For Plymouth property buyers, finding a new home is well known to be one of the most stressful activities that we can embark upon. There are many potential pitfalls. However a bit of knowledge sensibly applied can make the whole process much easier and safer. Follow my twelve top tips for property buying success in Plymouth or anywhere else in the UK.
1. Arrange to Have a Full, Detailed Survey Carried Out
Don’t go for the basic Homebuyers Survey and Valuation (HSV) as this is very limited, and is only intended to assess if the property is worth the selling price and to pick up any obvious problems. With a basic survey they won’t check the wiring, drainage, or gas, and it may not be suitable for older or unusual buildings.
A full Building Survey will be more expensive but a lot more detailed, and could help you avoid expensive errors, or raise problems which you could use to negotiate on the price.
In addition check the Energy Performance Certificate to get an idea of the typical energy costs of the property.
2. Visit the Property at Different Times of the Day and Night
The neighbourhood may be a haven of peace and quiet in the daytime, but become a rowdy party scene at night. There may be ample parking in the daytime while everyone is a work, but the area could become a lorry-park by the evening. You could be living in your new home for a very long time, so don’t make assumptions about the area based on one short visit.
3. Ask the Current Owners Why They Are Moving
Particularly if they haven’t lived there for very long. They may not give you a truthful answer, but if they are evasive then that could be a warning sign that all is not well. You can also tell a lot by what they don’t say and from their body language.
4. Introduce Yourself to the Neighbours
Knock on the doors of the neighbours on either side of the property you are interested in and introduce yourself as a potential buyer. Ask them what the neighbourhood and local schools are like. Not only will their answers be revealing (after all,they have no incentive to lie) but you can find out if they seem friendly and respectable people. After all, you may be living next door to them for a long time!
5. Avoid an Area Prone to Flooding
Your solicitor should do property searches that will give you information about the local area, but it doesn’t hurt to use your common sense as well. If there is a river at the bottom of the garden or the property is on the beach front, then flooding could clearly be a risk. Ask local people who live there about whether the area ever floods, and don’t forget that the internet is a mine of information, as long as you use a trusted source.
6. Be Aware of Landslide or Subsidence Risks
If the property is near to a cliff then you may have a lovely sea view, but the property could end up in the sea one of these days! If the area used to be mined then you need to beware of potential mine shafts which have not been covered up properly or sink holes opening up underneath the property. Much depends upon the soil type and other geographical features, so do your research carefully.
7. Don’t Buy Next to a Pub, Airport, Gasworks, or Similar
You may think it’s handy to have a pub across the road or to be close to the airport, but if you ever want to move then potential buyers may not agree. Most people look for peace and quiet in their ideal home and would prefer such facilities to be easily accessible, but not right on the doorstep due to noise considerations. A room with a view is always popular but not if it’s a view of the local gasworks!
8. Avoid a Busy Road Right on Your Doorstep
It may make the price of the property cheaper, but it could make it hard to sell if you ever want to move. The sound of traffic is undesirable to most people and even double or triple glazing may not cut out all of the noise. Good transport links are important, but people generally want their home to be a quiet haven, away from the stresses and strains of the world. Having traffic whizzing past your living room windows is not ideal, especially in the summer when noise and traffic fumes will be more of an issue.
9. Make Sure Local Schools are Desirable
Even if you don’t have children yourself, you may in the future (never say never), and being in the catchment area of a good school will add value to your home. Being in the catchment area of a failing school will do the opposite and will detract from the value of your property, so it makes sense to take this into account.
10. Houses Will be Easier to Sell Than Flats
There are quite a lot of flats being built at the moment, but not enough family homes. If you can afford it, go for as much space as possible because not only will it suit your future needs better, it could well be easier to sell. Not many people complain of having too much space in their home, but many complain of the opposite. Family homes, especially with at least three bedrooms and a garden are in short supply, so will probably be easier to sell than a flat.
11. Don’t Buy in a Run Down Neighbourhood
You may be able to get more space for your money if you buy in a slightly dodgy neighbourhood but I wouldn’t recommend it. My personal preference would be to buy a shoebox in an excellent neighbourhood rather than a mansion in a run down area. Homes in desirable neighbourhoods are easier to sell and are likely to hold their value better. The only exception would be if you were to buy in an ‘up and coming’ neigbourhood, but this can be risky as the area may not improve as much or as quickly as you had hoped. Do your research and talk to a variety of estate agents before you decide on your neighbourhood.
12. Look at Potential Instead of the Current Decor
The property you are looking at may be painted bright orange throughout, have the living room arranged as a gym and the dining room as a childrens’ play area, but you shouldn’t necessarily dismiss it straight away. Try to imagine each room painted a stylish colour and empty of furniture. Then think of what use you would make of the rooms.
Imagine the living room with your sofa and television in, and the dining room with your table and chairs in. Does the property have the right number of bedrooms, a reasonable sized kitchen and bathroom, and the right sized garden? If you need to knock down walls and build an extension to make the property work for you it could be too much hassle. However if it could become your ideal home with a fresh coat of paint and a thorough de-clutter, you’d be crazy to dismiss it. You could be losing out on a gem just by lacking the imagination to see what a few simple changes could achieve.
Follow My Twelve Top Tips
It may sound like it would take an awful lot of time and effort to follow my twelve tips, but your home is likely to be the most expensive and important purchase you will ever make. It would be a mistake to rush into it. You could be in your new home for ten or even twenty years. A few months spent researching the right property, in the right neighbourhood, with the right facilities and the right neighbours, will be well worth your while. Follow my twelve top tips and your dream Plymouth property, could become a reality which endures for many years of happiness.