What to Look For When Buying a House
Buying a house is one of the biggest and most stress-inducing investments you’ll make in life, so it’s understandable if the prospect of house viewing causes your anxiety levels to rise. You can keep the nerves under control by being systematic about what you look for when you’re buying a house. While your first viewing will give you an overall sense of the property and whether you could feel at home there, your second viewing is the time to think with your head rather than your heart. Help is here in the form of our handy checklist for buying a house.
Could you live in this area?
First things first, what’s the neighbourhood like? This could be your dream house, but if it’s right next to a landfill site or across the street from a river that floods regularly, you may not be happy living there. As you assess the local area, think about the things you’ll need access to, such as supermarkets, schools and doctors. If you don’t drive, you’ll want to make sure there’s good public transport nearby. If you have a dog, you might want to check out some of the local walks.
You’ll also want to know about any possible sources of noise that could impact your enjoyment of your new home. Main roads, pubs, railway lines and airports could all generate enough noise to affect your daily life, although if the house is adequately soundproofed they may not be a problem. If you find that there’s music playing when you view the house, ask to have it turned off so that you can make a proper assessment of how quiet the house is.
The last thing you want when you’re buying a house is to move in and find that there’s a major structural problem that’s going to cost thousands to get put right. Before you sign on the dotted line, get the house inspected by a structural engineer to make sure there aren’t any hidden issues. You might be able to spot potential structural problems by looking to see whether the walls and floors are flat, keeping an eye out for ripples or cracks that could foretell trouble.
Damp is a common problem, particularly with older houses, but it can be cleverly concealed with paint. Mould, discolouration, rotting window frames and flaking plaster are all telltale signs to look out for, and damp also has a distinctive mouldy smell.
It may sound an obvious question, but is there enough room for all your belongings? When you see a home with someone else’s furniture in it, you may not get an immediate sense of how well your own things would fit into it. If you have some big items of furniture, it’s worth taking measurements of them and bringing a tape measure with you so that you can be sure you’d be able to accommodate them. You should also assess the amount of storage space; is there plenty of room in the attic, and under the stairs? Will your towels and bed sheets fit in the airing cupboard?
As you work your way through each of the rooms, look at the finer details, such as cracked sealant on PVC windows. These can be a good indication of how well the house has been looked after and kept up-to-date; condensation on double-glazed windows can be a sign they need replacing, for example. It can also be a sign of poor insulation, which spells big heating bills.
Plumbing can be expensive to fix, so it’s worth taking the time to check that it’s all in good working order. Do the radiators and hot water tank work? When was the boiler last serviced? Are the pipes insulated? Find out how old they are and what they’re made of; if they’re made of lead, you’d need to replace them to avoid your drinking water being contaminated.
Mobile phone coverage blackspots shouldn’t still exist, but they do, so it’s worth getting your phone out in different parts of the house and seeing whether you get phone signal. Is the signal strong enough for you to make calls and browse the internet? If it isn’t, you could be stuck with frustratingly poor signal at home until your phone contract is up for renewal.
Don’t neglect the outside of the property in your checks. Can you see anything that you’d need to spend money on, such as re-doing the patio or decking? Check the location and level of any external drains to ensure they’re accessible and functional; insufficient drainage can lead to severe structural damage.
Ask the estate agent whether the property is freehold or leasehold; if it’s leasehold, how much time does it have left? If you’re buying a flat, you’ll also need details of any ground rent and service charges that you’d be liable for once you move in.
On the subject of costs, you’ll also need to think about the other expenses you’ll have to cover if you go ahead with buying the house. These could include:
● Stamp duty
● Surveys and valuations
● Mortgage arrangement fees
● Mortgage indemnity fees
● Mortgage broker fees
● Estate agent fees
● Life insurance
Budgeting for these expenses, plus a bit extra for anything unforeseen, should mean you don’t have any nasty surprises when it’s too late to avoid them.
Finally, having gone through the stress and excitement of buying your new house, it’s important to make sure you have the right home insurance in place so that you’re covered if your prized possessions are involved in any unfortunate accidents in your new home. You’ll even be able to add on extra cover for things like pest removal, so you’ll know that wherever you end up moving to, help is only ever a phone call away.