Our guide helps you to structure the process and to get the most for your money. We believe there are three stages to getting your house:
- short listing properties
- viewing properties
- making offers
Short listing properties
The first rule of house hunting is to be strict with the properties you will see. First draw up a short list based on your key priorities, outlined in your home comparison chart and then arrange appointments to view the short listed properties.
You need to consider two things: the home and its location. Our home comparison chart will help you choose what is important for you, but the following list should give you some ideas of the issues that you, as a potential purchaser, might consider when making your choice of location:
Are you where you need to be?
Is the area you're looking at 'lively' or 'quiet'?
What council tax band will you be in?
Is the property close enough to where you work?
Are there shops and services nearby or will you have to travel?
Do the local schools have a good reputation and good OFSTED reports?
Will you have sufficient car parking space?
When considering the house itself:
Think carefully if the property looks in a satisfactory condition, and has been regularly maintained. Also try to short list properties by some careful reading of the Estate Agents description. Remember cosy does mean small.
Only visit homes which have all of the absolute necessities you outlined in your home comparison chart (distance from work, number of bedrooms - whatever you think is necessary in your new home).
Once you know that it may be the right house for you, organise your househunting. Set some time aside (especially if you need to travel a long distance) for viewing a number of houses. When viewing try the following:
View the house in the daylight, but also check out the area at night - you may need to walk the local streets at different of day.
Find out the what other offers there have been (but take the answers with a pinch of salt)
See the house at different times if you are interested. This way you can discover the neighbours from hell who just weren't there at the weekend!
If resale is important, estate agents would tell you that exterior appeal is important and that buying the most expensive house on the street (or something unusual) is not the best strategy
Make sure you get as much factual information written down when you view the house, as you may forget it and if you are viewing many homes, you will get confused. Use our home comparison chart to help with this.
Try to gauge how much decorating or improvement you would wish to make to the property. Will it need to have new heating systems or improved insulation? There may be structural work to do.
How energy-efficient will the property be? Try to get an idea of the monthly bill for heat and light.
In what condition are the fixtures and fittings - how much would it cost to replace them? Note down which are included in the sale and which ones you want. This will make things easier when putting in an offer.
Negotiating price and making an offer
Once you have found the property you want to purchase, you will need to negotiate the price. Most sellers do not expect you to agree to the selling price straight away, although you may be advised to offer this in a "seller's market". You need to make sure you don't get carried away by how much you like the property and stick to your budgeting. You should have a view of a maximum price for a property that are willing to pay, based on what you can afford and how much you want to pay. Remember all of your moving costs and the stamp duty.
Before you put in the offer, work out how much you think the property is worth - a bit of research into similar property prices could save you thousands of pounds. You could get an independent valuation of the property from a surveyor, which may more than pay off if you can use this as a negotiation tool. You will need a valuation to get a mortgage anyway, but this may have to be a different one.
You are unlikely to have to write down your offer; most offers and negotiation are over the phone, between solicitors. Once an offer is accepted, you will need to put this in writing. Ensure you mark this as 'Subject to Contract', otherwise you may not be able to back out of the transaction, even if you can't raise the funds.
Once you put your first offer in, the estate agent will talk to the seller and decide whether this is enough. They are likely to come back with a counter offer (or the estate agent may give you an indication of what will secure the property). Remember the estate agent is working to try to get the highest price.
One tip to reduce the total cost to you is to separate the amount you are paying for the property and the amount for the fixtures and fittings. The property is liable for stamp duty and the rest is not. The amount you pay in stamp duty increases with the property price, so this could save you money.
You may be able to use non-price factors, such as whether you need a mortgage or not and whether you actually have a mortgage or not, date of completion or the fact you may have no chain, to encourage the seller to take a lower price. In a fast moving property market with rapid price increases, it may be that no reduction in price is available and they may even take the opportunity to increase the price if they are receiving many offers...you could be entering the world of gazumping!