June 2nd, 2005

userinfo senji
2005/06/02 22:02:00 - Househunting
So, </a></b></a>claroscuro's grandmother being happy to provide an, umm, larger deposit than we initially expected, we're definitely on for househunting (and indeed are planning on looking at some houses this Saturday!).

Does anyone want to give us any advice about buying piles of bricks?
Current Mood: [mood icon] calm
Entry Tags: house

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userinfo crazyscot
2005/06/02 21:45:00
It's very quick for a vendor to dress up a house with nice presentation-things which might induce your judgement. Try and see through such tactics if you can; remember that you're buying the house, not the contents. It's also a common ploy for vendors to invest in new kitchens and bathrooms in the hopes that they'll add more than their worth to the house's value. A superficial shithole won't sell fast, but (if the structure is sound) could be cleaned up turned around into a very decent pad - often for less time and effort than you think. (Case in point, a 1960s Q-type coincidentally just round the corner from Arden Road which lark_ascending and I looked at. It was horrible - the whole place needed to be completely redecorated (walls and floors), the fittings probably needed replaced and the kitchen was particularly small and lacking. The asking price was £105k, IIRC, and it's not difficult to see why; but sell it did, I understand, to a buy-to-letter...) Related to this, if you want to try and avoid the stress of bidding wars and gazumping, remember that the places which need work done are less likely to see serious competition from buyers.

To this end it'd stand you in very good stead to get an idea for the amount of work you're prepared to do/have done on a place before you start seriously looking. (We repainted most of the flat before moving in, frex.)

See if you can think like a surveyor, without getting too badly lost in details; ask yourselves if you could move into each place tomorrow, furniture notwithstanding? What sort of work would you want to do, and over what sort of timescale? Why wouldn't you want to live in the place? (The usual agents' trick is to promote the good things and gloss over the bad things; it's a bit like a cryptic crossword, trying to figure out what's missing.)

Remember also that, while you can change almost anything inside, the one thing you can't change is location. Don't get too attached to your preconceptions of the sorts of area you might want to live in, that'll just overconstrain you. Bear in mind that estate agents have a habit of turning up plausible places you might not have considered as achievable! (Case in point, a flat just off Hills Road - top [seventh!] floor, gorgeous skyline view - which was only just outside my stated budget...)

My recommendation for estate agents has to be Pocock and Shaw, and a big disrecommendation for Russell Residential. The others in town, I have only browsed, but none other than Pococks seem to get a good reputation via cam.misc.

Oh, and good luck! :)
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userinfo claroscuro
2005/06/02 21:53:17
Russels were the only estate agent that my visit to today convinced me that I didn't want to buy from them if I could possibly avoid it

A number of the others were very helpful - FJ Lords and Connells (that surprised me but it was true) in particular.

The more often I spoke to someone the more scary the numbers got...
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userinfo mobbsy
2005/06/02 23:00:06
Estate agents mostly deserve every bit of their reputation, always remember that they're salesmen on commission; they'll make things up, stretch truths, and omit facts if it makes you more likely to buy. The really good ones will sound like they're just being friendly and informative, the less good ones drip slime over the carpets. That said, some companies are less bad than others, I'd second crazyscot's commendation of Pocock & Shaw, I bought through Tyler's, who were also reasonable to deal with. However, shop around, don't overly restrict yourself on property choice by only dealing with nice people.

There's a lot of truth in the "location" mantra, with a freehold it's the only thing you can't change about the place with the application of time and money. The location is one of the best things about my flat, being on a very quiet and inoffensive estate (if not very trendy), and closer to the town centre by bike than a lot of Kings Hedges, Arbury, Fen Ditton or Cherry Hinton (the other areas that had most of the properties in my price range).

Remember that house prices aren't fixed, they're always subject to negotiation. I'd say don't offer the asking price at first, you can always bid up if refused. When I was buying a lot of places went for above the asking price (judging by those I got outbid for), and I only got about £1,000 off on the one I got. I don't know what the market is like at the moment. Like far too many elements, it's not in the estate agent's interest to give you unbiased advice on this.

It might take quite some time, expect to put a lot of effort into finding places. If you get into a bidding competition, be willing to lose the place. Set yourself a realistically comfortable budget and a maximum that you're willing to stretch to for the right place. Don't let anybody know what the maximum is.

