter, with a low sun and leaves off the trees.

9) Avoid wasted journeys. You may well wonder, having registered, why the estate agent still pleads with you to view a property that you are convinced is inappropriate. The estate agent, however, may need to convince their client that the asking price for a property is too high. They can often only justify recommending a reduction in price after a minimum number of viewings.

10) Ask the right questions. You must ascertain the motivation behind the sale before making any offers:
How long has the property been on the market and how long at this price? Have there been any offers? If the property has been on the market for several months and with more than one agent, there may be scope to negotiate the price down.
Why are they selling? If it is because of unreasonable neighbours then you need to know that. Could be a divorce situation, where it is also worth knowing that BOTH parties are happy to sell.
How long have they lived there? If only a few months, you may need to delve further.
Where are they moving to? If they have nowhere to move to they may be less willing to negotiate on price. If they have already completed on a related purchase, and are subject to a bridging loan, they should be keen to sell.

Try and differentiate between negative points you can put right with money and those you can’t. If the property needs a new kitchen and bathrooms, this can be rectified. But pylons, noisy neighbours, poor light, footpaths, and north-east facing gardens seldom can.

11) Your initial offer is likely to be rejected. If you make an offer at the asking price, try to insist on some favourable conditions such as deadlines and what you wish to include, (eg the curtains or AGA) A low offer should soften expectations and may help to ascertain the seller’s bottom line. Under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991, any offer you make must be submitted to the owner by the selling agent.

12) Under offer (sale agreed subject to contract) does not equal sold and unless you insist on the property being withdrawn, the estate agent may continue marketing it. Until you have exchanged contracts you can still be gazumped by another buyer so you must keep the period between the property going under offer and the exchange of contracts as tight as possible. Agree with the estate agent in writing as to when you and your solicitor hope to exchange, what is included/excluded in the sale and for what period the property is to be withdrawn from the market. Make sure your solicitor has received a ‘full package of papers’ including the registered title deeds before rushing in to do the survey. It demonstrates a degree of commitment that the vendor is a serious seller and is less likely to let you down.