A rush of Adrenaline. Sleepless nights. Daydreaming. Anxiety. Stress. Elation. Relief.
Most home buyers experience all of these emotions. In the rush to secure a home, fighting off other interested buyers, working through numbers in your head, trying to visualise how a space would look with new paint and furniture… with all this on your mind there will be always be elements of a property that you forget to check. If you are clever and competent (you are, right?) – you’ll use our checklists. We have a great checklist for the first viewing, then a more comprehensive second / third viewing checklist for when you are really getting excited and could be about to take the plunge and make an offer. We supply a guide to viewing properties to get your mindset right before each property walk-around.
Even so, emotions, lack of time and excitement get the better of us. Of all the home owners we’ve spoken to, a surprising number (well almost everyone) have highlighted a few things they forgot to check. Here are the Five we found most surprising and our respondents found most annoying that they had forgotten to check.
1 – STREET NOISE
Viewings often happen during the day, when neighbours are out, workers are busy and kids are at school. Only when we get to the evening (or even late evening) or early morning, do the most annoying noises surface! Listed below are the common issues we were told about.
- Early morning deliveries – Goods vehicles delivering to local shops
- Early morning / late night collections – rubbish and recycling being collected each day in central locations (or if you have shops, bars, restaurants or hotels nearby). The noise from bottles being dumped into the back of a refuse collection vehicle will wake the heaviest of sleepers!
- Bus Stops. If there is one on your street, they can be a magnet for teenagers. Also modern buses have very noisy air-brakes which emit a screeching sound when they stop.
- ‘The drunken-man route’ – many people found their homes are on streets used as thorough-fares by pub drinkers at night. Often those going home can be a little loud, especially when in groups. Having a bedroom facing onto the street can mean sleep interruptions, especially for kids who go to bed earlier.
- Are you on the closest road to a train or tube station, which doesn’t have a resident Permit scheme? Especially in London, we hear of many stories of people buying homes to be a walk from the station – only to find that those who drive to the station and park up, would use their road as a free parking spot. Resident permit schemes avoid this, so be careful if you are within a 5 minute walk of the station and your new road doesn’t have permit parking. Remember you may go to work later, but commuters can start arriving at 5 or 6 am in the morning – and many of them have noisy exhaust pipes!
- Tip: the general rule of noise is consistency, or at least consistent frequency. A humming air-conditioning unit outside your window is a noise you’ll quickly get used to. If you have a train line behind your flat or house, you probably won’t notice the noise after a few weeks, as long as those trains pop by regularly – every 15minutes for example. If the noise is irregular (like buses, cars, drunks) then, psychologically because your brain doesn’t know when the next noise will be, you stay on edge.
How can you ensure your new home doesn’t suffer noise intrusion from any of the above? Answer: stalk your new home! Hang around in the early morning, early evening and late evening. Sit around in your car, observing what is going on at these times. Walk around the block several times and keep your eyes and ears open (leave the iPod at home). Yes, this is obsessive, but it’s better than being upset and frustrated by noise pollution!
2 – WATER PRESSURE
Most of us like to jump into a power shower, or run a bath and be able to jump into that hot water within a few minutes. Neither of these are possible if you have low water pressure. It is insane how few property viewers actually turn taps on – and almost nobody turns a shower on to check pressure (okay, we can see it’s not attractive to continue the rest of the viewing in your dripping wet clothes!).
For houses – water pressure can seem okay downstairs when the kitchen tap is turned on, however upstairs when water pressure maybe fed by a small tank in the loft, the reality can be very different. Hosepipe pressure downstairs can quickly turn into a trickle upstairs.
Flats can suffer the same issues. Often the kitchen supply is coming in from the higher pressure mains feed, while the bathroom is supplied from a tank on the roof. The general rule is that you get 1 bar of pressure for each floor down you are from the tank. So if you’re up high, you may have very little pressure – 3 bars is ideal.
Many homes are now fitted with pumps to increase water pressure, or this may be suggested to you by the estate agent as a remedial fix – be aware these pumps are noisy and expensive to fit. Having the pump running while you brush your teeth, wash the dishes or shower can mean an unbearable noise for anyone trying to sleep or watch television in neighbouring rooms. Even though we can send men to the moon, the shower industry hasn’t yet come up with a silent pump!
Boilers are often the source of a water pressure bottle neck. Adding a new combi-boiler or a mega-flow system can help boost pressure, although if there isn’t a good flow-rate coming into the property, the new boiler won’t be able to work miracles. Remember too that this option can cost thousands on top of your purchase price!
Lastly, sometimes it’s those damn beautiful fittings that drop water pressure. Modern fittings in bathrooms and kitchens that come from Europe (including brands like Grohe, Hansgrohe and Crosswater) are sold by all the major shops. Unlike English fittings, they require high pressure, often a minimum of 2.5 bar, which is high by English standards (European home owners are blessed with higher pressure as standard). So be careful if you plan to refurb and change fittings once you are in!
3 – STORAGE SPACE
How much storage space do you need? Just think about that for a moment… Do you have one wardrobe of clothes, a chest of drawers and another unit? What about those bags stuffed under the bed. The shoe boxes hidden in the corner. Clothes left in the airing cupboard, from lack of space? Did you remember those things you leave in the suitcase for ‘winter storage.’ Did you count those items stuffed into corners, drawers in hallways and the lounge, or things just piled into a corner? What about that bike you leave in the hallway, or the kids toys in the garage and loft? Ironing board, step-ladder, hoover – you remembered those right?! Volume is the correct way to measure storage, but no-one knows how much ‘volume’ they need, although “more” is often the correct answer!
