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Moving House | Buyer Basics

Author: Lauren Coleman

We’ve gathered from the comments we’ve received so far that quite a few of you are either going through the house buying/selling process or are just about to enter it. With the market beginning to improve, house buying is becoming a hot topic again and we’re keen to hear about your situation and to have a good old chin-wag about your experiences.
On a personal note, I have a rather unhealthy obsession with property related programmes. I realise this in no way puts me in the same league as the legend that is Phil Spencer, but I have family and friends moving on and up the property ladder and a few of my own experiences to draw on. So to kick off the post, here are my top tips.

Do your Research

# Get an understanding of how much houses are going for in your chosen area. (Zoopla’s Sold House Price tool can help here). Two couples I know who are currently buying are finding that the level of demand for houses in their particular area has resulted in houses going for considerably more than asking price. This can be quite a shock (particular as the market has been stagnant for a while) so have a good think about how much you are prepared to go over. And always bear in mind that a house is only worth what a Mortgage Lender values it to be.
# Make friends with Estate Agents in the area you want to move to. Right Move and other property websites are great but it can take a few days for properties to be listed. Getting pally with an Estate Agent can mean you’re the one who gets to find out about houses before they hit the website. Remember there is a line between persistent and being a stalker though!
# Keep an open mind and consider houses outside of your wish list. Viewing homes with smaller gardens, less bedrooms, further away from work can really help you get your priorities in to perspective and can help define aspects that you are willing to compromise on.
# Don’t get too carried away before you’ve viewed a house. This is so difficult to do and I have to admit I was guilty of it many times in our last mission to buy houses in Toronto. We wasted many hours imaging our new life in the latest addition to Right Move, checking it out on Street View, virtually moved in our furniture in our heads only to find out the next morning that planning permission had been granted for a mega block of flats on the grassy view opposite. It’s really important to do your research but remain cautious until a viewing. Always make sure you see your options view more brands here.
# This brings me on to the next point; Check out planning permissions in the chosen area. By going to the your local council website you should be able to view permissions that have been granted and declined for your chosen street as well as your prospective house. This gives you an indication of what could spring up in your new street or whether the work you want to do to your new abode would be approved.

Viewings

# South facing and West facing gardens are known for getting the most sun. However this doesn’t mean you should disregard East or North facing gardens if you’re a sun worshipper. My own house has an East facing courtyard and has sun until 6pm in the Summer due to my cottage being so low in height!
If you’re unsure which way a plot is facing have a look at the satellite dishes in the street. In the UK all dishes point South so if you spot a dish on the front of the house then this particular one doesn’t have a South facing garden. I’m making the vast assumption here that all gardens are on the back of a house but you get the idea.

# As well as checking out the boiler, double glazing, any damp patches etc, don’t forget to take a look at the positioning of power points and light switches. I viewed a Victorian house once that only had two power points in the whole of the upstairs. How could you possibly decide whether your hair dryer, straightners or iPhone charger takes priority?! I’m not sure I would feel comfortable doing it, but it’s worth asking the seller or estate agent if you can take your own photos on viewings too.

# Try and view a prospective house at two different times of day before you put in an offer. One quiet neighbourhood at 2pm on a Weekend can be drastically different at 8am on a Monday morning. You can obviously do you’re own drive-by research to check out the traffic situation but its worth visiting the house too to check out the amount of light etc. If this simply isn’t possible, and you have to offer after one viewing, consider requesting a second viewing as soon as your offer is accepted.
# The high amount of Buyers and low amount of Sellers is making open viewings more popular in some areas of the country. This can be a very weird and stressful experience for all involved. Essentially the house is open for several hours whilst rival bidders traipse around. It can be difficult not to let your heart rule your head in these situations: Viewing with so many others makes even the most normal of houses appear hugely popular and can force you into making quick and rushed decisions. Make sure you do as much research beforehand so that if you have to act quickly you feel equipped to make a decision.
It’s obviously up to you how you want to handle viewing a house at the same time as your competition; you could choose to point out all that’s wrong with the property to put them off the scent but remember that you’re likely to see the same buyers again at the next neighbourhood open viewing!

