What to Do when you find a Home / Property
You’ve found it! This is the one. You think this home is just right – or close enough. What now?
A. Repeat viewings. See it at least 3 times. Go back at different times of the day and evening, weekdays and weekends so you truly see the property in different lights, in different contexts. A home we looked at on a nice quiet street at 11am, was jammed with traffic when we went back at 6pm as all the commuters were driving home from the local train station. I’ve seen people buy property after viewing on weekends only to realise that in the weekdays the main bus to the school stops right outside, so kids loiter around in the evening.
B. Act like a Detective. Aswell as viewing the actual property internally at different times, go back to the area and street, without the Agent and make like a detective. Visit morning, afternoon, evening and night if you can. Look for things such as kebab shops or bus stops nearby that can attract youngsters loitering. Walk around the neighbouring streets and notice for whats going on.
Are all the gardens or balconies in good order? Are the cars on the street well looked after. Are there alot of skips (renovations and gentrification taking place – all good). Does the area fill with different types of crowds on different days. This is going to be your home for at least a few years – if you buy, don’t like it and want sell quickly, you will lose thousands in stamp duty, legal costs, agent fees and create unnecessary stress. Research more upfront – it will pay off many times over.
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C. Research everything you can! Use the following resources for further research. If you don’t have time to this before making an offer at least do these checks yourself if you have an offer accepted on the property and preferably before you incur solicitor and survey fees.
Google Type in the full property address. Then just the street name. Then just the postcode. Look at the results on the first 3 pages. You might find very valuable information on the history or future developments. Planning applications often come up here too.
Local Planning Office. Check the website of the Borough the property is in (see our Area Guides for the Borough of a neighbourhood or area). Look for ‘planning applications.’ This section will give you an idea of neighbours adding extensions or loft conversions. If there is a precedent for work, you will often be able to do the same (of course contact the office if you are serious, to check this). It also lets you know if applications are being refused. For example alot of Agents talk about how basements can be converted or created to add to living space, yet many of these applications are now being rejected by councils.
Police Crime Mapping This may not be full proof and you have to take it into context, as no area is untouched, yet checking the Police website for crime statistics in the road or area you are buying in is very insightful.
Mobile Phone Masts Mobile phone masts are situated all over London. Often they are hidden (sometimes even in fake trees) as the public don’t like their presence. While we love using a mobile phone, the masts that pick up and send the phone signals have been linked to negative health effects, by media reports.
Whats for sure is that it’s better to be away from a mast if possible (not so in central London) or at least know they are there if you will be buying a home. Some would argue masts reduce the value of a property so if they are close to a new home, yet you don’t mind, at least use their proximity to bargain the price down. Check their locations on the government website here.
Radon Gas Radon Gas exists everywhere, yet high levels have been cited as harmful to humans and animals. Sometimes a home survey will note that the area the home is in has higher levels than is usual. You can check on the government website for information and get information before paying for a survey. See the government Radon website here.
Water Sources. Lakes, reservoirs and especially ‘running water’ such as rivers, streams and even canals can affect the perceived ‘flood risk’ of a property. Aside from being worried about the real risk of flood given the UK’s new unpredictable weather patterns, the presence of water close to a property can raise insurance premiums, or even prevent insurance companies from offering you a policy. Ordnance survey maps are the best way to check, although walking for half a mile in each direction around the property and entering the address into Google Earth is probably easier.
Be aware that some streams may dry up in summer and not be visible. When we bought a home that was 400 metres away from a stream (and in between the stream and the house was another street and a hill) we were refused buildings insurance from some providers as they classified the home as a flood risk. Always better to know in advance of buying…! If in doubt, just phone a large company and ask for a quote, saying you will be moving into the property soon.
Electricity Sources. Electricity sub stations and overhead powerlines are commonly regarded as having negative effects on health. Certainly their presence near properties tends to reduce values. Walking around the area you should be able to see any overhead powerlines. Do check more carefully for electricity sub stations as they can be well hidden behind fences, gates and bushes or trees.
Thames Tideway Tunnel This is a major new sewer, intended to ease the strain on London’s old sewer system which has struggled to cope with the increasing population. Construction of the tunnel will impact sites along the River Thames, from Hammersmith in West London to Beckton in the East. You can see the tunnel route and the construction sites here: Thames Tunnel sites. Key concerns if you intend to buy near any of these sites is the possibility that access points above ground could be near your property (chance of strong smells?) and a general concern over subsidence for properties above the construction route. The Thames tideway tunnel website goes into good detail on these matters.
Railway Developments. London is a big place and the needs of it’s 10 million residents command that public transport is constantly expanding. The biggest project currently underway is CrossRail. High Speed 2 is the newest proposed large project. Both involve underground tunnelling. Although they aim to minimise damage or disruption to properties you can’t be certain that vibrations and noise won’t impact your new property if it is in the vicinity of the proposed railway lines. Your surveyor and solicitor will inform you if these projects could impact your property. Better still, before searching see their websites and understand if they may be passing through areas you are searching in. You can see their websites here: CrossRail. High Speed 2.
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