Most of us who own our homes and have been on the housing ladder for a while are pretty much au fait with what to ask and what to look for when buying a house that is to become our home, but for First Time Buyers it is usually quite the opposite.
As a Professional Mortgage Broker, I always metaphorically ‘hold’ first time buyers hands guiding them through the process and answering the many questions they throw at me. Surprisingly the questions are not just restricted to “Will we get a mortgage?”. So, I have had a think about some of the questions I have answered recently and put them together in this blog post.
How long has the house been on the market?
An important one this! If a property has been up for sale for a long while, then there is a very strong possibility that it is either over-priced or there is something terribly wrong with it! Usually if the property has some structural issue that would rule out the property being mortgageable, then this should be clearly mentioned in the sales particulars and the property is usually shown as ‘Cash Purchase Only’.
If there is no apparent issue with the property but it has been on the market for a while, then it may well be worth making an offer. I always tell prospective purchasers in this situation to “make an offer that you feel embarrassed about making!” OK, the chances are that it will be rejected out of court, but the important thing is you have started a dialogue with the vendor and you may well now be able to negotiate a deal that will be amicable to both parties.
We don’t know the area, what is it like?
Whilst I have been in the property industry for over 27 years now and have a pretty good idea of what some generic areas are like, the only way to truly find out if you like an area is to go and take a walk around at different times of the day. Is it a ‘rat run’ for commuters in the mornings? Is it on a school route and suffers with being clogged up with cars at school start and end times? Are there a lot of noisy children who congregate in the area?
Take a drive out to the area in rush hours (both ends of the day!), is the traffic tolerable? Have a chat with any neighbours you see in their gardens, see what they think of the area? What is the parking like in the area? If there isn’t a garage or driveway at the property you are considering, you will need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of parking on the road.
Why are the vendors selling?
There are of course many reasons, it could be a growing family or maybe a change of job requiring a house move. Perhaps it is a couple splitting up or maybe an executors sale? All will give an indication as to the likely need for a quick sale. When a house move is being made due to an expanding family, usually vendors will hold out to get the price they want. Often when a new job requires a house move the employer will assist with costs but there is usually more pressure to sell and move. A couple divorcing will invariably mean that they want to sell as quickly as possible so both parties can start their new lives. Perhaps the trickiest of all is the executors sale. Often the executors of a Will just want the property sold so they can relinquish their duties and share the monies to the beneficiaries. Equally there are many executor sales where one of the executors will hold out for an often, unrealistic price. It is these last cases where it is pointless trying to negotiate a deal...it will probably not happen!
How long is the Chain?
You may of course be really lucky and find that the person you are buying from is in turn buying a brand new property, so you are effectively the chain! If a seller has already found their next property then there is a chance they may be prepared to accept a lower offer to ensure that a move will happen with minimal delay. If, however the vendor is still looking for their new home then you may become part of a much longer chain which in turn could delay your purchase quite dramatically. If this is a potential problem, then it may be best to walk away!
Will this property be too small for us?
Remember that you are looking at a house that someone else has lived in and probably outgrown! When you walk into a property that you are viewing, to get a true idea of the floor space you have, don’t look at the floor, look at the ceiling! The ceiling is of course a mirror image of the floor, just without all of the vendors furniture and ornaments and a good look at what is above you will soon give you enough pointers to visualise if this property will work for you!
Above all else though, NEVER, EVER be afraid to ask a question of the Estate Agent, the Vendor or your Mortgage Broker. You may think that the question is silly...rest assured if it is worrying you, then it is not a daft question!