Smelly, noisy and just too far: it’s the home you’ve always longed for…
That house you want to buy seems too good to be true, but is it right for you? Property professionals tell Anna Tyzack our biggest mistakes
Formal before friendly
Maintain a professional working relationship with your builder. “People shy away from having a formal agreement, hoping that a ‘matey’ approach will work better,” says Telegraph columnist Alison Cork. “Remember what Samuel Goldwyn said – ‘a verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on’.”
Lawyers or asses?
Your trusted family lawyer could wreak havoc on a property transaction. “If you’re buying in London, your family lawyer might not be familiar with London leases, or indeed the speed with which transactions have to take place,” says Nathalie Hirst, of Prime Purchase. “It is worth spending a few hundred pounds more to get the best legal advice.”
Shop around. “We once met a client who had bought a property — not through us — and the surveyor didn’t notice that the Tube ran under the garden – causing it to shake,” says Hirst. “They sued the surveyor.”
Looks that deceive…
When viewing a property it is easy to be seduced by the seemingly perfect lifestyle of the current owners. But remember, their beautiful, wellbehaved children or Louis XIV sideboard are not part of the transaction.
…and gadgets that give out
Men love gimmicks – and women can fall for them too. “A mediocre property does not become a good one simply because it has the latest steam oven,” says Hirst. “Gadgets break down and become outdated very quickly.”
Water on the brain
Don’t judge a house by its swimming pool. Outdoor pools can be enjoyed for only a few months each year – and compared to the price of a property are not exceptionally expensive to install anyway. Indoor pools “are usually not big enough to swim in, but big enough to drown in”, says Hirst. A badly maintained pool can be a turn-off – tubs of murky water do not enhance a property.
Try not to fall in love with a sinking ship. Old houses cost more to run and improve than new ones.
Location, location, location is a wellworked phrase for good reason. But don’t get too focused on having a certain address — there may be a better property two streets away.
Too close for comfort
Fashionable design is all very well – but could you live with it? “There is a trend to have an open-plan bedroom/bathroom with no separate loo,” says Hirst. “There are varying degrees of intimacy – but surely not to the level where a loo can be exposed to the bedroom?”
A path is more than just a dotted line across a map – it could leave your family exposed to the gaze of walkers. “A colleague was looking at a house for a client near Henley and the owners said the footpath across the land was only lightly used,” says Justin Marking of Prime Purchase. “But he went back on a Saturday and it was like Piccadilly Circus.”
When buying near a moor or common, make sure you are au fait with the law. “Although solicitors will find out if there is a right of way through your land, I would advise researching the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act before you instruct a solicitor,” says Philip Selway, of The Buying Solution.
Clear as daylight
People often view a property in daylight but don’t forget to return at night – you might find a Vegas-style light show next door.
Does it make good scents?
Buying a former farmhouse next to a working farm is all very well – until the flies arrive in summer, and the combine harvester keeps you awake at night. Ask the neighbours if the farm is smelly and noisy.
Down (and up) on the farm
Watch out for the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO), which allows farmers the right to use their land for up to 28 days a year for any purpose, without the need for planning permission. “I was recently researching a country house for a client looking for peace and quiet, and found out that the farmer was proposing to run motocross championships across his land,” says Selway.
Flying high (and low)
A private airfield may seem innocuous but it depends on its distance from the house. Take-off and landing noise can be hugely disturbing so check it out – even if it means camping nearby for a night.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it is easy to get planning permission for an extension or improvement. Consult the local planning office to assess the likelihood of getting permission for the work you want to do.
How far is too far?
Don’t fall in love with a property that is too far from your desk. “People often have unrealistic expectations of how far and how long a journey they are willing to commute each day,” says Katy Fagg, from Strutt & Parker Private Search. “Once you have added driving to and from the station, an hour’s commute can easily become two hours.”