Paperwork

# Get the right survey. Particularly on older houses it helps to find out exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Although it can be pricey it can act as a negotiation tool if you find something untoward.

# Chat to a Mortgage Advisor BEFORE you start viewings and get indication of the amount of money that you can spend. If you can get a mortgage approved in principle you can get the wheels in motion as soon as your offer is accepted. The same is true for getting a solicitor in place too. You don’t want to be a buyer who holds up the chain because you’re still ringing around for quotes.

# Finally, try and take some time out. Property searching can become all consuming and can be downright stressful. Try to agree to one night off where you talk about something different. I’m sure there are quite a few people who have to do this when planning a Wedding too! I appreciate it’s harder said then done but it’s worth a try.

Phew! What a long post! Now it’s over to you. What gems of advice can you give to buyers? What was your experience of buying a house? And don’t forget to let me know if you’d be interested in more posts about moving or selling.

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Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
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28 thoughts on “Moving House | Buyer Basics

  1. What perfect timing! I am currently perusing Rightmove at work. We are newlyweds looking to buy our first home in London. The only way this is even possible is the new help to buy schemes, and most of the time it still looks impossible! We live in a lovely area currently, but a two bed flat on our road is around half a million. I am from the East Midlands where I could get a mansion for this money. So we are now compromising on a one bed, a zone out but it is still such a tough market. Open houses, sealed bids, cash only buyers… argh! Maybe renting isn’t that bad?!

    1. Hi Anna, I watched Location Location the other day (I think it might have been a repeat) and it was a London property search, I knew it was MEGA expensive but even my jaw nearly hit the floor at the prices.

      We used to live in Derby where we could buy a 5 bed detached for what our 3 bed semi in Solihull has cost us, however in London? we could probably afford a studio!

      I know what you mean about renting – it would be tempting, however prices are only set to rise so at least you guys would be on the ladder. Do let us know how you get on!

  2. This is a very aptly timed post indeed. The Mr and I are currently searching for our first home, I think we’ve been searching for about 3 weeks now and have not really had much luck. I know compared to Londoners I can’t really complain but Southampton is really expensive. What we thought was a pretty decent budget won’t actually get us that much and we’re getting a bit fed up of seeing the same houses listed over and over again.

    I have a couple of agents that I’m in regular touch with and that have been quite good, but I’ve also been horrified with some others! As you advise, we got a mortgage broker and an offer in principal before we started our search so that we could move quickly (we’ve picked a solicitor too) but have been hassled pretty aggressively into ditching our broker in favour of the agents’ in house ones. We’ve even been told we won’t get told about new properties first unless we use their in house mortgage, and in another case were told that our offers wouldn’t be passed to vendors until we’ve met with their in house adviser and been affordability checked by them!

    I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I didn’t think it would be quite this stressful! x

    1. Kitty that sounds horrendous! isn’t that like blackmail?! I’m all for promoting your business but Jeez, as if you haven’t got enough to deal with trying to find a bloody house in the first place.

    2. To echo what Charlotte said – this really sounds horrendous. I really hope it gets less stressful for you x

  3. I so definitely agree with the point about considering houses outside of your wish list. I was convinced that I wanted a 3 bed house in one of the villages surrounding Bath. We are currently buying a 4 bed in Bath (just) that my husband had to seriously convince me to look at.

    My advice for once you have your offer accepted is to chase your solicitors and to come up with a contigency plan if everything doesn’t happen to your original timescale. Why? We accepted an offer on our flat and had an offer accepted on the 4 bed in October last year, moved out of the flat and put our stuff in storage just before Christmas thinking that we would move in to the house in mid-January. Fast forward through many weeks commuting (3 hour plus round trip) from the in-laws and staying with friends to today and we haven’t yet exchanged (although we are hoping to this afternoon) and are looking at a completion date of 21st Feb. Thankfully we have lovely in-laws who are letting us stay rent free in their empty, again thankfully, holiday cottage and lovely friends who have been putting up with us for far longer than we thought.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your experience, sounds incredibly tough. We sold our flat in Derby and purchased our house in the West Mids only for the flat buyer to pull out the day before exchange, it was heart-breaking. Luckily for us we were able to get a buy to let on the flat and still buy the house – it actually worked out positively as the flat has turned out to be a good investment.

