When you're looking at potential new homes, it's easy to get carried away imagining how your life might be living there, but it's important to keep perspective early on in order to be able to carry out the necessary checks with due diligence.
In this article we look at the five most important things to consider. We assume that the property you're interested in buying has already been assessed in terms of 'amenity' checks around the local area, and focus on checks involving the property itself.
You're going to want to try and find out 'how safe' the property is. To do this you can ask for copies of the gas and electrical safety certificates. Carbon monoxide is another consideration – does the property have a monitor?
Aside from that you should look at the security of the property – are the windows secure? Is there any part of the building that's vulnerable to burglars?
If you have children, it will also be appropriate to look for any potential dangers around the property, so you can estimate how much it will cost you to make it safer for them.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that the 'mortgage valuation' provides a robust survey of the building. Before getting too far into the buying process, you'll want to commission an independent survey to assess the integrity of the building. The amount of detail you'll need will vary by property type, and so too will the cost of the survey, but without it you could end up hundreds of thousands out of pocket – or even lose the building completely if it's later condemned.
If you're buying a home that's part of a communal building, make sure you enquire as to how major works are undertaken, and how it's paid for.
For more detailed info, refer to our guide 'First Time Buyers – Guide to Building Surveys'
If you're looking at leasehold properties then you'll need to be familiar with the details of the lease. Some leased properties included service and ground charges which you'll need to factor into your affordability calculations.
It's important to remember that a 'leasehold' property, means that you're technically only purchasing the place for a limited amount of time. Ideally you wouldn't buy a property with less than a 90 year lease, with the cut off point being 80 years in terms of property valuation. Any less than 70 years, and it's likely that you'll struggle to secure a mortgage.
Leases can be extended, but as quite a high cost, and there is a minimum amount of time you have to live somewhere before you have the right to do so. For more information please see our dedicated guides, starting with 'Leasehold or Freehold – what's the difference'
Certain problems with the building or surrounding area may make it difficult to secure insurance for the property. Once you have your survey back, that should highlight any causes for concern, which you can then use to make enquiries for insurance quotes. Insurance providers also have information on high-risk areas such as flood plains, so making these enquiries can be a useful way of obtaining a greater knowledge about the property.
Make an informed decision
With all of the above information to hand, you should be in a position to make a decision on the property. Obviously you can now estimate how much investment will be needed, on top of the purchase price, to help guide your choice. If with all of the collected information you feel that the asking price is too much, then it may be that you can go back to the negotiating table to try and get the property for a lower price in order to correct some of the issues.