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6 things to consider when browsing flats online

If you’re thinking of moving in the new year, there’s a whole bunch of information to be gleaned from online portals. You barely even need to visit the property! Here are our top tips for translating property listings.

6 things to consider when browsing flats online

For some, browsing for new properties online is more of a hobby than a plan of action. But if you have been tempted by a fresh start in a new home, we have a few things to keep your eye on. Property portals have so much information and with a couple of checks, you can tell almost immediately whether that listing has the potential to be your dream home or an absolute nightmare.

1. Photos

We know one thing for sure – if there’s no photos, we’re not interested! What’s even the point if you can’t get a sense of what the property looks like? The more photos the better. If there are only photos from the inside or outside, but not a mixture of both, question what they’re trying to hide.

Be aware that some of the photos can be a bit misleading when it comes to size, and keep an eye out for a fisheye lens, or whether the agent has been standing on the bed in order to get a view of the whole property!

Of course, always look at the potential of the property in the photographs. It’s hard when the owners haven’t had much of a clear out, or you can’t see how big the room is because of all the items stacked up in the way. But have an open mind. The clutter might be hiding a wonderful space!

Bear this in mind when considering the décor too! It might be hard to look past the lime green walls or the stained carpets, but sometimes these choices can make the property look smaller than it is. So don’t discount a property just because it needs a makeover!

2. Floorplan

Looking at the floorplan will give you a sense of the space, and highlight any unexpected features. For example, you might expect the bathroom to be on the second floor, but in some Victorian properties, they are downstairs behind the kitchen. The plans may also give you a better sense of scale, whether that second bedroom is really a box room, for example, or if the hallway is much smaller than you would expect.

The floor plan can also give you great insight into whether there are extra areas you might not have accounted for. Perhaps you didn’t realise one of the bedrooms is a mezzanine, or that the kitchen was open plan. You may even find there’s an outhouse or garage included that wasn’t mentioned in the listing.

3. Leasehold

If you’re buying a flat, the main thing you want to know is how long the lease lasts. When you buy a leasehold property, you are buying ownership of the property, but not the land it sits on. As such, if the flat looks like it’s surprisingly affordable, this may be because the lease is nearing its end. The shorter your lease, the more difficult the property will be to sell on. You may need to try and renew the lease, which can be a lengthy process costing thousands. If your lease runs down, technically ownership returns to whoever owns the freehold.

If there’s no mention of how long the lease is on the property listing, make sure it’s the first thing you ask before you even bother going to visit.

Find out more about leasehold and freehold.

4. Map

We’re sure you probably make good use of the map feature on property portals, but just in case you skip it – always have a look at the location! That perfect property might be cheaper because it’s on a dual carriageway, has limited access or is on that street where it’s impossible to park.

On the other hand, you might find that flat you’re cooing over turns out to be in a better location than expected! We’d suggest using street view to get a better sense of the location. You can also put the location into police.uk and it’ll show all the crimes that have happened in that location and the surrounding streets.

5. Hidden meanings

It’s always worth remembering that the description can hint at the state of the property. It will always highlight the benefits, like what the flat is close to (motorway access/schools/train stations) but the wording can give you insight into what the downsides might be. ‘In need of modernisation’ for example, might just sound like the wallpaper is from the 70s, but in reality you may find it’s got holes in the floor and that the whole property needs to be rewired. And ‘cosy’ or ‘compact’ suggests you might be surprised by how small it is!

 If there are recommendations for the type of buyer such as ‘first time buyer’ or ‘great investment opportunity’, it usually means it’s a good deal, but may not be well designed for a family.

There are also shorthand spellings for things you might not be expecting:

g/c/h – gas central heating
d/g – double glazing

Also be sure to fully consider the room dimensions when listed in the descriptions! Spaces that looked appropriate in the floorplan might suddenly reveal themselves to be a lot smaller than anticipated.

6. Associated costs

If you’re buying a property, the listing will often give you an approximate monthly breakdown of bills and your mortgage payments. Having a think about what council tax band the property might be in will give you an idea of costs, and looking at the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) will suggest how expensive your bills might be.

Bear in mind that the length of your mortgage repayment and size of your deposit will impact your monthly payment amount.

Look at any associated costs, like maintenance charges or ground rent, which can really push up your monthly outgoings. If the property is leasehold and these fees aren’t mentioned on the listing, be sure to ask about them before even viewing. Some extra fees can really push a property out of your price bracket.
 
Whether you’re whiling away time imagining your perfect home, or you’re making a solid plan for next year, we’ve got a range of articles and guides to help you prepare to buy a home.
 

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