      So essentially was yours due to “chain” issues? – we also stayed in a holiday cottage when we initially moved to the West Mids, it was actually quite nice living with such minimal belongings for a bit!

  4. Sadly we are what feels like a very, very long way off from buying a house!
    Our main stumbling block – the humongous deposit we are going to need. How are you supposed to save THAT much money? Especially considering we just paid for a wedding for 90 guests!!
    It really does scare me sometimes! haha

    We are lucky in that there may be a slim chance that the OH’s parents may be able to help us with this, but it will be a loan – so we’ll still need to be able to pay it off while paying the mortgage
    If it was just left to my parents then it would be even less likely of happening any time soon – coming from a single parent family means that neither of my parents would be able to offer anything near what we would need, not even in the form of a loan. It’s not their fault it’s just an unfortunate consequence of their splitting and then subsequently moving abroad to live!!
    I know my mum feels dreadful for not being able to help – which she really shouldn’t. But she constantly hears of how other parents are helping their children get a house and this means she feels enormously guilty, no matter what we say!

    Anyhoo, until that day comes when we can afford to buy, I will stick to enjoying our cute little rented one bedroom house, on the edge of a nature reserve!! 😀

    ps. I live in St Albans – an amazing town on a fantastic line into London…….imagine those house prices!!! (yup, ridiculous!) haha!

    1. Ooooh Rebecca, St Albans is lovely.

      Good luck with the saving. You’ll be surprised how much you can save (and how addictive it becomes) when you really put your mind to it.
      I’m envious of those who get help from their Parents but I’m a big advocate of doing it on your own x

  5. We brought our home Nov 2012 but didn’t move in till Nov 2013 why? because we were so set on the area/roads we wanted to live on (it’s only Solihull but both of our families live here!) & everything was waaaay out of our budget so we picked up a proper fixer-upper-doer. I sucked it up lived with my in-laws & we did it!

    Moral of the story know what you want with spending sooo much money be confident also the whole going over the asking price keep calm it will come along.

    Now month by month its picking the key items to make the house a home finally my time to spend the money rather the Mr on building materials…

  6. Our little 2 bed sold in the second day for full asking price! Full of glee off we went house hunting only to find the same situation, if your not first through the door with a full offer it’s gone 🙁 We have been told there is not enough ‘stock’ and too many buyers! Thanks for the great advice Lauren. it’s hard not to get carried away in this market! We viewed a 3 bed refurbished house in the dark, it looked huge and perfect! In the cold light of day it seemed to have shrank, had not a single cupboard (apart from the kitchen!) next door had a dog breeding business and the road was roaring with traffic! Last night we viewed a wonderful house that backed onto the M1, the noise was horrific as the seller tried to keep us within the triple glazing! The search continues ….. R x

    1. Congrats Rene on accepting an offer on your house.
      I know what you mean about houses shrinking! They can look completely different in daylight. Always best to go for a second viewing! x

  7. 2014 is the ‘Family House Purchase’ year for Paul and I… and we know it’s going to be a long, slow, cruel slog. Our house has it’s open day this Saturday (everyone’s doing it in our area) and fingers crossed we’ll get some good offers so that we’re in a better position to buy. Houses are so scarce though and there’s definitely a lot of scare-mongering going on by the estate agents. We put in an offer on a house that was *just* below the asking price (we really liked it) and were promptly told they’d already had offers in excess of £20k higher than that. Whaaaaaaaaat?

