Searching and finding a new property can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. A majority of buyers find a home within 2 to 6 months. London is a great City for property as it offers alot of choice. Different neighbourhoods will give you completely distinct vibes and feel. London’s downside is that with so many residents, competition to buy a property comes from a much larger number of people, including many who aren’t resident here full time (second home buyers living in other parts of the UK or abroad).
Using our property budget calculator guide will let you know how much you can spend. You have to be realistic and see if many properties in your area, which fit your requirements for size, location, style of property and so on, fall within your budget. If there are lots then you should find quicker (weeks). When there are only a few such properties then your search will take longer (months or over a year).
Supply and Demand control prices. Typically supply has been short in many desirable areas of London, from prime central locations like Belgravia, to central locations like Marylebone and highly regarded susburbs such as Highgate. Short supply pushes prices up, as more buyers (the ‘Demand’) are chasing fewer properties. In addition new demand constantly arrives, from elsewhere in the UK or many foreign buyers who just see London Property as a safe way to store their money. This new demand has added to short supply and kept prices moving up in central locations. Certainly this has occurred across most of London since property prices bottomed out in early 2009.
Todays search for the ideal home in London is taking buyers upto four times as long as it previously would have. Many are renting while they wait, to improve their position (by being a buyer without a ‘chain’). Others are holding off selling their own homes until they find something better – this of course reduces supply even more. Be patient if you can’t find the right home for you, just make sure that you are following our ‘serious buyer’ tips and check through the guidance below to ensure you aren’t looking for something that isn’t there.
Does it feel like you only started your search last week and already you are putting in an Offer on a property? We hope you’ve been lucky and found the right place early on. We just want to be sure you have as it’s expensive to change property once you’ve bought and even if you can sell in the short term for the same or higher price you will lose stamp duty + survey + conveyancing fees and maybe incur a mortgage repayment penalty.
A good tip: the majority of people we have come across who bought a home within 4 weeks of starting looking were not happy after 6 months (it’s okay, about 25% were – they did the research and followed our guidance). Some of those happy buyers were using property finders to assist. So take your time – and at the same time – go full speed ahead if you find the dream home on day one!
* Are you making a rash decision? If you’ve used this guide and followed the advice you should be okay. Have all your requirements been met? Have you conducted the property checks , completed extra research? If you still feel like you are making a rash decision have friends or relatives visit the property and speak to someone independent for advice: colleagues are usually better than friends who can be biased towards you. Even if you fall in love with one of the first homes you see, keep seeing others. You can place an offer on the property you like, but by viewing other properties you get to put the house or flat into ‘relative perspective’ against what else is available.
* Are you completely sure on the Area and Location, especially if you are new to London or that part of London. If yes, great! You should check through our area guides to double check the Pro’s and Con’s and get the ‘feel’ of the area. Then look at neighbouring areas on our guide and perhaps other areas in London that match up on the same criteria (e.g. good for families, good for singles).
* Does the property tick most of the boxes of your requirements? Or did you just fall in love with the location and the view and forget to check everything else is ok?
* Empty property with no furniture? Make sure you’ve measured up to ensure your belongings will fit. A new development in Fitzrovia has been cheeky enough to put beds and wardrobes into their show flat that are only three-quarters of normal size. Once buyers move their own furniture in they will realise there will be no space to open wardrobe doors or walk around the bed! Make sure you use our viewing checklist to be ahead of those sneaky sellers.
* Are you buying because “my friends or colleagues are.” Psychology plays a big role in property buying and selling. When a neighbour changes their car for a better one, we often sub-concisously start thinking about doing the same, even though we may be happy with our car. Often we live life in relation to those around us, rather than truly on our own terms.
Property is a prime example of this. Peer groups find that when one or two friends move from rented accommodation to buying their first flat, or from a flat to a house, other friends in the group follow suit. Make sure you are buying and moving because it’s your intention! If it’s just to keep up with lifestyle changes of friends, colleagues or family then you may make a rash decision. Be your own person.
Buying S l o w l y
Taking your time to find the right property is perfectly fine. Considering you will live in the property for a long time in most cases it’s really important to find a home that will make you happy. What is important is to weigh up why a search is taking a long time, if you set out over a year ago to buy and haven’t done so yet. You also need to know the pitfalls of taking too long.
* Did you only ‘get serious’ recently? Property hunting has become a bit of a sport or hobby in the UK. Properties intrigue us, so many who have no intention of moving, keep up with changes in estate agent windows and frequently browse property websites. You may have been just ‘looking’, rather like window shopping for a few months or years. If you’re now ready to buy begin at the start of our guide and get going with our professional advice.
