Buying a house is one of the most exciting (and scary!) things that a person can do. After all, we all dream about growing up in a dream home from the age dot. It’s rewarding but a big commitment and one that will be made all the more smoother if you go in feeling prepared from the start. Rule number one is to expect the unexpected – yet it helps to learn a few lessons from the people who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. I did the rounds of asking my nearest and dearest for the advice that they’d pass on. Here’s what they had to say.
1) Look for a south-facing or east/west facing property
Estate agents love to sell south-facing properties because of their sunny, warm and light credentials. For many homebuyers, the very thought of north-facing means a gloomy and chilly property that’s uninviting. While a south-facing home tops the most wanted list, it’s important to think about what your ideal home looks like. A glass extension built on the back of a southern home could actually be a waste of time, unless you fancy sitting in a sauna. An east/west property could be more of a draw if you’re looking for a bit of sun in front bedrooms early in the morning yet want it to switch to the back when it sets late afternoon.
Make sure to ask the current homeowner where you can expect to find the sun and at what time before you settle on a new home – even if you’re viewing the property in the winter. You might not mind straight away but you will once the summer temperatures kick in! Don’t get too caught up with the sun either – light is equally, if not more important (as I discovered the hard way when renting five years ago).
2) Check the parking
Picture the scene – pulling up outside your home to find that there are no parking spaces available after a long day at work. If it’s a one-off, it’s annoying but imagine the horror upon learning that this is the way it will be day in, day out for the foreseeable future. To avoid falling into the no-parking trap, make sure to view a property on multiple occasions, at different times of the day. There may be a parking space when you first view it mid-morning on a weekday, but it could be a totally different story at 6/7pm once people have returned from work. Say no to shared driveways too. If it’s the only snag for an otherwise perfect house, then give it serious thought, but it can easily become a point of contention following a neighbourly dispute.
3) Vet the neighbours
Of course, we don’t mean put them under surveillance but it’s worth keeping them in mind when you make multiple trips to the property to check out the sun and light situation. If a prospective neighbour is prone to listening to loud music, chances are you’ll become alerted to it on at least one visit. While you’re there, check for unsavoury characters hanging around the area of an evening and try to get an idea of where the local children will sit once school kicks out.
4) View the property in bad weather
The reason for this is two-fold. First, it’ll help you check for any leaks and second, it’ll help you work out whether your dream home is really your dream home or whether you should continue the search for something better. If you still love the home when it’s pouring down and you’re not beaming from ear to ear, then all signs point to it being worth putting in an offer. It can also force you into pushing your emotional response to one side and think about whether the home is a practical choice. You might have readily committed to undergoing building work to change the layout but are you really prepared to put that much time and money in?
5) Don’t be shy
Our instinct is to be as respectful as we can be and not be too intrusive when we’re in a stranger’s home. Go against what your body is telling you to do and resist the urge to get in and out as quickly as possible. Instead, get to know the house as much as you can. Ask all of the questions that are on your mind (things like whether the current homeowners smoke if you’re a non-smoker) and turn on the taps and shower. A steady flow of clean water is crucial. Make sure everything is in good working order and get a survey to be certain.
6) Pay attention to location
How many times have we all wished that we could up sticks to the country, or vice versa and head to the city? Your location will play a big part in your decision making but make sure that you’re not too focused on a breath-taking view that you’re ignoring the fact that you have to jump in the car and go on a 30 minute drive just to go and buy a pint of milk. Think about what your journey to work, the shops, the doctors and the nearest hospital and school would be like. If you need to compromise, make sure it’s one that you can live with.
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