    1. Good luck with the Open Day Sama. They do seem to be all the rage at the moment. You never know, yours might go for £20K over! x

  8. Hi, I literally just moved into my new cottage. We were renting for a while in the nicest area but was just so expensive to even consider getting anything we love. Anyway lots of researching we found a little place a little further out than we expected. It was a massive decision and I’m not going to lie I had so many second thoughts right up until exchange. Lauren I did all the second viewings and everything!!!

    The problem is there will always seem to be some kind of compromise but if you just get a feeling when you walk in you know it’s the one.

    I’ve been here just over a week now. I actually enjoy being out further into the country. It allows me to calm down and relax after a long day at work. I’m so excited about all the projects I’ve got planned and rms is going to be my guest poking if call!!!

    Go with your gut!! It’s normally the right decision and expect a but of anxiety along the way. It’s normal!! Xxx

  9. Really a great post! I can’t really contribute since I am a) living in Germany and b) not looking for a house just yet, but I really enjoyed reading your tips!

  10. This post has come at such a good time for me and Mr B. We brought our 1 bedroom flat 7 years ago, when i was 18, and we’ve been stuck with Northern Rock and all their problems. To be able to move on we are selling for lower than we want to and moving home with the parents for a limited time of 6 months. We’ve been on the market for 4 months we are having our second viewer on Saturday. Fingers Crossed!

  11. My 3 bits of advice – Perserverence, compromise and budget. Keep looking, the right house will be there somewhere but you may have to compromise. When we missed out on what I thought was the perfect house, despite offering over the asking price, I was devestated. With a few other bad things going on in life we rushed in to offering on another house that blatently wasn’t right. Luckily a few days later whilst the hubby was on a stag do I saw the house I had been looking for. A Victorian semi with a huge garden in a little village. It was ideal. The compromise was it was on a slightly busy road and the bigger issue was it was over budget. Not wanting to miss out we agreed (probably as the husband was hungover!) to offer the full asking price and it was ours. And this is my last bit of advice, as tempting as it is to look at properties over budget you may end up spending it and as I’ve learnt you will always need more money than you think afterwards. We ended up having to do immense amounts of work re-wiring, re-plumbing, roof repairs etc etc. Despite a very thorough survey they didn’t show up and weren’t things that we could have spotted. I even asked the vendor who blatently lied! But 3 years later we are nearly through the hard work and am now the proud owner of a gorgeous house (complete with my fabulous new kitchen for all that baking) and can finally spend money on lovely things. Already getting lots of inspiration from RMS for decoration! xxx

  12. We are having a horrible time at the moment buying a house. We are Constantly outbid and are now getting to the point where we are bidding against ourselves. They’re just aren’t enough houses to meet demand which we never believed would be a problem. My only advice to anyone starting the process would be to try and see positives in houses you would normally have avoided and try not to fall head over heels with a house that you may not get. I now view all houses with totally different eyes and I leave my heart out of the whole experience. If I didn’t I would be extremely disappointed, countless times over! Xxx

    1. Good advice Hannah.
      Thanks for letting me mention your experiences in the post too. Fingers crossed that the search will be over very soon x

  13. I am bookmarking this post for when our house-hunt begins. Although considering we live in London may take a while! Husband and I work in opposite ends of the region (he’s near Wimbledon, I’m way out in Kent) so our current location in mid SE London works for us – but buying? Forget it. 1 beds going for £250K +!

    We got a good deal on the rent for our current flat but still impossible to save a significant amount in a short space of time. My parents keep suggesting that we move out of London, and although it’s a sensible idea, it’s not practical. My current commute is already nearing the two hour mark each way, moving further out will only increase that – the same goes for him. It’s just very frustrating and I can’t see us being in any position to buy for at least 5-10 years.

    1. Jo, have you considered the Kent/Surrey borders? I grew up in SE London and work in Croydon and we bought in Selsdon. There’s easy access in both directions – although I wouldn’t recommend living in Croydon itself (as frankly, it’s a bit grim) if you’re somewhere on the tram line Wimbledon is very easily accessible and the drive out into Kent is not tricky.

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