1. Explore the local neighbourhood – remember the old adage – the three most important factors are location, location and location. Clearly personal requirements will vary, but look out for things such as: transport links, local amenities, upkeep of the streets, local schools, hospitals and doctors, crime rates, and try to get a feel for the surrounding community. Check the Environment Agency flood map – and ask around about any local flooding problems.
2. What can’t you live with? – Love the property but can’t live with the kitchen? Or the carpet? Or need to completely make-over the bathroom? Don’t forget to factor these costs in, especially if you plan to do the work soon after moving in. In fact it makes sense to visit with a builder and get them to estimate the cost of the work you’d like to do.
3. Plan ahead – Mortgage fees, legal fees, moving costs and stamp duty can all make moving house an expensive process. So plan to stay in your home as long as you can by thinking about your medium and longer term requirements – for example, starting a family or accommodating a growing family, or starting a job in a new location.
4. Does your mobile work – It might seem trivial in the grand scheme of property tick boxes, but lack of signal in your home might become a real bugbear over time. In multiple locations around the property, try making a phone call to see how the signal holds out. Check there’s decent broadband too!
5. Parking – Does the property come with allocated parking? If not, is it easy enough to find a space? Do you have to pay extra for residents parking? These are all worth confirming beforehand, to prevent unexpected cost or inconvenience.
6. Move furniture around – This will allow you to gauge the true size of the rooms and also potentially uncover any problems, such as shoddy paintwork, cracks in the wall, flooring issues, that have been tactically hidden. Don’t forget to check if the furniture you own will fit in the new place.
7. Everyday functionality – Don’t forget to check that there is decent central heating and that the house is insulated and double glazed. These will make a big difference to your energy bills but also to how nice the house is to live in. Confirm the basics such as the taps, light switches and plug sockets are all in working order, and open and close the doors and windows to ensure they’re functional. If you do find any faults, bear in mind you may incur extra costs to fix them.
8. Pay for a good survey – unless you are an expert it is usually well worth paying for your own full structural survey. A building surveyor will identify any structural issues with the property as well as issues such as damp, woodworm or dry rot. If they do identify problems they may not be a deal breaker – but may allow you to negotiate the price down. If you are planning on an extension or loft conversion don’t forget to check if this would be possible and if you’d get permission. If the property is a new or recent build ask people on the same estate if they have encountered any problems with their homes.
9. Bills – Try and find out how much the council tax, service charges and general bills (water, gas, electricity (these will vary depending on your usage)) will be. This will allow you to calculate your average monthly outgoings and the overall affordability of the property. If the house isn’t on mains gas check on the cost of oil or gas tanks.
10. Use your senses – Listen out for high noise levels, for example, loud neighbours or a nearby railway. Also, be sure to check for unusual smells – you might not see the physical signs of damp, but it quite often gives off a musty aroma. Be sure to visit the property during different times of the day, e.g. rush hour, weekends, during the school run, to see if it makes a deterring difference. Remember to visit in daylight as well as in the evening!