Buying a house is one of the biggest investments most people will make in their lives.
Regardless if you are buying on your own or buying as part of a family, knowing what to look for when buying a house can make all the difference to everyone’s everyday lives.
What to look for when buying a house
So, you’ve spotted a property on Zoopla, RightMove or perhaps even the window of an estate agents and you’ve decided it ticks all the boxes in terms of what you are looking for when it comes to a new home.
If you’re buying a family home, you will have to consider what your family might look like in 5 to 10 years’ time and therefore it can be challenging to know what you should want when buying a family home.
Here are some tips for what you should look for when buying a house for a family rather than on your own:
Is there room to grow?
The property may be suitable for your current situation, but how will your family look in 2, 5 or even 10 years’ time?
If you’re planning to start a family, or would like more children, what sort of space will you need?
Is there scope to add value to your home by extend and adapt the property to meet your family’s changing needs?
If not, are you happy to view the property as a short-term purchase, with the intention of moving on again in a few years?
If so, you’ll need to try to view the property with a little more objectivity – does the property have wide appeal? Is it likely to hold its value or even increase in value? Will it sell on easily?
What are the local schools like?
Even if you don’t have children of school age, proximity to good schools is key – both for your family’s future and for the saleability of the property if you choose to move again in the future.
Schools can change dramatically with the arrival or a new staff, so a property that’s in the catchment area for a few different schools will be the wisest purchase.
What other local amenities will you have access to?
If you want to feel part of a local community, and don’t want to play taxi driver for the next 18 years, make sure there are good local amenities and public transport links.
How important is outdoor space?
If you’re looking for your first family home, and perhaps don’t yet have children, the value of outdoor space should not be underestimated! It doesn’t have to be vast, but it should be useable and accessible – steep slopes and concrete steps are not family-friendly features.
How will the local area look in 5 years’ time?
If you’re planning to make this next property a long-term family home, it’s worth looking into any planning applications etc in close proximity.
It’s easier to predict the future of more ‘established’ neighbourhoods, but if you’re looking at a newer property, you should still be able to get an idea of future developments by asking around and visiting your local council planning office.
It’s even worth looking at common home improvements and extensions in the area to get a feel for how the look of the area might change.
What would it be like to live in this neighbourhood?
If you want to imagine what life would be like in the property, it’s important to be as observant as possible – visit the property at different times of day and on different days of the week – how does the neighbourhood feel at the weekend in comparison with during the week? Are children playing out? Does it feel like a safe area? Are neighbouring properties well maintained? What does the neighbourhood look like after dark?
Why is the current owner moving on?
Finding out why the current owner is selling up is probably the most helpful piece of information you can gather from the owner or the estate agent.
If the current owner is moving because their family need more space, it may well cause alarm bells
Searching online and visiting your potential new house
Once you have found a property that matches what you are looking for; next step is really to book a viewing to see if it the actual property matches the listing and most importantly; your expectations!
We advise writing a house buying checklist. Include everything that’s important to you/family and tick features of the list as you go around the house.
The last thing you want to do is buy a house on a whim and further down the line realise the serious errors made in your house purchase.
After all, the last thing you want to do is move into a new home and find out that the neighbours are noisy and inconsiderate, or that there will be a new housing estate built on the land behind it in the next few months.
That means, increased traffic, noise, neighbours and, most probably, destroying the beautiful view of the land surrounding you.
Be sure to check the outside of the house
Although on a viewing, we tend to inspect the inside of a house. Make sure you thoroughly inspect the outside of the house too. It may be useful to have a family/friend who works in the construction/building industry to look at the house for a second opinion.
It is important to look for any cracks in the rendering, lose roof tiles or roof covers, damaged guttering, drains, peeling paint or other marks on the walls.
You may notice, for example, that a certain estate is prone to cracks in the rendering, while another area may have problems with drainage.
We never recommend buying a house without an independent structural survey being performed.
This normally costs between £400 – £800. This can seem like an unnecessarily, big expense when you haven’t fully committed to the purchase.
If you do decide to skip this process and buy the house anyway, you need to be aware by doing so, you could be faced with a hefty repair bill further down the line.
Visit the property at different times of the day
Don’t just fall for having one viewing and making an offer, instead, make a passing visit to the property at different points of the day to get an all-round view of the atmosphere.
It will be busier with cars, for example, when everyone is home from work. You may also want to see what the area is like at the weekend, and generally get familiar with the street’s atmosphere.
Make sure you have a good, in depth, look at the property
Don’t be afraid to test things and take a further look into spaces with the property, you may want to open the pantry, for example, and check the cupboard space. You should also test the function of the doors and windows, and why not turn the tap on to test water pressure?
After all, when it comes to buying a house, it is one of the biggest purchases you will make and, therefore, you should make sure you have a good knowledge of the property before committing to buy it.
Talk to the neighbours
Nobody knows the area better than the next-door neighbours and knocking on the door and asking them about the area may give you a better understanding of the property’s surroundings.
You may, perhaps, be concerned about the exterior of neighbouring properties or would like to know if certain households can be noisy or inconsiderate.
You could also find out which properties are rented and how often the tenants change. If a neighbour has lived in the house for over 10 years, for example, you’d imagine that they must be comfortable living there.
What questions to ask when buying a house
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the house buying process and forget to ask the questions you had previously thought about before having a house viewing. Therefore, it is essential to write these questions down before you attend a viewing of the property.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, however, some of the questions you may want to ask when buying a house are:
- What boiler does the property have?
- What council tax code does the property come under?
- How long has the previous owner lived here for?
- Are the windows double-glazed?
- What is parking near the property like?
- How long has the property been on the market?
- Is there anything you should know about this sale? For example, is the nearest school or supermarket closing down?
- What is the minimum price the owners will consider?
- Has the property had any previous offers?
Don’t forget: Despite the stress often placed on property buyers, it is important to take your time over making a decision on your new property and investigating any areas you are not totally sure about, for example, making sure you are happy with the neighbours and any other points about the local area.
After all, buying a home is a huge purchase and any mistakes can be expensive and distressing for everybody involved.