* Are you being realistic? Can you actually find what you want? Get past ‘perfection’ syndrome to the reality of what is actually available. When my parents were looking for a new home in London I went through their ‘must haves’ list and found there were about 20 requirements on it! To be fair, they never would have come up with this many things had I not been very thorough with them. When I looked at the list I was able to change some of those ‘must haves’ into ‘nice to haves.’
This shortened the search and pointed us towards areas where we could get most of those things in our budget. We found the perfect property within a year and beat off intense competition to secure the house (all using the information and guidance on this site – yes it really works!). Most importantly, I turned their ‘fantasy search’ into reality. You must be honest with yourself and do the same. A good way to check is by asking a couple of estate agents if you are likely to find your wish list, in your chosen areas and with your budget.
* Is your budget realistic? Even with a long list of property requirements, you can often find it all – if you have the budget of a Russian Oligarch or are prepared to live in any location. Of course most of us have fixed budgets and we’d hope after browsing our area guides you have one, two or three desired areas. Big Question: can you afford what you want in your area? We’ve had this issue ourselves, knowing that the best of what we want in our area is too expensive, so we’ve sacrificed an extra bedroom to find properties that are realistically within our budget. You need to ensure properties in your price range are what you are looking for and avoid ‘hoping’ that the right property will come up at a ‘knockdown’ price. It rarely happens.
* Are prices moving up? It can be hard to tell month to month what property prices are doing. London is an anomaly because one area can be shooting up in price while a neighbouring area is going nowhere (Canary Wharf versus it’s neighbour Poplar are great examples). Do keep an eye on property indices, which give you an overall trend. Nationwide and Halifax produce them on their websites.
* Are prices moving down? On the flipside you could find yourself gaining from falling prices. Many areas around the country have seen prices falling recently as the economy grapples with changes. Sometimes taking your time to buy means property prices come your way. It is important to look at transaction prices not asking or offer prices. I recently read a report that said over 35% of properties in London were selling at less than the original advertised price, or had their advertised prices reduced.
* Will you look back in few months and wish you had bought a property you had viewed and dismissed early in your search? When starting out on a search we have all these ideals for what we after. Then we go on viewings and we see the reality is that the properties we can afford aren’t exactly what we had in mind.
A very common situation is when we dismiss a property early on because it was only 80% or 90% right, then after seeing lots of properties that are worse, wish we had bought that earlier one. How to avoid this? See as many properties as possible at first. This is the only good reason for viewing properties you doubt you would be interest in. Rather than wasting estate agents time, you’re actually speeding up the process of finding a home (and the agent getting a sales commission) by quickly getting to know ‘what is out there.’
* Paying more rent – are you losing out? Renters often worry they are making their Landlords richer and wasting their own money. While this is partly true, if you don’t have the money to buy yet, or haven’t found your ideal home, renting in an area you like is a great way to stay happy and improve quality of life, rather than moving miles away to an area you can afford.
If you are renting and property prices are stagnant or falling then you aren’t really wasting much money. Just ensure your savings are in high interest accounts (which you can access quickly when you do find a home). When prices are moving up, then you are losing out. Not only could you be paying off a mortgage and building up equity in your own property, but you’ll need more savings or a bigger mortgage to buy a property too. In this case don’t hang around – widen your search area, change your search requirements, find that flat or house and get buying!
More property comes up for sale in Spring and early Summer and most property transactions occur during this time, so competition from other buyers is highest too. Property transactions always slow down around holiday periods: Christmas, Easter and Summer. Very few new properties are listed during this time as sellers are busy elsewhere and don’t want estate agents and viewers intruding, or visiting while they are away on holiday.
London is slightly special in that there is a huge amount of Buy-to-Let property. A trend here is that owners of investment properties will often market them for a few weeks for sale towards the end of the current tenancy. If the property sells at a good price they are happy, yet if the property stays on the market once the tenant has moved out the owner will often re-let the property to keep cashflow coming in, then perhaps try again when the new tenant moves out (this may be a year or several years).
Most rentals are started at the end of summer with tenants beginning new jobs, university or moving during summer holidays to avoid disrupting children. Therefore July to September is a common time to find rental properties marketed for sale. When you view these homes, remember that tenants rarely keep these properties anywhere near as clean or nice as an owner living there (especially true of flat rentals or houses which are not let out to a single family), so look past the mess and decor and figure out if this could be a nice home for you.
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