Buying a home: how to avoid the most common mistakes

Buying a property is likely to be the biggest investment of your life, and that should be enjoyable, and you should feel safe and secure in your purchase. However, for many homeowners who move into their new homes, a long list of difficulties and issues can arise. Unfortunately, not all homes are fit for purpose! Indeed, some naughty vendors sell properties because the have simply had enough and just want to decorate quickly and run.


1) Speed!

The first mistake we notice a lot of the time is time! Or clients trying to rush the process. This can be for several genuine reasons such as needing to relocate, they are in a chain or certain incentives with a limited timeframe.  But these things should be thought about in advance and given serious consideration.


2) Looking around!

How many people look at more than a handful of properties prior to putting in an offer? It must be said that our estate agent friends are often quite god at selling, hence why they have a job. Don’t believe them when they say they have 17 viewings this afternoon, take your time, instruct an independent surveyor and visit the property yourself several times.


3) Knowing the area!

Location, location, location! Or in some cases, where on earth am I….. Do not trust web-based searches such as Rightmove solely, get out there and visit the property. If it says 10 minutes to the station, add anther 10. Visit the local schools, local pubs and cafes, visit at different times of the day! You’ll be surprised how different an area can become after dark.


4) Fully understanding what you are buying!

It’s a house… isn’t it? Probably yes, but there’s lots of different homes in our fair island made of lots of different materials over a long period of time. We were called into a property recently where the surveyor had completely failed to realise that the building was made of Cob, this meant that the render material over the surface was having a detrimental effect on the structure which required significant repair works, upwards of £50,000.00.

We provide a schedule of budget costs in our surveys which breakdown each element and gives an estimate of the expected repair and upgrade costs required in the property. You can often use these figures to negotiate with the vendors and agents.


5)  Finance and mortgage options

Are you a first-time buyer? Have you examined what government schemes are in place such as help to buy?.

Are all mortgages the same? Same offer different rates over different periods of times.

How much can you actually borrow and how much are the repayments.

It is worth while seeking advice from an independent mortgage advisor.


6) A list of properties lenders don’t always like

Homes of unusual construction - any building not of standard brick and mortar construction. There are still homes built of wattle and daub, cob, concrete or timber frames which can sometimes be covered with asbestos cement.

High-rise flats - for example, ex-council flats in tower blocks, especially if they have problems with lift maintenance or where most of the other flats are still in the hands of the local authority.

Flats over shops, restaurants and offices - any property where other people could have the right to access your property. Properties like this are also hard to value.

Short leaseholds - flats are often sold on leasehold which means you only own it for a specific number of years. Leaseholds of 80 years or less can be a problem so look to extend the lease before you buy. Find out more in Leasehold or freehold – the financial implications.

New build properties - lenders often value newly built properties lower than the asking price meaning you will have to have a larger deposit. The developer might offer special deals to help. See our affordable housing schemes section.

Brownfield sites - properties built on former industrial land can be difficult as they might be contaminated. Your solicitor will need to check the certificates to prove the property has been decontaminated.

Too close to the sea - coastal erosion could lead to your new home becoming dangerously close to a cliff edge.

Character homes - converted lighthouses, windmills, schools and pubs might need a mortgage from a specialist lender.

Some listed properties due to higher insurance and rebuild costs.


7) But the English do not haggle!

That was what my father-in-law told me when we were holidaying in the South of France! And its true, the English do not like to haggle on the price. But you shouldn’t pay more for a property than it is worth, nor if the cost of works required far outweighs the property value.

We have spoken with vendors before who could not comprehend that there home required works and that these works would cost money.

But that doesn’t mean you should just throw a wild offer in under the market value. Your offer should have some reason behind it and that’s where our surveys come into place.


8) Talk to the right people at the right time!

Use google to find trusted professionals such as solicitors, surveyors and contractors.

We believe we at Smith Heritage are experienced and the best for surveying traditional properties. We have a 5* Google Review profile and work to the highest standards as per the RICS, RPSA and CIOB.


9) Not thinking about selling the home one day.

Buyers often forget that they'll most likely sell their home at some point, so what will be required in the future? Is the property resalable? Will this be my 1 year, 2 year or twenty-year home? Does this home fit my current and future needs?


10) Not having a professional independent survey!

On average, those who did not take out a survey spent £5,750 in additional work to the property which could have been identified in a survey. In one case a home buyer was left with a £385,000 legal bill after not exchanging contracts on a £3.6m house purchase because rising damp was discovered, an issue which could have been identified if they had done a survey beforehand.


At Smith Heritage, we are independent and work with our clients from the start of the property buying process and right into your shiny new home. Talk to us about the different types of building surveys available, the different types of homes, as well as the legal and regulatory side of owning certain buildings.

We have extensive experience in surveying houses throughout England and Wales and work with a range of other professionals to meet our client’s needs.

For a free and impartial conversation, Call David on 0756851372.

Many thanks

Smith Heritage Surveyors