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London property – how to find a house

Searching for a new home can be an overwhelming experience, and with the many different areas and property types in London to choose from, selecting a home in the capital can become a huge task. Take a look at our advice to help you to find your new London home.

London property – how to find a house

London is one of the most vibrant, diverse cities on the planet offering something for everyone, so it goes without saying that, when searching to buy in the UK’s capital, you can be faced with a vast array of options.

With the current high demand for property in London, it is important that you are aware of the key points to consider during your house hunt, as this will put you in the best position to find and secure that ideal home.

Property Features

At a time when property transactions in London are at their quickest, it is important that you know what property features you would like in your new house to ensure you select and secure your dream London home in the soonest possible time. Make sure to outline these to your estate agent and they will help to find you a suitable home.

Property features you may want in a new home when could include a certain number of bedrooms, parking, outside space or an open plan living area. You may also be interested in character properties rather than more modern design and newly built buildings.

It may be helpful to list the property features you would like in order of preference, so if you do need to compromise you will know where to start.

Outside space comes at a premium, so if outside space is something that is high up on your list of priorities, there may have to be compromises in different areas to secure a home with space outdoors.

Location, Location, Location

Although many London first time buyers are already renting in the capital and will have an area that they are particularly fond of before deciding to buy their first home, property prices in that area may not be as desirable as the cost of renting, and you may have to look elsewhere to be within budget.

If you are moving to a different area from where you were renting, or you are new to London altogether, there are a number of factors to take into consideration when deciding on where the best location is for you to buy property in London. There are 32 London Boroughs in Greater London to choose from, so it is important that you know what you want from an area to ensure you select an appropriate location for your lifestyle.

Will you need to be close to a certain tube or rail station for convenient access into work, or in a particular school catchment area for your children? Alternatively, you may be more interested in a location because of the facilities it offers, such as your favourite football team’s home ground or a live music venue you enjoy visiting. Asking yourself what is most important in an area will help you to limit the options down.

The Price is Right

Set yourself a maximum budget that you are willing to spend.  How much you have saved for a deposit and the amount your lender allows you to borrow will help you identify how much you can spend on a property.

Property search websites allow you to filter properties by price, so visiting one of these sites to get an idea of what you can get for your money in different locations would be a good first step before contacting an estate agent in the London area you select. When you find a property you are interested in, you can use such websites to see how much homes on the same street have sold for, and whether they sold for the asking price. Checking how property prices in the region have changed in recent times may also be helpful.

Be clear with your estate agent about what your maximum budget is, and try not to be tempted into viewing homes you cannot afford if you aren’t able to be flexible on price. In the current market, London properties are frequently selling for the price they are put on the market for; viewing houses over your budget is likely to only end in disappointment.

Don’t forget that you will also need to factor in the cost for stamp duty, conveyancing, a house survey and a removal company; don’t go into the funds you have set aside for these services to add to a deposit on a home that is out of your price range. Stick to your budget!

You can get an estimate of how much you will need on top of your deposit with our moving cost calculator.

In addition to these expenses, you should also take into consideration the cost of a parking permit when you have moved in. Although this won’t be included in your moving costs, after the significant expenditure that comes with buying a home and the related expenses, make sure you set aside the amount you will need for a parking permit at your new address before you move so you know you will have the fee available.

Know your Lifestyle

Knowing what the purpose of your home will be, and what you lifestyle will be whilst living in the property, will help you decide what features are important in your new home.

Is this a house you are going to want as your future family house? Or are you looking for a property to help you to maintain your lively social life, and a more permanent home will be your next purchase? Or maybe the main purpose of your property purchase is for investment. Questions such as these will influence many aspects of your house hunt, such as the location and size of property, so make sure you are aware of the answers before making an offer on a home.

With the rising prices in the capital, many first time buyers in London are disappointed to discover that their money will not go as far as hoped, and finding a home which has all of your property must-haves is not always achievable. To find your perfect home within your price range, it is vital that you know which features you would be willing to compromise on, whether it is location, outside space or number of bedrooms, and which aspects are absolutely non-negotiable. This will help you to be more open-minded without spending time viewing properties that you know you will not be interested in buying or going over your budget.

Liase with Estate Agents

Visit the estate agents in the London areas that you are considering buying. Going to their office and discussing your requirements will help to create a positive relationship with an estate agent, and, as you will come across as a serious buyer, they will be more likely to think of you when an appropriate property comes up for sale.

Let them know your budget and property specifications, noting the most important features in your search, as they can inform you when a new property that suits your needs has come on the market or if there is already something available that they can send you the details of and organise for you to view.

