House-hunting can be both an exhilarating and sometimes daunting experience. The key to success is to take your time, ask pertinent questions, and be prepared. Here are 10 of the most frequent mistakes made by house-hunters and how to avoid them.
1. Failing to ask relevant questions about the seller. The owner’s personal circumstances are critical to how much you should expect to pay for a property and when you can hope to complete. Make sure to ask the agent for the necessary information. Is the owner looking to move quickly? It is worth asking.
2. Not allowing enough time for a viewing. If you know straight away that a property is not for you, there is no point in hanging around. In many cases, you know straight away, whether a property is your dream home. Otherwise, you should take your time, explore every room, and let the property grow on you. House-hunting is not speed-dating.
3. Lack of familiarity with the area. We always to recommend people that they get a feel for an area before viewing properties. It puts the property in context and makes it easier to imagine living there.
4. Viewing too few properties for comparison purposes. If you are looking at similar properties in the same area, it is generally better to view at least four or five rather than one or two. It will give you a far better feel for the local market. Some home searches can go on for months, so it may help to give yourself a deadline to find the perfect property.
5. Not utilising the expertise of the agent. A good agent will not be just be a mine of information about the property, but also be able to tell you everything you need to know about the area. As agents, we never mind how many questions we are asked. In fact, we pride ourselves on having the information at our fingertips.
6. Not spending sufficient time in the most important rooms. If you want to get a real feeling for a property, it is important to linger in the key rooms such as the kitchen, master bedroom or main living-room. Don’t rush things and have specific questions in mind to ask in specific rooms.
7. Viewing a property with a large family in tow. Yes, it is nice if your children take a shine to what could be their new home, but kids may be a distraction. On the first viewing it may be easier to view on your own and bring the family along on the second or third viewing for their opinions.
8. Omitting to inquire about service charges, gas and electricity bills, transport links etc. With any property, there is a huge amount of secondary information which it is important to take on board. Some people forget to ask about service charges or scheduled planning work. A good agent will flag up this information, so the house-hunter is not surprised later. There is wealth of detail to absorb.
9. Asking to view unaffordable properties. It is always tempting to view properties that are out of your budget. Sometimes the owner may reduce the price, but it’s better to stick to properties within your price range to avoid future disappointment.
10. Not taking notes. And because there is a wealth of detail to absorb, you should not rely on your memory. Make a few written notes either on paper or on your iPhone. Alternatively, ask the agent whether it is ok to take a few of your own photographs inside the property or snap some photographs in the local area, which you can consult and review your impressions later.
In a busy world, preparation is everything. Take a proactive approach to house-hunting for less stress and more success.
•Contact Kay & Co estate agents for details of properties for sale or to rent in Marylebone, Bayswater, Paddington, Notting Hill, Mayfair, Hyde Park, Fitzrovia, Regents Park and The West End (020 7262 2030; Kay & Co)