Finding your new home to buy can be fraught with pitfalls, especially if you are a first-time buyer or are not from the country. However, if you do a little homework and know what to look for in advance of viewings, you will stand a much better chance of finding a suitable property without the headaches after you move in.
As part of a relocation package with Celsium, we will always have your best interests at heart, but here are a few pointers to get you moving in the right direction.
Know your figures
Moving to a new home can be an expensive business so it is important that you get your figures right. Any mortgage lender or broker will run an affordability assessment, but before you go out viewing property you need to work out what monthly mortgage payment (and property bills) you can afford.
Think about mortgage arrangement fees, legal costs (including various searches), surveys, removal costs, stamp duty. Most mortgage lenders have handy budget calculators on their sites to help you with this.
Also, if you need to buy furniture or appliances, factor these in too - you will be surprised how quickly the costs can mount up.
Finally, bear in mind that you may wish to redecorate or carry out some work in the property as this will carry an expense.
Find out how much bills for the property are. Council tax amounts are relatively easy to find (some letting agents will be able to give you a good idea of the costs) but you will need to ask about gas, water and electricity (or oil if there is no mains gas). This will help you work out your total monthly outgoings.
Have a drive or a walk around the neighbouring streets to get a feel for the area. How clean are the streets and how well are the other houses maintained? Does the area have the facilities and quality of amenities that you need? Do you need to consider schools? If so, what are the OFSTED ratings for the local schools? What transport links do you need? Close to the motorways, bus or train routes? Do you need to be very near to medical facilities? What shops and services do you need close by? Obviously a pub and a curry house is top of everyone's list.
What can't you live with?
Buying a home, unless you have a bottomless pit of cash, generally involves, like most things in life, some degree of compromise. So be prepared for this. If the kitchen is small, you might accept this if the other parts of the house tick plenty of boxes, but will that always be the case? I made this very compromise a few years back but a couple of years later ended up knocking a wall through to enlarge the kitchen. I keep telling myself I'll get that holiday in the Maldives one day...
Are you happy to park in the street? The vast majority of terraced houses do not have off-street parking so you won't have a choice and you may have to jostle for position. Do you need to apply to the local council for a resident''s parking permit? This is common in London.
Do you prefer terrestrial or satellite services? Do you want Virgin cable? They haven't got cable everywhere so you'll need to check the availability. If you want a satellite dish, are you permitted to erect one? Some apartment blocks don't allow this (but may have a communal dish you can tap into).
Also, does your mobile pick up a signal? There is nothing more annoying than a mobile phone on which you can't send or receive any form of data. I am speaking from experience and ended up ditching my phone provider.
Make sure you have the room sizes and check the width of the door openings to make sure all of your furniture can fit into the property. You don't want to be saddled with useless furniture when your double chaise-longue won't fit into the drawing room.
As you walk around the house, test fixtures and fittings to make sure they work. Do the light switches work? Do the taps turn on and not leak? Do all windows open and close correctly and have any double glazing units failed? Do the locks work? Do the doors open and close properly? Do toilets flush correctly? Is the shower sufficiently powerful? Check that the boiler works - both for heating and hot water.
If you do find any faults, remember it will cost you to repair them if you can't do it yourself.
Traffic and noise
Visit the area at different times of day to get a feel for traffic volumes and general noise in the area. The usual recommendation is to visit at rush hour and during school runs to get a good idea of how the area fares during busy periods. Is it on a busy bus route, or used as a thoroughfare for lorries? Is there a railway line or a motorway nearby?
It's always good to be aware of unusual smells as you walk around the property. Just because you can't see damp doesn't mean it isn't there. You might be able to smell it, that musty mouldy aroma that can be a tell-tale sign that something is amiss. If the property has been vacant for a while this can be quite common and nothing that a little ventilation and heating through normal use shouldn't be able to dissipate. If there is a larger damp problem, this will be picked up in your HomeBuyer Report.
Your mortgage lender will carry out a valuation survey but do bear in mind that this is purely for their own security - i.e. is the asset against which they are lending of sufficient value to protect their investment if you default on the repayments?
You should arrange a HomeBuyer Report (either through your mortgage lender or other qualified surveyor) which shows the condition of the property, offers guidance to legal advisers and highlights any urgent defects and ongoing maintenance advice. This is sufficient for most purchases but if you are intending to purchase a larger or older property, you should opt for a Building Survey, the most comprehensive survey that provides you with an in-depth analysis of the property's condition and includes advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.
Celsium offers a purchase assistance programme for relocation that includes support, guidance and advice on the above areas. Contact us to find out more.