Research

Before you decide to call an area home, find out as much as possible about it to ensure you will enjoy your time living there. Research things like crime rates, the local facilities, transport links and, if applicable, how the schools are performing. There are many online sites that can provide you with this information.

Today’s digital age buyers place high importance on broadband speed, so if this is something that will affect your enjoyment of a home, it will probably be worth investigating this too, along with mobile phone and 4G signal, before selecting your new London property.

If your favourite location is out of your price range and you are still unsure of where to settle down, research the surrounding areas as you may be able to find somewhere nearby that you are able to afford. Most London boroughs have ‘up and coming’ areas that are significantly lower in value than the average. It might be less fashionable now, but you may discover that, when you come to sell in the future, the price of your property has increased.

Wander around your chosen location at different times of the day to get a feel for the place. It is important to discover whether you will feel comfortable and happy in an area before you start making offers on properties. You may also want to ask locals questions about their experience of living in the area.

House Surveys

With the current high cost of houses in London, it is important that the property you purchase is worth what you are paying for it and you are aware if there are any structural problems that will need remedial work to repair them.

Instructing a London Chartered Surveyor to undertake a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report will give you the opportunity to find out the cost of the work needed and the findings in the survey report may allow you to negotiate the purchase price.

There are a number of issues prevalent in properties in certain areas of London, such as subsidence, Japanese Knotweed, and problems arising from conversions. It is essential that you select a surveyor with a local knowledge of the area as, not only will they be aware of issues common to properties in the location, but they will also have an awareness of the current property market and values of the local buildings.

When you get your quotes for a house survey through reallymoving.com, you are guaranteed a local Chartered Surveyor with an expert knowledge of the area.

Conveyancing issues in London

It is very important to avail yourself of the services of a reputable conveyancing solicitor to oversee the legal work of your move to London. This is because there are a number of issues unique to the capital that you need to be aware of before completion.
 
A number of first time movers to London are incorrectly informed their desired property is a freehold, when it is indeed a ‘share of freehold’. This means a number of owners collectively share the freehold responsibilities of the property. This is very common in London as many of its properties have been converted or redeveloped e.g. multiple flats within a single property.
 
A shared freehold does however give each resident an important say in the overall upkeep of the property, including any restoration or construction works required.
 
Are you aware of the difference between leasehold and freehold properties? Leasehold buildings in London give homeowners the legal right to occupy the premises for a specified timeframe, without owning the bricks and mortar. This is very widespread with flats and apartments as part of large developments.
 
On the other side of the coin, freehold buildings give London homeowners the responsibility of both the land and the premises. These leases are often more commonly found with houses than flats and converted apartments.

For more information about conveyancing in London, take a look at our article, London conveyancing - what your solicitor will investigate.

The London property market

London’s property market is unlike any other in the world. Nowhere else can you find such a diverse range of new and old properties and vibrant cultural communities.
 
According to findings released in May 2012 by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), and based on a survey undertaken by YouGov, first time buyers in London made up a larger proportion of house purchase loans in the first quarter than in the UK overall. 54 per cent of house purchase loans advanced in Q1 2013 in London were to first time buyers, compared to 44 per cent in the UK overall.
 
Conditions for first time buyers have been improved by the Government’s Funding for Lending scheme. In what Marsh & Parsons determines as ‘Prime London’, the percentage of first time buyers grew by 0.5 per cent in Q1 2013 and by 4 per cent in the same quarter last year.
 
The Land Registry’s House Price Index, the most accurate independent appraisal of the nation’s property market, showed that London experienced the most significant annual price increase with a 5 per cent increase in May.
 
Average house prices in Greater London, as of May 2013, were at £375,068 – comfortably the highest average price in the capital this year to date. Greater London sales volumes were also increased from the turn of the New Year to the end of Q1 2013, from 6,730 in January to 7,229 in March.

Shared ownership schemes in London

An influx of shared ownership schemes across the capital are also making it easier than before to acquire a home. These properties give first time buyers on modest incomes the opportunity to become a home owner.
 
First time buyers can take advantage of these Government-funded schemes to purchase a share of their desired property – usually between 25 per cent and 75 per cent – paying rent at a level below the market value on the remainder of the property.
 
The premise behind the scheme is to ensure home buyers are not stretched financially; allowing you to work out what share you can initially afford, with the ability to buy additional shares as and when you can afford to.
 
Properties from studio flats to four-bedroom houses are available, with prices set according to open market valuations to ensure a fair deal for all. There are many dedicated shared ownership opportunities in London, such as the Notting Hill Housing website, offering affordable homes for Londoners and newcomers.

London House Price Infographic

For information about how much a house costs in London, take a look at this interesting London infographic including house pricing borough by borough from one of our removal partners, Eco Movers.

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Hannah, 09 April 2017

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