Storage can be completely deceptive. Show homes in new developments use wardrobes that are custom made smaller, so rooms appear bigger (I kid you not!). When viewing a property you often only notice lack of storage if the current owners belongings are everywhere – remember clever ones will de-clutter before you arrive. Best is to do this: walk around your current home, and make an inventory of what you store and where. Then when you are serious about buying a certain home, on your second or third viewing, take this list and have a think – will everything fit? It’s usually best to add 20% to your storage requirements, as you’ll only accumulate more in the years ahead and a home without enough storage, is a messy home!
Over 90% of people we ask say they wish they had more storage in their new home… plan ahead, and be the 10% that are happy hoarders.
4 – YOUR NOISE FOOTPRINT
My noise footprint? What’s that, you are thinking? Is that the noise made when my feet hit the floor? Amazingly – it sometimes is! These days we all live closer to one another. Many of us will buy flats and others houses that are terraced or semi-detached. Well it’s one thing worrying about noises your neighbours will make – and although this is a huge item to consider, most property viewers do think about noise from others, when viewing. What most of us don’t think about is – how much noise will I make? See those nice wooden floors in the new flat you’re buying… well walking on them in your shoes every day is going to send major sound reverberations to your neighbours downstairs – unless they are superbly well noise insulated (and most are not). Do you have surround sound TV-audio system? Great, but that guy living next door is gonna hate the way your sub-woofer makes his wall tremble.
Perhaps you like the look of that garden or terrace for summer barbecues and al-fresco dining. Well have you noticed that you are overlooked by a multitude of bedroom windows, so your neighbours kids are gonna be kept awake on summer nights, with their windows open, while you recount funny stories at the top of your voice to visiting friends on your outdoor table.
Being considerate to others is something most of us do each day at work, on public transport, even in the street. We often don’t think about the same impact once we get into our home as we think we’re cocooned away from the world. Just be sure to check the following before you buy the new place:
- Walls – knock on any walls that join another property. Are they hollow and thin or solid?
- Floors – if you’re viewing a flat, knock on the neighbours downstairs and ask if they hear footsteps (well the current owner isn’t going to tell you that she wears slippers because they complain of the clickety-clack of her high-heeels, is she?)
- Ceilings – if you can go upstairs and speak to the neighbours, it’s worth it. Noise travels up aswell as down.
- Hoovers and Washing Machines. What do they have in common? Answer: that they make things cleaners? Wrong: the answer is they make a hell of a racket on wood floors and tiled surfaces. A machine on fast spin late at night or a hoover being pushed around early morning can seriously annoy your neighbours if you’re not well insulated – ask them if they hear these things now.
- Musical instruments. It goes without saying that if you have a loud hobby you like to practice at home (this goes for any budding X-Factor or Voice contestants too), you need a room that is remote from neighbours – does the new property have that?
- Open all the windows – stick your head outside and have a peek around. You’ll be opening them in the summer and the only way to tell if your music, television or loud voices will be impressing upon anyone else is to judge the proximity to other people’s windows.
5 – TV SERVICE PROVIDERS (a.k.a. ‘SKY’)
We can’t be serious? Oh yes we can. In fact missing out on the latest episode of West Wing or the Premiership football can ruin the feel of a new home. Most home purchasers just assume they can connect upto whatever services they want, just because they have always had the choice before. NOT SO! There are many areas where cable providers don’t operate, there are regions where there isn’t a good enough fibre connection to get decent broadband and hence TV over internet services won’t be available (BT, TalkTalk) and there are lots of places where you cannot get SKY!
That’s right, no SKY! Let’s be honest, SKY television is the service most homeowners care about and wouldn’t be without. Well did you know that if you are moving into a flat and you don’t have a communal dish, that the freeholder or managing agent may not allow you to put a dish up? It’s likely a clause hidden in the leasehold document written a hundred years ago. Yet I can bet you a Sopranos box set that your conveyancing solicitor will not have pointed this out, or asked about it in their enquiries questions!
More and more homes are now in ‘conservation areas.’ Aswell as placing restrictions on how you can develop your home, conservation areas can be very strict on banning satellite dishes (enforced by local councils). Here’s a clue – if you never see estate agents ‘For Sale’ boards in the area, it’s likely because it is a conservation area. You’d think this would be limited to villages in the picturesque countryside right? Wrong! I know of someone who lived in Piccadilly Circus (yes that’s right, the huge tourist roundabout in Central London with all the bright neon signs – you can actually buy a flat there), whom wasn’t allowed to put up a SKY dish because it may blight the view from Primrose Hill (3 miles away) towards the Houses of Parliament. I kid you not – this is a true story, so the moral is, check to see if neighbours have dishes and call Sky and ask if they supply service to your new address, before you buy!
So there you have it, FIVE things you’ll no longer forget to check when buying a home! We hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments and be sure to view our entire Buying Guide, to make sure you are as switched on to the pitfalls of Buying a home as we are – we’re sure you’ll get the benefit of a few minutes spent educating yourself!