Sarah Beeny's Top Property Buying Tips

Some tips on what to look out for when buying a property - don't make the obvious mistakes...

1) Look for warning signs

Check for loose tiles and subsidence, listen as well as look...Stand back and see if there are any slates or tiles missing or slipping from the roof - look at the flashing (the lead/cement fillet that seals where the roof meets any vertical walls). Look for signs of movement - whilst signs of movement may be historic and add to the charm, it is movement that is ongoing that tends to be of more concern. You should be able to line up the vertical and horizontal lines of the exterior ie window headers, end (flank) walls, pointing lines etc and these will tell you if there has been movement. Don't panic though as most of our housing stock was built with relatively inadequate foundations and will have moved around a bit over the years. Check out the hot water system - if the property has more than one or two bathrooms it should have a more powerful system than a combination boiler - if you are a big shower fan - turn the shower on and check the pressure. Look around at the neighbours - there may be specific noise at times of the day ie a school - many are not bothered by childrens laughter (and of course if you have children its likely to be in the catchment area!) but if you do mind then steer away.

Trust your instincts - do you like the house? - if you get a good feel then it is probably the right one for you - if you get a bad feel then walk away.

2) Get valuations, a homebuyer's report or a full structural survey...

Remember that the valuation that you pay your mortgage company to carry out is carried out for their benefit not yours, to check their investment is sound. It is a valuation and not a survey, and if there are any defects that do not materially affect the property's value, they will not tell you about them. If you want a more comprehensive survey you need to pay more and arrange it yourself. A homebuyer's report is the more conclusive, but they are designed as a general rule for conventionally-built properties, built in the last 150 years. There is a great deal of information that they will tell you, but be aware that they will not be looking at every aspect of the property, as they do not take up carpets or carry out investigative work. A full structural survey/building survey is the most extensive of surveys and can be tailor-made to suit you and the property and go into as much depth as you require. They are expensive but can put your mind at rest if you are new to property or unsure about a property. Be aware that problems are likely to come up, so don't panic, just consider how much it is likely to cost to overcome them.

3) Don’t go for a short leasehold

Most mortgage companies want 40 years to be left on the lease once you have reached the end of your mortgage, which are normally 25 years. This therefore means that anything under 65 years on a lease is generally considered short. This doesn't mean you can't buy a property with say 50 years left on the lease and taking a 10 year mortgage. But there may well be a problem trying to sell it when the lease is now only 40 years or so. There are a few exceptions to these rules but they tend to be in the very upper end of the market.

4) Don’t be afraid to make a cheeky offer.

Take a house that is on the market at £200,000. You can only afford to offer £170,000, but you have no chain and could buy quickly. I would definitely offer £170,000 especially as you can't afford any more as the worst that could happen is that they turn it down. It might be worth starting at £160,000 so you are able to increase your offer. However if or when they turn down £160,000 which they are bound to do and you go back with £170,000 I would let them know that you are unable to increase it any more. It will then depend on whether it makes sense for the seller to sell at this level or not and that will be down to their own position and something you cannot affect. At least you know where you stand.

5) Work out how much you can afford - to avoid disappointment I would suggest you see a mortgage broker before you start looking for a property to ensure that you are able to get the borrowing you would like.