Do your home work

A young couple moving into a house they have bought.
A young couple moving into a house they have bought.

In these days of bustling housing market activity, when homes in popular areas are being snapped up quickly, it’s easy for house hunters to get carried away when they think they’ve found the home they’re looking for.

This appears to be borne out by new research from Which? Mortgage Advisers, which has found younger people and first-time buyers spend less than an hour looking at a property on average before taking the plunge.

Meanwhile, buyers aged 45-plus, who are likely to have more housing market experience, tend to spend more than an hour checking round the property they intend to buy.

With house prices still rising fast in some areas, it’s little wonder some buyers get swept up in all the excitement and forget more practical considerations.

Across England and Wales, the average asking price has reached a record high of nearly £295,000, according to property website Rightmove.

The website also calculated that, in theory at least, if asking prices in London kept going up as fast as they are currently, the average asking price there would hit £1 million by 2020. While Rightmove says it is not suggesting this will actually happen, it does show how heated the market is in places.

Asking prices in London have increased by 9.5% over the last year, taking them to an all-time high of £620,003 on average in September, according to Rightmove.

The housing markets in Scotland and Northern Ireland have also been showing signs of a pick-up in recent months, although house prices in Northern Ireland still have some way to go before they match their pre-financial crisis peaks.

With a shortage of properties in popular areas, it’s easy to see why many buyers may be tempted to act on impulse.

But this can come at a cost. Buyers who don’t spend time checking out a property thoroughly can fail to spot problems which will cause financial headaches later down the line. This will cause even more woes for those who have no room left in their budget for extra expenses.

Martyn Baum, president of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) says: “When you’re buying a house, the process can move very quickly and become overwhelming. Buyers should take care to make sure they are looking out for the right things when they’re leaning towards making an offer, before making a final decision.”

The Which? research found that as many as one in 10 buyers did not do any checks while viewing a property they later bought.

Of those who did make checks, looking for obvious mould or damp was the most common check carried out, followed by looking at the general condition of the windows and inspecting cracks in the walls.

Fewer people tended to consider issues such as the condition of the chimney, whether the light switches worked and if the taps functioned properly, with adequate water pressure.

Finding out what’s what with a property can also give a buyer some room for manoeuvre when it comes to negotiating a price discount.

Which? Mortgage Advisers found buyers who spent longer looking round a property were less likely to have paid the full price.

Seven in 10 (71%) people who spent more than two hours viewing a property paid less than the full price, compared with less than half (48%) of those who spent less than 10 minutes viewing.

So what should buyers be thinking about when viewing a property? Here are some tips from Which? Mortgage Advisers:

:: Ask questions. If you see a problem, ask what caused it and whether it will be fixed.

:: Confirm what land comes with the property. If there is any uncertainty, get it confirmed in writing.

:: Viewing a property two to three times, at different times of day, will give you a more realistic idea about it. A quiet street at 10am may turn into a busy commuter route at 6pm.

:: Finally, don’t let your heart rule your head and cause you to overlook problems. Try to see the house as a building that simply needs inspecting.