With Spring finally in the air, many of us will be planning to look at properties over the Easter break, which comes relatively early this year over the first weekend of April. There are many magazines, websites and TV programmes designed to turn us into a nation of expert house buyers. But what are the most important things to remember for when looking for your ideal residential or investment property? We asked some of the UK’s leading property consultants for their opinions.

Mark Charter, partner and head of Carter Jonas in Oxford, explains how
to tackle 3 key areas:

1. How to assess its investment potential
Look at the Land Registry House Prices Index to track market price rises and to compare the current asking price with any publicly available previous selling price.  Is there any scope to extend? Is the current selling price per square foot much higher than the build price per square foot – can you build at £300 per square foot and sell on at £500 per square foot for example?

2. How to establish if it is exactly the home for you
Don’t be afraid to look at lots of houses to work out what it is you really want and what you realise you thought you wanted but actually you don’t need or would compromise on.  Do go back and sit outside the property to see what the local area is like at different times of day. Try testing the school run, getting to the station in the rush hour or the entire commute to work.

3. How to work out what factors might help you in a price negotiation
The first rule of buying a house is to be nice to the agent and to the vendor; you need them on your side and you want them to engage with you. Find out what the vendor wants to do and do what you can to dovetail your needs and theirs.

James Mackenzie, partner and head of the National Country House
Department at Strutt & Parker, offers the following advice:

4. Keep at it
Buying a house isn’t always easy. It can take time to get all parties on the same page and push the sale through. But if you really want to buy your home, you’ll need to keep your spirits up and to stick to your strategy with rigour. Keep your eyes fixed firmly on your long-term aim and look forward to the future. Remember that all the hard work will, in the end, be well worth it.

5. Buy with your heart
So often buyers spend a lifetime working out whether a house offers value for money, or whether it ‘ticks enough boxes’ and they overlook the fact that they should enjoy living there. You tend to know instantly if the house works or not. So, go with your heart – it won’t let you down.

6. Look below the surface
Try and look ‘under the skin’ of the house – at what it could be, and not what it is.  The fantastically decorated house with superb modern furniture will look very different when you import your own less sophisticated but much cherished family pieces of furniture.  Similarly, a house that is in dire need of a makeover, with avocado bathrooms and peeling wallpaper, could make a superb home with little effort and some expenditure.

Oliver Peacock, partner at Jackson-Stops & Staff, Bury St Edmunds has two insights to share with prospective buyers:

7. The search for perfection can ultimately be a frustrating one
Your perfect home probably doesn’t exist. Aim for somewhere that fulfils 85% of your criteria on the basis that you can tweak one or two aspects to reach 90-95% and turn it into the property for you. A lot of people regret not buying one of the first properties they saw, subsequently harking back to ‘the one they missed’. They can’t believe that they could have found the right property so quickly – “it’s supposed to be harder than this” they say – and don’t appreciate at the time that it is a pretty good match. Decisiveness is important.

8. Choose your ‘team’ wisely
Don’t be tempted to cut corners when it comes to selecting the team of professionals who will be on your side during the house buying process. There are big differences between proactive, specialist solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers and ‘mass market’ service providers. The house buying and mortgage landscape is very different to how it was six or seven years ago, so it pays to get the best advice you can afford. Don’t be tempted to save money by taking a cut-price service from a large, impersonal organisation that treats you as if you are on a conveyor belt. In the end, that decision might cost you the property you want.

Simon Checkley, managing director of Private Finance, adds one further
tip of his own:

9. Arrange your mortgage in advance
Finally, don’t forget the finance. Make sure you know how much you can afford to borrow before you start looking, so that you know accurately the price you can afford to pay. You may be negotiating on a property in competition with other would-be buyers. The vendor will look favourably on any bidder who has already arranged their mortgage in advance of making the bid. A broker will be able to tell you what deadlines you need to hit to arrange your finance and satisfy the vendor that your offer is the one he should accept.

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