It’s often said that location is key, but what are the other factors that you should be thinking about when researching the area and deciding on a new home? And how can you tell if you’re getting a good deal on a property? Here are Shape Surveyors top tips.
Before you start
Create a checklist of what you want in your new home. This could be anything from how many bedrooms you need, to thinking about the commuting time to your workplace. It’s important to think about your price range, too (and perhaps ask your mortgage provider for a decision in principle).
You can get property alerts to your email address through a variety of online property portals, but it’s a good idea to sign up directly with some local agents too. They’ll know the local market, and see properties before they’re listed online, meaning they can help you get ahead of the game!
Try and stick to the checklist you created for your ‘ideal home’ when selecting houses to view, and stay as emotionally detached as possible when viewing houses. That is, regard it as a business transaction until after you’ve moved in!
It’s okay to view properties slightly above your price range, as you may be able to negotiate a few thousand pounds off the asking price, but don’t waste your time by viewing houses that are far too expensive.
Equally, stay away from the seemingly cheap ‘fixer uppers’ unless you’re an experienced tradesman or builder (or have willing family members who are) and are willing to invest significant time and money into renovation works.
It’s highly recommended that you see the house at several different times of day. This is partly so that you can spot potential issues you may have missed the first time around, and partly so that you can get a feel for how your potential new home will feel to live in.
It’s just as important to take a stroll around the neighbourhood. Try and have a chat with the neighbours and find out what the area is really like.
You can use tools like Property Bee (http://www.property-bee.com/), an add-on for the Mozilla Firefox browser, to reveal additional information on many property portals. For example, you could see if the price of a house has been changed since it was first listed – and, if so, by how much. That could be valuable bargaining information when it comes to making an offer!
Zoopla has a property value estimation tool (http://www.zoopla.co.uk/house-prices/). It also shows how long each property has been on the market for; if it’s been listed for a while, the seller may be more willing to compromise on the asking price.
If you’re willing to be a little flexible about the side of town you live on, be sure to look at Zoopla’s heat map service. This is a colour-coded map, with high prices coloured red, and low prices blue. Of course, individual houses will vary in value, but this is an invaluable tool for quickly scanning a town and finding out which areas are the most affordable.
You can use NetHousePrices (http://nethouseprices.com/) to check what homes in the local area have sold for. Just enter the postcode into the search bar at the top of the page.
Many online property portals have the feature of showing what homes were sold in the nearby area to the one you are looking at, and at what price.
Research the area
There are some factors that will be important to you personally, and some that will help or hinder the resale value of the house when its time to sell it. Some of these include schools, universities, hospitals, public transport links, and the employment prospects in the area.
You can even find out about the crime rates in the area – just go to the Police website (https://www.police.uk/) and use the Crime map tool to find out what crimes have been committed in the local area.
You might also like to find out about any planned building and construction projects in the area. These can have a positive or negative impact, depending on what exactly is being built. You can find out what’s being planned in your new neighbourhood by using the Government’s search tool for planning applications (https://www.gov.uk/search-register-planning-decisions).
So, am I getting a good deal?
You can use a variety of tools to try and predict what will happen to the value of your home after you buy it. If an area has had a long-term market trend of rising values, that might be reflected in a higher asking price – but strong appreciation could mean your investment is worth it in the long run.
Equally, just because a house is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. It might be priced cheaply because it needs some cosmetic work doing, and the seller is in a rush – or it could be that prices in the local area have stagnated or even decreased over the past several years, or that there are some serious structural issues, and the seller is desperate to offload the property.
You can view market trends in your postcode with Rightmove (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/house-prices-in-my-area.html), as well as the historical sales price (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/house-prices.html).
Zoopla has a property value search tool (http://www.zoopla.co.uk/market/uk/), and you can also break out the average value by property type, as well as the percent change over the previous year (http://www.zoopla.co.uk/links/widgets/values/).
More general information is also available on a regional basis (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/news/house-price-index).