Don't forget to account for all the immediate costs that you'll never see again; stamp duty, solicitor's fees, possibly some mortgage fees, the cost of moving your stuff, whatever you'll need to pay tradesmen immediately (e.g. a CORGI gas fitter to put in the cooker), on top of which will obviously be the cost for any furniture and white goods you need to buy, but at least you get something for your money there.

Find a decent mortgage advisor. It might be easy, I was quite happy with the IFA that was tied to Tyler's. He was on commission, but was entirely above board about the levels of commission on various recommendations he made and did a lot of work on my behalf due to some complications that came up.

Don't forget that for the first few years you should look at changing your mortgage every couple of years. You're not really signing a contract for 25 years (or whatever). AIUI at the moment variable rate is considered a better bet than fixed rate (I took out a 2-year fixed rate in January betting rates would rise, now they look like falling if anything).

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userinfo lnr
2005/06/03 09:17:53
About 6 months ago I looked at changing mortgages to see if we could get something better. Broker basically said if we wanted to keep the flexibility to overpay (which we did) then we wouldn't find anything better than the base rate variable mortgage at Nationwide which we already had.
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userinfo ex_lark_asc
2005/06/03 13:11:22
Remember that house prices aren't fixed, they're always subject to negotiation. I'd say don't offer the asking price at first, you can always bid up if refused

Although sometimes (only sometimes, I suspect) genuine interest will win out over this kind of approach; crazyscot won the (two-man) bidding war on his flat by going straight in at the asking price whereas the other buyer was a buy-to-letter who offered under it at first. The seller in that case was a pleasant old lady who wanted to see the place looked after; it's a lottery though, he also lost one place to someone who got a phone call from an old schoolfriend and another because the seller appeared not to actually want to sell the place..

My 2p is that having now watched two people go through house-buying it seems to be a lot like Ebay, but with higher stakes; caveat emptor in great big spades, make very sure you've got your own understanding of what you're getting as opposed to someone else's, and never start thinking you own something just because you've got a bid in. Anyone selling something by more-or-less-auction loves the nutcases who get possessive about something, because they just keep pushing the price up and up no matter how unreasonable the results.
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userinfo edith_the_hutt
2005/06/02 23:17:56
Does anyone want to give us any advice about buying piles of bricks?

Ensure you also purchase mortar.
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userinfo lockymclean
2005/06/03 00:22:14
Don't let the agent or vendor rush you into a decision.

Ask in detail about anything which worries you.

Write a list of questions you'd like to know about any property you see, no matter where, and make sure they're all answered by the end.

Cut through woolly answers or vague statements and obtain precise promises or guarantees. If they refuse to be specific, you are entitled to be irritated, because if they don't know the answer they should at least tell you they don't so you can find out yourself.

Poker face is useful. When looking for a place to rent, I now try to keep my comments neutral unless I am genuinely impressed, before expressing an opinion at the end once I have come to a decision. If you give constantly good feedback, they will reciprocate and all you will end up with is a cycle of mutual congratulation on liking the place.

Always look out for signs of damp or dry rot. Signs can include inexplicable covers over openings - my Mum once found a plank of wood nailed over a huge patch of dry rot which had spread throughout an enormous house.

Ask how old the house is. Structurally, the best ones were built between 1945 and 1950. Watch out for draughts in older houses, especially if the windows are wooden frame. Have a look in the loft if needs be to see what the insulation and storage space are like. See how old the electrical wiring is.

Basically, everything which everyone else has said so far, and a few extra things. Always keep in mind not only whether you could move in with hardly any changes, but, "Could I sell this place in four years having achieved none of my home improvements?" Just be REALLY thorough!
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userinfo aldabra
2005/06/03 09:32:57
We really liked the Virgin current account mortgage; no discounts or anything, but you can pay it off as fast as you like and don't need to worry about separate savings accounts.

Think about how long you want to stay in the house and what your life-plan looks like. There are some very poor schools in Cambridge, and you don't want to find out too late that that was why you could afford the house. OTOH, just squeezing into a catchment area isn't any good; we're 17th on the waiting list for our catchment area primary.

Look along a row of houses to see if the others have loft conversions; that's a nice way of keeping the potential for another bedroom without buying it now or having to move to get it.
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userinfo senji
2005/06/03 09:38:27
We have a firm lack of reproductive plans, so catchment areas aren't exactly a problem :).

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Househunting - Squaring the circle...

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